Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In Bob We Must Trust

Honestly, I was almost relieved when Bob Wickman hit that batter in the ninth inning on Sunday. Really, what fun would it be if he went 1-2-3 every time.

When it comes to Bob Wickman my glass of water moves to half-filled. As Mike Hegan and Tom Hamilton once put it, Wickie's are made of steel.

You give him the ball and the bottom line is, he saves the game. It is rarely pretty, but it is effective. He is the type of man you want to go to battle with.

Sure, would life be easier if the Tribe's closer was Mariano Rivera? Yes. But there are not many like him. You may not remember, but Rivera for all he has achieved has blown some big games. He lost game seven of the 2001 World Series, he blew three post season saves in 2004 and (my personal favorite) he gave up that bomb to Sandy Alomar in 1997.

Closer is a position waiting to burst. The life span is very short. Look at the season Eric Gagne had for the Dodgers in 2004 and now he can't stay healthy. Closers come and go. Confidence and mental strength can disappear just like that.

The thing I love about Wickman is if he does blow a save, (And he will- every closer does at one time or another) he will march back on the mound the next day and pitch the exact same way.

One way to put it is like this- Bob Wickman is like the typical student who has to write a paper or office worker who has a deadline. He knows his deadline and he will use everything at his disposal to get it done just before deadline. Or maybe even better, he is chef of hobo stew. He uses whatever ingredients he has at his disposal to make a tasty dish.

Wickman knows how many runs he has to play with and he knows how many bases he has open to use and exactly how many outs he needs. If he has a two-run lead, he is not afraid to give up one run. His only job is to make sure when he leaves the mound, the game is over and the Indians have won.

He is not going to give into a situation. His numbers prove that. He saved 45 out of 50 games. That tied for the most in the American League. Easy math there tells us that is 90 percent. His ERA last season was 2.47, but if you take out that horrid first game against the White Sox last season, his ERA was 1.90. Yes, he allowed 57 hits and 21 walks in 62 innings. But opposing batter hit just .149 (13-87), which was the lowest among any reliever. And they hit even less with runners in scoring position at .094 (5-53). Down the stretch last season, he was even better as he did not allow a run in his last six outings. The Indians may have faded in the final week last season, but it was the offense not the closer.

The bottom line is Bob Wickman gets the job done. And what doesn't kill us as fans, makes us stronger. In a strange way, we should be able to take comfort that Wickman often breaks a few eggs before he finishes off wins. No matter what the situation is, no matter how big the pitch, I know he ain't scared. I know he has the confidence and marbles to get the job done.

Eric Wedge loves to say the season is 162 games long. He doesn't believe in getting too worked up about a win or getting to devastated after a loss. His team has bought into this. They are young and they are talented. It doesn't matter where the media picked them to finish. It doesn't matter if the radio talk show callers believe in them or not. This team believes in themselves. You can sense it. It just exudes off of them. And that may start with Eric Wedge, but ends with Bob Wickman.

And that is why he is the perfect man to have the ball in his hand when the game is on the line.