Consider what I wrote when the New York Mets traded relief pitcher Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers during the All-Star Game in July:
I suspect the Mets will come out ahead in this deal because I am not sure how K-Rod will take to being an eighth inning set up man. Yes, he did set up Troy Percival when he was with the Angels but K-Rod has been a closer since 2005. I can’t see the Brewers using K-Rod as a closer when they already have a viable closer in John Axford. Frankly, I don’t think the Brew Crew are prepared to add $17.5 million to their payroll next year either. K-Rod could be to the Brewers what Eric Gagne was to the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Then again Gagne’s lacklustre performance didn’t stop the Sox from winning the World Series that year.
Well, lo and behold, K-Rod is kvetching about not closing games for the Brewers. But what did he expect? John Axford is second in the NL in saves with 42. Only Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves has more with 44. Axford has also converted his last 39 save opportunities. K-Rod, unlike Gagne, has done well in his 8th inning role. In 25 appearances with the Brewers, K-Rod has gone 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA, striking out 24 batters in 23 and one third innings. Why would the Brewers want to mess with this formula of success?
However, to be fair to K-Rod, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke did apparently promise K-Rod he would close some games. When you also consider that K-Rod set the single season MLB saves record with 62 for the Angels in 2008 being relegated to the eighth inning three years later can wound the pride of a competitive athlete.
Yet K-Rod’s outburst isn’t helpful nor for that matter is Prince Fielder’s proclamation that it will “probably” be his last year as a Brewer. I just don’t get it. The Brewers have a shot at their first World Series title in franchise history. They can’t see the trees for the forest. They have had a sensational summer. Between July 26th and August 28th, the Brewers went 27-5 and had a 10½ game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. But since then, the Brewers have gone 6-9 and as I write this the Cardinals have cut their lead down to 5½ games. Any team led by Tony LaRussa is going to smell blood in the water.
In the grand scheme of things, K-Rod won’t close games this season but will probably be a closer with some other team next year and Fielder will “probably” be elsewhere next year as well. But the Brewers can’t get away with thinking about next year if the Cardinals are thinking about what they are going to do this year.