In my email today, I received an interesting and fair criticism about my response to the Jason Isringhausen question in this week’s mailbag. The main thing the reader/writer called me on is for saying I was "tired of" an issue that is clearly a major issue to fans. And you know what? No doubt about it, that’s a perfectly fair criticism.
So I thought about it, and I responded. But I also realized that that one reader probably isn’t the only one who had that reaction. So here’s the explanation/clarification/etc.
What I’m tired of isn’t the issue itself. It’s a legitimate issue, though as I’ve said before, I think the current bullpen setup is the way to go. Doesn’t mean I’m right, it’s just what I think. What I’m tired of is that every single time Isringhausen has a bad game, I get a ton of emails about it, and they tend to be extremely angry — "He’s terrible, he’s got to go."
I even get things like, "There’s no way the Cardinals will make the playoffs with him as closer." Well, they’re 3 games up now with him, so why won’t that stand? I get things like, "every time he comes in a game, they lose." Well, that’s obviously nowhere near true.
But I don’t get a ton of emails about every time Jeff Weaver has a bad game. Or Jason Marquis has a bad game. Or Yadier Molina goes 0-for-4. And so I think there’s a lot of scapegoating going on. I think people look at Isringhausen in games when there were a lot of other things that contributed to a loss. If that makes me a shameless apologist or something, so be it. But the point isn’t so much that Isringhausen is having a great year, but rather that I don’t think it’s fair for him to get so much of the blame.
He hasn’t had a great year; that’s no secret. But I think a big segment of the fan base is making him out to be the only problem with this team, when every starting pitcher but one has taken a step back from last year — to name just one issue.
I think Isringhausen has been blown into a far bigger issue than he should be, and I think a lot of people have been angry and irrational about a situation that’s no bigger than several others. I don’t hear the same anger about Marquis/Weaver/Mulder. I don’t hear the same anger about Molina having regressed at the plate, rather than improving. The only guy I hear this absolute rage about is Isringhausen. But he’s trying just as hard as anybody else. He agonizes just as much as anybody else. If you cut the other guys a break for effort, then he deserves one too.
Nobody’s wrong to say, "Hey, maybe there are
other options in the ninth." But don’t pretend that that would be a
cure-all. And don’t think that it’s as simple as just using somebody else in the ninth next time out. Because as much as I’m a believer that the closer’s role is overstated, there’s also the simple fact that one of the manager’s jobs is dealing with people and managing his clubhouse. It’s just not as simple, not as black-and-white, as the emails I get would suggest.
And that, friends, is why I’m tired of the topic.