OK, so we're going to not talk about pop culture for a second. Don't hate me. I've been meaning to write about baseball for the last couple days.
It's been a pretty busy week for hot-stove fans. But I don't want to talk about how the Red Sox got better or how I feel about trading a handful of prospects for Adrian Gonzalez. What I want to discuss is a piece penned by Jerry Crasnick (who I usually enjoy reading even if he does think Dayton Moore is a good general manager) about the best pitcher of the decade.
I've been thinking a lot about the last decade lately. For an upcoming edition of Weekend, I'll be putting together a list of the best albums and, probably, films of the '00s. Crasnick's story made me think about the best pitcher. He chose Mariano Rivera. Of course, I'm a big Red Sox fan, so it's hard for me to be objective, but I just don't understand how we can choose, basically, a one-inning guy for this title.
He threw 713 innings from 2000-2009. To put that in perspective, Randy Johnson topped that number before 2002 was over.
Look, I realize Mariano is the greatest closer of all time, and I pray each night to Baseball Jesus that the Sox can find someone as consistently great as him. But, we have to remember that the closer as we know it is a modern-day invention. Even 20 years ago, relievers were not used like Rivera. And do we honestly think that if some idiot made Randy Johnson a closer 20 years ago he wouldn't have had peak years as good as Mariano? There's a reason Rivera and every good closer is a closer: They failed as a starter.
I'm not sure if Randy Johnson is the pitcher of the '00s, but, keep in mind, in those three years that I noted, the big lefty did win three Cy Youngs, three more than Rivera has in his presumably filled trophy case. I think you can make a good case for Doc Halladay and Johan Santana and, even, Roy Oswalt for the title of pitcher of the '00s. I'm going with Johnson, I guess, but my real point, obviously, is to argue against a closer. Can't we all agree on this?