SSS Book Club: Closer

Closer: Major League Pitchers Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game by Kevin Neary with Leigh A. Tobin

There's a certain mystique about closers. And it's a mystique that draws groans from many (but certainly not all) of the more sabermetric-slanted analysts, who poo-poo the notion that there is anything particularly special about closing games. And let's not even get into the argument over the efficacy of saving a team's best reliever for the ninth inning.

One thing that can be said about that mystique, however, is that baseball players themselves generally seem to buy into it and, more importantly, closers and other relievers certainly buy it.

And that's basically what Closer: Major League Pitchers Reveal the Inside Pitch on Saving the Game is about. Authored by Kevin Neary with Leigh A. Tobin, a pair of former employees of the Phillies, the book provides vignettes of about five pages each on dozens of closers.

Broken into three eras - the early years, the transition years and the modern day closer - the pitchers range from household names like Mariano Rivera, Goose Gossage and Dennis Eckersley to more obscure names (at least today) like Ron Perranoski, Bryan Harvey and Joe Page.

And there are a few White Sox connections, too, like Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bobby Thigpen and Addison Reed.

The general format of each profile is a run-down of their biography and stats and then interviews with the pitcher themselves and those who knew/played with him, recalling how they became closers, memorable moments and their general thoughts on the closer role.

In line with the mystique, each almost invariably describe the mental aspect being far more important than the physical (or, often, even skill) aspect.

By no means is Closer heavy reading. You're not going to find anything particularly ground-breaking in what these pitchers have to say.

But the authors do a good enough job of coaxing out interesting stories and, particularly for those less familiar with relief pitching B.D.E. (Before Dennis Eckersley), you'll learn about some of the lesser known pitchers who toiled in a time before "closers" received much ink.

It's a good book for just opening up a random page and reading a couple vignettes or, if you're of the bathroom reading persuasion, they're the right length for reading one or two while you complete your business.

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