Here's a positive thought the next time your heart palpitates when Robin signals for the bullpen. There is a long history of Sox management who have actually drafted or otherwise acquired shut down closers; guys who were lights out on a dependable basis. Some just for a season, some for a bit longer. But in comparison to the 2014 bunch of dolts, they were great. They were reliable. And they played for our Sox. In the Modern Era. In my lifetime.
The first bunch were the fabulous trio of knuckleballers who pitched for us in the mid-60s to early '70s. Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, should-be Hall of Famer Wilbur Wood, and the solid veteran Eddie Fisher. Lots of appearances, lots of innings, lots of success. (Where are ye, Charlie Haeger and Charlie Hough?). Of course, Coop has nothing on Johnny Sain, who shrewdly turned Wood and Fisher into starters.
The second bunch were the kids--the two flamethrowers who came up from Appleton in 1971 and 1972, respectively, to blaze across the American League. What team ever had two fireballers in the pen like Ter-ry For-ster (as Harry would say) and Rich Gossage? Forster had a solid 16 year pro career and Gossage--I forget what happened to him. Their senseless conversion to starters and ultimate trade to the Pirates reflected Bill Veeck's hucksterism at its very worse. A terrible, terrible shame.
Then came the successful stretch of one-off reclamation projects. Guys like Lerrin LaGrow (1977), Jim Willoughby in 1978, Farmio (no matter what he says, essentially just 1980), the famous Salome Barojas, the geezers Dennis Lamp and Ron Reed, followed by the short but exciting Bob James era.
Bobby Thigpen started to make his mark in 1987, and he carried forth effectively until he transitioned to Roberto Hernandez, who was "the man" until 1997 and White Flag. This means that for almost 10 years, Sox fans enjoyed truly great closers. Hernandez gave way to a Billy Simas/Matt Karcher combo.
Then came the short but successful Keith Foulke era (of 2001-2001) was actually preceeded by one good year from Bobby Howry in 1999.
Things kind of went off the rails a bit then (remember Antonio Osuna? Damaso Marte?). Kenny's "Billy Koch Experiment" took up 2003, but Sox fan favorite "Mr. Zero" showed up in 2004 and kind of held things under control until he passed the baton--or was it a gong--to the great Dustin Hermanson and then Bobby Jenks, in The Magical Year. Sox fans--don't ever forget what we owe Hermanson and his 34 saves in essentially half a season.
Bobby ended up with one of the longest closer rides of all Sox relievers, hanging on until mid 2010 when Sergio Santos tried to take over. Give him credit for 30 saves in 2011. I don't count the Addison Reed Years, because you're not much of a closer if your ERA is 4.75 then 3.79. By the way, I remember that Detroit game last year, Addison.
The point of this little historical journey? That is is possible for Sox management to find good closers. They've done it consistently for the past 50 years. Until now. It's looking pretty clear that the current bunch of stiffs is the worst bullpen in recent Sox history. Even Antonio Osuna (hey Hawk--he was the original El Canon) would look like Mariano Rivera in this lousy bullpen. And he is 42 now.
Where is good old number 51 when we need him?