Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
The Oakland Athletics have a problem. Their closer can’t close games. I previously posted an article about how Jim Johnson shouldn’t get all that hate that he was 3 days into the season. Now we are over a week in, and it’s getting harder to defend him.
Since his first blown save, he has been up and down. He had two decent outings in which people got their hopes up. He even notched up a save against the Mariners, but that was with a 3 run lead.
It seemed that he was back to form, and that he was going to be a great closer for the team. The team had some good momentum going, and it seemed as if Johnson was along for the ride as well.
His good outings weren’t great however. He gave up singles in both, and even when he does good he still allows early base runners. That lead Athletics fans like myself to be on the edge of our seats hoping he doesn’t mess the game up. Luckily, he pulled through and the Athletics still won.
Then Jim Johnson came crashing back down. He was put in the game with a two run lead against the Minnesota Twins. He was giving up hits left and right, and he ended up loading the bases. Instead of closing the game out, he blew the save. Bob Melvin didn’t like it, but he had to come in and take Johnson out. In came Dan Otero to save the day.
I have said before, Dan Otero deserves to be the closer for the team. He came in with the bases loaded, and the first thing he did was get a sacrifice fly. If the bases weren’t loaded, it would have just been a normal out. The two runs scored while Otero pitched, but they were charged against Johnson. Otero proved to be closer material, going the 10th and the 11th innings without letting the Twins score.
Otero threw not one, but two scoreless innings for the team to win the game. Johnson is the reason the team is 5-3 instead of 6-2 or potentially 7-1. Otero is the reason they are 5-3 instead of 4-4. So the question now is what to do with Johnson?
Here is what should happen. Dan Otero becomes the closer. He is good enough to potentially break Grant Balfour’s record of consecutive saves. Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson, and Sean Doolittle all take on set up man responsibilities. Fernando Abad is great, and is set up man material, but with this deep of a bullpen, everyone could be a set up man. Abad and Drew Pomeranz take on early innings role, in case a starter didn’t go 6 innings or one of the setup guys needs a break.
And Jim Johnson? An innings eater. Don’t give him hate, give him support. Give him the chance to redeem himself. He can pitch to eat innings when the Athletics have a comfortable lead. Let him show he can pitch well, and make him earn his role again. In real life, in the real world, you get fired if you don’t do your job. In this case, Johnson should be demoted.