By Jonah Keri, League Reporter
The 24 owners who comprise the BrassWorld league all have their own reasons for loving the game of Strat-O-Matic. It’s likely that all of us share a common bond, however: an appreciation for the game’s combination of realism and our ability to do things differently than teams do in the major leagues. That’s why it’s time for BrassWorld to abolish the closer rule.
Think about the way we construct our rosters as general managers. In the majors, Todd Pratt is a forgotten backup catcher, forever doomed to sit in obscurity behind Mike Lieberthal or whatever other catcher sits ahead of him on the depth chart. In Strat, Pratt’s a lefty-crushing machine worthy of a multi-year contract, offering a lethal half to a catching platoon and a dangerous bat off the bench who can enter a game in the late innings and end things with one swing one of the bat.
Our managing tactics also frequently differ from those practiced by big league managers. While MLB has all but given up on the lost art of platooning, BrassWorld’s managers embrace it as a way to cover for the weaknesses of other players. We’ll also pinch-run for Albert Pujols, pull Manny Ramirez for a defensive replacement, use Jason Marquis as a pinch-hitter—whatever it takes to win a game, we’ll do it, even if big league managers never would.
No element of the Strat game better embodies a player’s personality more than how he handles a pitching staff. In Strat you can pull your starter in the fifth inning of a scoreless game if the bases are loaded and you want a platoon advantage out of the bullpen—no worries about the starter stomping off the mound and sulking in the clubhouse. The whole idea of relievers getting ready for a specific role also doesn’t apply. No one pitcher needs to load up on caffeine and adrenaline to get ready for the 9th inning, just as the set-up man won’t necessarily be used in the 8th, nor the middle man in the sixth or the long man in the 5th. Strat is about intelligent managing, with as few artificial constraints as possible trying your hands.
Cubs beat writer and later baseball historian Jerome Holtzman invented the save rule in 1960 as a way to give relief pitchers some recognition. Holtzman apparently wasn’t familiar with the idea of unintended consequences. Relief pitchers now gain so much notoriety that today Bruce Sutter became the only player to get enshrined in this year’s Hall of Fame class, despite having a lesser argument than several other players on the ballot. The problem is that managers have become more committed to stroking closers’ egos than to winning games. Gone are the days when an ace major league reliever could enter the 7th inning of a tie game, strike out the side, power through the last two innings and win the game for his team. Big league managers have instead become robots, saving their closers for save situations rather than when they’re needed most. Are the Dodgers better served using Eric Gagne while up three runs in the ninth inning with the bases empty, or bringing him in during the 6th inning, tie game (or even down a run), in a bases-loaded jam? The answer’s obviously the latter—yet major league managers use the save rule as a crutch to avoid making key decisions.
BrassWorld managers shouldn’t be shackled by the mindless decisions of those major league managers. Jose Mesa may have racked up 27 saves last year. But there’s no way we as an intelligent Strat league—by virtue of the pointless closer rule—should assign Mesa more value than a pitcher like Juan Rincon or Justin Duchscherer, far superior pitchers foolishly deemed less capable of pitching the 9th inning according to the backwards, outdated conventions of the Strat-O-Matic company.
By abolishing the closer rule, we’ll free managers to be as creative as they want to be in their reliever usage, using different combinations of pitchers in different innings depending on game situations. Lousy real-life closers will be relegated to secondary work, as they should be. And BrassWorld will take one more step to becoming a better league, embodying all the shrewd decision making and out-of-the-box thinking that’s a hallmark of the league’s 24 owners.
Proposal: BrassWorld abolishes Strat-O-Matic’s closer rule, starting in BW’s 2007 season.