Yankees’ fans and so-called experts seem to hate the idea of David Robertson as a closer. They want a different closer, preferably Mariano Rivera, but will take others. They wish for Robertson to be moved back to the eighth inning role in which he excelled for the past few years. This, of course, would make more sense if Robertson was struggling in the new role. However, despite spending two weeks on the DL in April, he has thrived. He is 6-for-6 in save opportunities with ten strikeouts in nine innings.
After Rivera’s retirement speculation as to his successor ran rampant, Robertson was the natural, almost default choice, but that didn’t stop the nearly constant rumors about other closers being sized up for the position. Grant Balfour was the biggest target, especially after his contract with Baltimore was voided when he failed a physical. But the Yankees opted not to pursue the pitcher, who eventually signed with the Rays. Robertson simply went about his winter and prepared to take over for the greatest closer of all-time.
Then when Robertson went on the DL and Shawn Kelley took his place as the interim closer, there was a clamoring for him to remain the closer when Robertson returned. Robertson came back and has been perfect in save opportunities this since. Now the masses want rookie Dellin Betances installed as the Yankees’ closer after only six weeks in the majors, albeit an impressive six weeks. Perhaps one day Betances will be a closer, but that day should not be today. Betances’s inexperience aside, we need to remember that Robertson is doing a good job. This is not the case of Sergio Santos or Kyle Farnsworth, where they are blowing saves like it’s going out of style. Robertson has not blown a save all year.
Robertson paid his dues in the Yankees’ bullpen for years, rising from a mediocre call up in 2008 to an All-Star in 2011 to one of the best setup men in the game. In many ways, he has been a victim of his own success. He has been so dominant in the eighth inning for the last several years that its easy to want to avoid moving him. Another issue many have with Robertson is the fact that the last time he tried his hand at closing it was a disaster. After Mariano’s horrendous knee injury in the Kansas City outfield in 2012, Robertson was given the first crack at being the closer over Rafael Soriano. He ended 2-for-5 in save opportunities that season, and spent a month on the DL, permanently losing the closer’s job to Soriano.
This time around, Robertson has grabbed hold of the closer position with both hands. Perhaps he wasn’t ready for the ninth two years ago but he surely is now. Holding those blown saves against him now seems silly. Yankees’ fans and pundits need to resist the urge to replace a guy who has been perfect this season and further restrain themselves when he eventually blows a save.