Curaçao's Kenley Jansen, the closer for the Boston Red Sox, entered the history books on Wednesday by hitting the home run for the 400th time. The man from Willemstad thus confirmed his status as one of the best players in his position. Only six others have preceded him in the nearly 150-year history of American baseball.
With fifteen pitches, in a few minutes, the job was done. Brief appearances characterize the role of closer and finisher. A specialist like Jansen is sent to the pitcher's mound in the ninth and final inning with the task of throwing out the final three batters.
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Koen van der Velden describes De Volkskrant About sports in the United States. Lives in New York.
The closest player gets a “save” after their name if they can successfully finish a fairly exciting game. Jansen did it for the 400th time on Wednesday, when they visited the Atlanta Braves. The 1.95-metre-tall baseball player celebrated his historic achievement, pointing his index fingers towards the sky.
Under high voltage
In today's baseball, strong pitching is crucial. Finishes are under high pressure, and the margin of error is small. They get paid like stars. At 35 years old, Janssen is no longer the youngest, but he still makes $16 million per season in Boston.
The closer position is relatively new in old-time American baseball. At the beginning of the 20th century, novice shooters were expected to simply complete their games. This rarely happens now. The modern pitcher throws at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour; It's not a perfect match to keep up with.
Therefore, so-called “thinners” are of great value. Replacements with fresh arms rest a starting pitcher when he begins to show signs of fatigue. Substitutes are usually replaced in turn, because things are not going well or for strategic reasons. When things get tough in the ninth inning, he moves closer to the field as the final reliever.
This position was invented in the late 1980s by legendary trainer Tony La Russa. The American was the first on the Oakland Athletics to save his last pitcher in the ninth inning. Other clubs have followed this tactic.
The closest are showmen surrounded by an aura of perfection. They are cool, single-minded cowboys who draw their guns a little faster than others. Bam bam, I'm done. Substitutes often enter the field with exciting music, as if they were entering the arena like a matador. The horn-accompanied entrance of New York Mets closer Edwin Diaz became a cult phenomenon last season. (The club has to do without Diaz this year: the Puerto Rican was seriously injured while cheerleading at the Baseball World Cup.)
The best of them all was Mariano Rivera, the Panamanian-American who played the Yankees' closer from 1995 to 2013. If only he Metallica song And with the sounds of rock band Metallica on the field, opponents better pack their bags. Rivera made a record 652 saves.
Janssen currently ranks seventh on the list of most “rescued.” He noticed on Saturday that the hero closer's role is usually temporary when he gave up a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the final inning. However, Janssen is having his best season in a long time. In the spring, he skipped the Baseball World Cup with the Dutch Kingdom team to get used to his new club, the Boston Red Sox.
Jansen made a name for himself primarily with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he played for ten seasons. In 2020, he won a championship with the club, but he said that it did not bring him much happiness. Curacao struggled, losing its place in the playoffs and losing a game in the final series.
Uncertain on the hill
Jansen became insecure on the pitcher's mound, he later revealed to ESPN, in part due to the criticism he received on social media. His once powerful throws lost their speed. He used the cutter, his trademark, less and less. It's a powerful fastball that spins away from the hitter at the last second.
A psychiatrist helped Janssen emerge from his slump in recent years, as the former point guard learned how to deal with criticism, left social media behind and began a resurrection with his new club, the Atlanta Braves. Last season, he recorded the most saves in the National League.
In his first months with the Red Sox, Jansen regained his former speed. The closer is throwing projectiles averaging 93 mph this season, which is faster than ever. Jansen has dusted off his trusty old cutter: He's using the major again on 80 percent of his throws. The return is striking. He was good in his final seasons in Los Angeles, but he's not as great as he once was. It now appears that it has regained its former form, at least for a while.
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