Just when you think the closer position couldn't have sunk any lower, its 2012 struggles reach a sublime, legendary level. Even the infallible, ageless Mariano Rivera cannot be spared fate's wrath.
When you read "Rivera tears ACL shagging batting practice flies," you know now no one is safe at the position. It is Closer's (not Murphy's) Law: What can go wrong, will.
"Do I like having a deep bullpen, just like every other manager? Yes," manager Joe Girardi told The New York Post. "Does this shorten it? Yes. Is it a big guy that you're losing? Yes. But you've got to find a way to overcome it. That's what life is about. Life's about getting knocked down sometimes and getting back up, finding a way to get through things."
Rivera is done, perhaps for his career; the Giants Brian Wilson (Tommy John elbow surgery) is done, perhaps for his career as a closer; Joakim Soria (TJ elbow surgery) is done for the year and perhaps as a Royal; Red Sox Andrew Bailey (thumb surgery), Nat Drew Storen (elbow), Jay Sergio Santos (shoulder) and Ray Kyle Farnsworth (elbow) still heal.
The carnage doesn't end there, either. Even presumably healthy closers like Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol and Jordan Walden have bee too ineffective for the last-inning role thus far.
Is there anyone who can do what Jonathan Papelbon and Fernando Rodney can? (To think their former teams just didn't like those two early-season standouts enough to keep them.)
It is a mess, but we will try to sort through it team-by-team this week (again) in the Friday pitching report.
"I'll sleep on it," Girardi told The Post. "We've got two guys who I feel are very capable in [David] Robertson and [Rafael] Soriano. If we took the lead Robby was going to close (Thursday night). But I'll sit down with my coaches and we'll talk about it. I'll make that decision [Friday]."
The Yankees thought enough of Robertson to make him their eighth-inning guy over Soriano. He was clearly their second-best reliever with his 0.00 ERA and 0.909 WHIP with 18 strikeouts in 11 innings. The numbers made him more dominant than the Rivera himself thus far this season.
The question is whether the Yankees want to weaken their eighth inning to stopgap their ninth? Barring a trade for a closer (see below), Robertson is a must-add in all fantasy leagues immediately. It is probably already too late, even if the mere 54 percent ownership on CBSSports.com suggests otherwise. Add Robertson in 100 percent of leagues and if you miss out ...
If you missed out on Robertson, you might as well give Soriano a shot. He has more experience in the closer's role, but being a closer in New York is a different beast; ask Armando Benitez. Maybe the Yankees side with experience so they don't mess with Robertson as a lights-out setup man.
Also, if the Yankees do consider a trade, perhaps they would prefer keeping Robertson is in accustomed setup role.
Right now, the answer lies within Girardi and his coaching staff. Soriano can be a Top 10, if not a top five, fantasy closer in his own right, but Girardi has already technically chosen Robertson over Soriano when weighing the setup question (and the Thursday night fill-in after Rivera went down in batting practice).
The Yankees have the money and prospects to do anything they desire. The Astros wouldn't mind dealing Myers. It adds up to a match made in ... uh, well, a potential match at least. (Myers couldn't handle Philly, psychologically, and was arrested for abusing his spouse in Boston.)
Brian Fuentes of the A's is always among the trade possibilities, but Myers is the most available and the most intriguing of the potential trade targets. The Yankees bullpen is strong and deep enough without Myers, or Fuentes, but we figured we have to measure those alternatives to Robertson and Soriano as well.
It is not the Yankee Way to be unable to make a decision like some teams, but perhaps Girardi goes with the hot hand as closer. In that event, we have to add the likes of lefty Boone Logan (0.87 ERA), righty Cory Wade (1.46 ERA) and starter Phil Hughes (once Andy Pettitte proves ready for the rotation) to the potential mix for saves.
Logan and Wade are long shots and Hughes is a wild card, particularly since he would first have to transition to a relief role and prove effective in the middle innings. Again, we want to present all options here, even the improbable ones.
• Angels lefty Scott Downs is now closing games in place of the ineffective Walden. The veteran has been lights out and may never relinquish the role back to the shaky sophomore. Consider adding Downs in all leagues right after you add Robertson, and before you add the Yankees' other alternatives. If the Angels want to get Downs back into the situational lefty role, recent trade acquisition Ernesto Frieri can become an option. "We're going to give him an opportunity to pitch himself into a role," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told MLB.com. "What it does right now is it gives us another experienced and effective arm to put down in the bullpen and allow us to create a mix toward the end of the game."
• The Marlins' Bell has been rung once too many times. Steve Cishek had to bail him out Wednesday, blowing the save before picking up the vulture victory in relief. He has been the Marlins' most effective reliever, even if Edward Mujica picked up the save Thursday night. Add Cishek before Mujica, but the odds are Bell gets his closer's job back in Miami before long (assuming he isn't hurt, of course).
• Santiago Casilla was hung with a loss in his past outing, but he still stands above the sore-elbowed Sergio Romo in the pecking order for saves in San Francisco.
• Javy Guerra finally picked up his eighth save, but Kenley Jansen is still stalking the role full time. Jansen remains a sleeper to become a dominant fantasy closer the rest of the season.
• Sean Marshall still isn't anywhere near as good as Aroldis Chapman. Eventually, the lightning-armed Cuban is going to be too good to ignore in the ninth inning for the Reds.
• The Red Sox are spot-starting Aaron Cook for Josh Beckett this week, but Daniel Bard could still be a candidate to close if the Red Sox would like to keep Cook in the rotation one Beckett returns for his next scheduled turn. Closer Alfredo Aceves does not factor into this equation whatsoever, it all boils down to Cook's start and the Red Sox's decision with their rotation and Bard.
• Marmol was removed, a la Bell, from his closer's role with the Cubs on Thursday, giving way to Rafael Dolis, who Cishek-blew the save and picked up the vulture victory. James Russell (0.00 ERA) looks like a better option to close, if Dale Sveum makes a move at the closer spot. Dolis is worth an add, too, even if we assume Marmol eventually gets straightened out. Kerry Wood, recently brought off the DL, is not an option right now, the Cubs said.
• Hector Santiago has endured some growing pains for the White Sox and Matt Thorton filled in and implode himself. Santiago was better last time out, but no White Sox reliever has been as dominant as closer-in-waiting Addison Reed. It is getting closer to the time new manager Robin Ventura takes the handcuff and diapers off Reed and lets him fly as the White Sox's stopper. Add Reed in all leagues where you can wait a few weeks for saves.
• With Grant Balfour infected by the closer influenza, Fuentes picked up a save this week for the A's. The veteran is a candidate to stay in that role, particularly when you consider his past track record in it. Fuentes, who has a big contract for a small-market team, can be an option for the Yankees, too, of course.
• With Jim Johnson back from an illness, fill-in closer Pedro Strop is no longer a candidate for saves. He clearly set himself up nicely if Johnson falters or needs a break again, though.
• Struggling Francisco Cordero and Frank Francisco are likely safe for now. If you expect them to continue to struggle, jump back on Santos in a week or so (if healthy), or consider the Mets turning to Ramon Ramirez or Bobby Parnell. They are fliers in leagues that use true middle men.
If you have a struggling closer, the following are under-owned/undervalued in CBSSports.com's leagues right now:
1. Rodney, Rays (89 percent)2. Chris Perez, Indians (81 percent)3. Henry Rodriguez, Nationals (68 percent)4. Robertson, Yankees (54 percent)
Every one of these guys are going great and should be owned in all leagues immediately. H-Rod and Robertson are real gems that need to be picked up. Rodney and Perez should be trusted even in the smallest of formats, too.
1. Lance Lynn, Cardinals (76 percent starting) -- The rookie of the year candidate is among the best pitchers in fantasy. Jump on board.
2. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros (63 percent) -- He has won three consecutive starts, has a 1.64 ERA and draws the struggling Marlins and Pirates. Perfect.
3. Justin Masterson, Indians (44 percent) -- He is far better than his slow start suggests and he showed it in his past outing.
4. Matt Harrison, Rangers (46 percent) -- Struggling, but he can turn it around against the Orioles and Angels.
5. Carlos Zambrano, Marlins (28 percent) -- He is pitching a lot better than his record indicates and he seems (for now) a changed man, psychologically. The Astros and Mets shouldn't scare us.
1. Francisco Liriano, Twins (13 percent) -- Uh, duh. Even this former Liriano optimist wouldn't trust him right now.
2. A.J. Burnett, Pirates (25 percent) -- As if that disaster past outing didn't already convince you otherwise ...
3. Jake Arrieta, Orioles (24 percent) -- He is coming off the best outing of his career, but no thanks against the Rangers and Rays.
4. Phil Humber, White Sox (31 percent) -- From a perfect game to potentially dangerous the other way even in a two-start week against the Indians and Royals. Wow.
5. Daniel Bard, Red Sox (38 percent) -- He hasn't been great in the rotation, and Cook/Beckett makes it highly unlikely he makes two starts against the Royals and Indians. Frankly, we would be better off -- and the much-maligned closer position in general -- if he makes no starts and just moves back to the bullpen.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).