My colleague Jacob Roy’s Monday article: “Ryan Brasier Will Be Missed”, was a great read. Jake’s (not me Jake, the other Jake) primary thesis in that article was, for the most part, that Ryan Brasier was a unifying force for Red Sox fans. In this piece today, I want to expand on Jake’s (again, not me, the other Jake. And not Jake Devereaux either. Or Jake Reiser.) idea a little more. I am dying to talk about something that truly makes baseball baseball; the bad reliever.
Let’s say out some ground rules. I want to make it very clear that I am not talking about the guy that gets called up from AAA because you had some injuries in the pen. I’m talking about the guy that’s been in that pen the whole year, maybe even several years. The Bad Reliever is out there everyday. He’s grinding and literally never getting any better.
Every team has their quintessential Bad Reliever, even the great ones. Let’s take a look at our championship teams. 2004? You’ve got your Terry Adams. 2007? You’ve got your Julian Tavarez (also started sometimes, but whatever). 2013? Alfredo Aceves. 2018? No, not Ryan Brasier. He was actually good then. The correct answer is Drew Pomeranz.
The Bad Reliever is critically important to the makeup of a team. They are often a scapegoat, taking the heat when the stars and every day players can not. They often get their moments in games nobody cares about anymore, coming in to pitch in blowouts one way or the other. But sometimes, just sometimes, the Bad Reliever comes in a close game. And that’s where their magic lies.
We’ve all seen it happen. It’s the third close game in a row. The pen is taxed and, oh no, the starter is at 100 pitches through five. The bullpen doors swings open and out trots Mr. Bad Reliever. Everyone can see in the manager’s eyes that that isn’t what he wanted, but it’s what has to happen. All the fans in the park groan and cover their eyes. Children cry. Some dude next to you leans over and says “This guy sucks”. Then, before you even realize it, Mr. Bad Reliever has walked one on five pitches and given up two doubles. There’s nothing like it. I never feel closer to my fellow Red Sox fans than in these moments. A true communal experience.
At the end of the day, we’re all just watching a game. Bad Relievers are human beings, and fans tend to forget that (myself included). They take a ton of heat day in and day out, and we gotta give them credit. Goodbye Ryan Brasier, one of our greatest Bad Relievers. Who will fill his shoes?