2005-07-01 / Sports

It’s A Thankless Job, But Someone Has To Do It

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

FLUSHING, NY – It’s the most thankless position in baseball.

Unlike hitters, who are expected to fail 70 percent of the time and starting pitchers, who can give up the a few runs, the closer needs to be perfect or he becomes the goat.

“When I don’t do my job, it’s the story,” Mets closer Braden Looper said. “When I do my job, it’s expected that I get the save.”

And that’s what happened in the last game of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium last Sunday. Looper came in the ninth inning with a 4-3 and was ready to complete the sweep of the Mets cross town rivals. But, after a walk to Tino Martinez, a double by Alex Rodriguez and an intentional walk to Hideki Matsui, Looper gave up a base hit to Jason Giambi to score two runs and give the Yankees the win.

It made the Mets closer the story, the goat and sent Looper home to think about what happened.

“In all honesty, I didn’t sleep very well that night,” he said. “I’m a competitive person and I want to win. It just doesn’t feel good. If anyone says they can blow it off, they are lying.”

Even with that blight on his record, Looper is having a good season. Going into Tuesday’s contest against the Phillies, the 30 year-old is seventh in the National League with 15 saves and before Sunday, converted his last 14 save opportunities. It’s that type of consistency that will make manager Willie Randolph’s job easy, when there’s a lead that needs to be preserved in the ninth inning.

“I like the way he goes about his business,” Randolph said. “Sometimes you don’t get the job done and you turn the page. He’s still my guy and he’ll be fine.” Even though, a closer’s life is a difficult one, Looper does find comfort during the tough times with his wife and two children.

“All my daughter wants to do is see me play, so that helps,” Looper said. “And, I was fine yesterday with my son was hitting balls off the tee. You would think it was the World Series.”

The Oklahoma native also gets some mentoring advice from another member of the his family.

“I have an uncle, who is in the game, and he calls and asks me, ‘how’s my brain,’” Looper said. “He knows being in the game when it’s on the line and when I don’t do it - it sucks. There’s no way around it. It sucks.”

The Mets closer didn’t get a call on Sunday night from his uncle, but teammate Roberto Hernandez, who has some closer experience himself, has given Looper some valuable advice.

“Roberto always says, ‘I had to be there to blow it.’ I keep saying that to myself constantly,” Looper said. “It’s fun to be out there facing [the Yankees]. When the game is on the line and we win, which happened a lot this year, it feels good.” This is the right attitude to have when you are doing the most thankless job in baseball.

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