‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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The life of a major league setup man is more guts than glory. Rarely having the opportunity to convert a meaningful save, the role isn’t celebrated nearly as that of a closer yet is equally as vital.
Important hold opportunities are usually glossed over in game recaps, though when a reliever fails to deliver the lead to his closer, he is vilified by the press. Enter the world of David Robertson who isn’t far removed from the misery of a postseason ago. He imploded in the 2010 ALCS by allowing the Texas Rangers to open a 5-1 lead in the clinching Game 6 when he surrendered a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz and finished the series with a whopping 20.25 ERA. Robertson was removed from the setup discussion when the Yankees acquired free agent Rafael Soriano this offseason.
Brian Cashman’s belief in Robertson never wavered as he admitted that he wasn’t on board with the organization’s decision to sign Soriano. Shortly after the Yankees agreed to a three-year $35M contract with Soriano, Cashman washed his hands of the matter publicly. “I just didn’t think it was an efficient way to allocate our remaining resources. I didn’t recommend [the deal],” he stated.
Being forced out of consideration for the setup role by a high-priced replacement would be crushing to most in Robertson’s position but he dealt well with the adversity. He began the 2011 season behind both Soriano and Joba Chamberlain on the depth chart but didn’t take it as an insult and continued working his way back. Soriano turned out to be ineffective and landed on the long-term DL. Chamberlain pitched well before a torn ligament required Tommy John surgery, ending his season.
The setup role solely became Robertson’s who has been able to hold down the fort in their absence. He’s risen to the occasion and thrived in the pressure situations that were his undoing during last year’s playoffs. Going into Friday’s matchup against the Mets, his ERA stands at 1.11 and he’s recorded eight scoreless outings. Amazingly, Robertson has only surrendered 4 earned runs all season and notched 52 strikeouts over 32.1 innings pitched.
His teammates have dubbed him ‘Houdini’ for his ability to get out of tough situations, often walking men on base but still delivering the ball to Mariano Rivera. I see him as more of a bullfighter in the ring, who dances his way out of danger. Either way, it’s pretty unbelievable how Robertson escapes threatening innings unscathed.
He’s having the sort of year that is worthy of All-Star consideration. Usually, setup men are passed over as members of the ‘Midsummer Classic’ but Robertson certainly makes a worthy case. Robertson has been as automatic as a closer and in my opinion would be an obvious choice to travel to Chase Field this July.
It’s time that Robertson is given the credit he deserves. Should he be chosen as an All-Star in Arizona? How vital do you believe he’s been to the Yankees’ success this season? Sound off below and send your feedback to @HartyLFC.