Fernando Rodney was awesome in the World Baseball Classic in closing out nearly every one of the Dominican Republic's title winning run. Rodney's performance was coming off a fantastic 2012 season where he concerted 48 of 50 save chances and if memory serves, the two he didn't convert were the result of some flukey play.
In the WBC he was just as automatic as he started educating the world about "plantain power" the banana-like Dominican fruit that is a staple of their diet.
But, now that he has blown 5 of 14 save chances for the Tampa Bay Rays and we haven't hit June yet, and three games in the last two weeks with two outs in the ninth and another with no outs in the ninth, one will have to wonder when the WBC starts getting some of the blame?
The critics will start to wonder if Rodney's struggles were the result of having no spring training before he had to start pitching in meaningful games. Even if this isn't really the case, baseball is such a game of superstition, the WBC could well face some backlash from other players not wanting to be "Rodneyed" the next time the WBC rolls around.
But, to dismiss the WBC as part of the problem, might be wrong too. There is a reason baseball has spring training. If it was not necessary, they would just show up and start playing games that count. So to ask Major League Baseball players to do that once every four years, at least the players who play here in the USA, might not be the best idea.
What other explanation other than arm trouble could there be for a guy who was so automatic for some long that now can't nail down a save even with a three run lead in some cases?
The Rays are nearly 50 games into the schedule and are playing .500 ball. If they nailed down just seven of the 10 games they have led after seven innings and lost, they'd be 14 games over .500 and still be questioning the bullpen. After all, they eat the Orioles in a game last week that broke a 109 game win streak when leading after seven. And the Rays have blown 10 of these games in less than 50 game so far?
It's astonishing the Rays aren't down in the standings with the Houston Astros with a record like that. With a bullpen like they've had the past five seasons, this team could be 20 games over .500 right now. 29 blown leads is more than enough for an entire year.
It all starts with the fact that Rodney can't close. Not having a closer throws the entire bullpen out of whack. The closer is like the point guard of the bullpen. Everybody has a role in a great bullpen. You have your closer, the eighth inning guy (Joel Peralta), your flame thrower for when you need a big strikeout, your lefty-on-lefty guy, and you middle innings guys for days your starter gets lit up. The Rays have no idea who is doing what because Kyle Farnsworth, or Joel Peralta, or even Cesar Ramos might have to close.
Whether the WBC is to blame or not, perception is reality. If Rodney does not get straightened out soon, somebody is going to come out with the theory that he used himself up in March pitching for the Dominican Republic.