Dave Roberts said that Kenley Jansen is still the closer, as reported by Ken Gurnick. The language stops being stark after that though, and instead paints a confusing picture.
Roberts said Kenley Jansen is still the closer, but will continue to pitch in other situations. Kelly, Baez or Maeda could close games.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) September 2, 2019
Closer In Name Only?
Reading that language, it would appear a clever game is being played by Dave Roberts. Telling someone in the press that they are still the closer, but indicating that other relievers may close games from time to time, can appear to be misleading. If it is not misleading, then it is a very good decision by a manager who knows his players. A decision from a manager who knows what is best for the team. Telling Kenley Jansen he is still the closer puts your support behind the big man.
Kenley may be struggling mightily this year, and he may deserve to lose the closer job, but he has earned the title and support of his manager. He’s given too much to the Dodgers to take the job away from him so coldly.
A New Kind of Closer
This could also be a shift in the mentality, or in the definition of “closer.” The Dodgers front office loves match-ups more than any other team in baseball. A closer role should clearly also reflect that direction. If the heart of the order of a team is up in the 9th inning, and features 2 or 3 left-handed hitters, bring in Kenley Jansen might not be the best choice. Beyond handedness splits, it could be based on the numbers those particular players have against Kenley Jansen. This shifts an old school “a closer is the closer because he is the closer” attitude into a more modern take on the game.
This suits the Dodgers. It shifts them into a more world series winning mentality, and Dave Roberts into a place we haven’t seem him manage before.