The Unsung Heroes of the Yankees’ Bullpen

When I hear “Tuesday’s Gone” I think of Happy Gilmore. When I hear the word “magic” I think of Happy Gilmore shaking his caddy on the ground after clinching the Waterbury Open with Pilot’s “Magic ” playing in the background. With the way the Yankees’ bullpen has been performing, the only explanation is magic and because of it, I want to celebrate by shaking Joe Girardi while screaming, “Oh, ho, ho, it’s magic you knowwww! Never believe it’s not so!”

If you told me on the morning of Opening Day that on June 19 I would be writing about the Yankees bullpen currently featuring Rafael Soriano as the closer, Boone Logan and Cory Wade as setup men and Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley as middle relievers, well let’s just say I would be living in Europe and writing about Euro 2012. Luckily no one told me this was going to happen.

The Yankees are 41-25 and in first place in the AL East with the best record in the AL thanks to a 10-game winning streak, which this group of ragtag relievers (that’s the first and most likely the last time I have and will ever use “ragtag,” and you can thank Jack Edwards for putting that word into my vocabulary) has been a large part of. Sure, it’s easy to win games the way the Yankees did on Monday night when CC Sabathia pitched a complete game against the Braves (Side note: I forgot to start CC and R.A. Dickey, who pitched a one-hitter against the Orioles, on my fantasy team. Devastating.) But it’s not so easy to win games when Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada are being asked to serve as the middle relief bridge.

It’s crazy that right now I have confidence in everyone in the bullpen not named Freddy Garcia, but I don’t trust anyone in the bullpen not named David Robertson. And since David Robertson has become the must trustworthy Yankees reliever not named Mariano Rivera since 2007 Joba Chamberlain, I’m leaving him out of these power rankings that I have created to figure out the my personal bullpen pecking order. I’m also leaving out Rafael Soriano since he is now the closer and because he’s making $11 million this year, so he should be expected to get outs.

I have heard these ragtag (OK, there it is again) relievers called a lot of things over the last couple of weeks. Most of the things I have called them while yelling at games or shouting at my TV have been derogatory, but I have heard different forms of the word “hero” thrown around to describe this relief corps. Dwight Schrutte said, “A hero kills people, people that wish him harm. A hero is part human and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma, or out of a disaster, and must be avenged.” I don’t think that’s the type of hero that these guys are, so let’s go with “unsung” hero. And let’s go through the bullpen to figure out who should get the ball from top to bottom.

Number 48, Boone Logan, Number 48
I want to start this off by saying it’s effing scary that Boone Logan is the No. 1-ranked pitcher on any list I create. Oh yeah, Robertson and Soriano aren’t on this list. OK, I feel a little better.

If I make Boone Logan a mixtape that includes Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” do you think he will forgive me? Actually I don’t want him to forgive me. Because deep down I know that the Boone Logan I watched in 2010 and 2011 in key moments is just waiting for me to let my guard down before he ambushes me. He did it to me on Sept. 14, 2010 when I finally wrote an apology to him only to have him on that same day give up a go-ahead, three-run home run to Willy Aybar in Tampa Bay. So Boone, I’m manning up here to say I’m sorry. You don’t have to accept my apology or the mixtape, or the flowers or the fruit basket I am having sent to the Stadium on Tuesday night. Just go out there and keep putting up zeroes and that will be enough for me.

Number 53, Cory Wade, Number 53
Last Monday (June 11) was the one-year anniversary of the Rays releasing Cory Wade. I know what you’re thinking: Where was the party? Well, there wasn’t a party, but there should have been in either Cashman’s office or Girardi’s.

In 68 games and 67 2/3 innings with the Yankees, Wade has 60 strikeouts and 14 walks, a 2.39 ERA and a 1.020 WHIP. He has been prone to the home run (like he was on Saturday) with four allowed in 28 innings this year, but he’s gone from the scrap heap to the reliever “B” team to the reliever “A” team in a year. Thanks again, Tampa Bay!

Number 38, Cody Eppley, Number 38
In real life, Cody Eppley would have gotten sent down and David Phelps would have stayed with the Yankees. But this isn’t real life since Eppley is getting huge outs for the Yankees, and also because the Yankees needed Phelps to go back to the minors to get stretched out to be a starter again.

Eppley getting that double play on an 0-2 pitch last Wednesday against the Braves to preserve a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning with runners on first and third and one out is enough to buy him some time in my book in the even that he remembers he’s Cody Eppley and not Jeff Nelson. (Yes, I’m willing to forget that he gave up hits to two of three hitters he faced before the 6-4-3 double play.) How much time that double play will buy him has yet to be determined.

Number 39, Clay Rapada, Number 39
Clay Rapada has become my Pitching Whipping Boy for 2012 (Nick Swisher remains the Overall Whipping Boy) now that A.J. Burnett is pitching in Pittsburgh and Boone Logan has become (or rather been forced into being) a valuable part of the bullpen.

Entering this season, Rapada had appeared in 78 games with the Cubs, Tigers, Rangers and Orioles. He had a career 5.13 ERA in 52 2/3 innings with 32 walks. Everything about Rapada forced me into the lengthy “Nooooooooooooooo!” that Michael Scott used upon Toby’s return. I wanted the Yankees to have nothing to do with Rapada because I wanted to have nothing to do with him interfering with my baseball season and my summer. But because he throws a baseball using his left arm, (if you have watched Clay Rapada and you have a child and aren’t tying their right hand behind their back until they are 16 then you are doing whole parenting thing wrong) you just knew that Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi were going to find a spot for him on the roster.

Rapada has been goo… Rapada has been goo… He’s been… He’s been goo… OK, he’s been good. There, I said it. Are you happy now? He’s been better than I expected and lefties are just 7-for-46 (.152) against him. However, don’t let him fool you. He will blow up at some point in this season. Let’s just hope it isn’t in a big spot because it’s going to happen. I “Mark Messier guarantee” it’s going to happen.

Number 36, Freddy Garcia, Number 36
I hate to break it to the Freddy Garcia fans out there (if there any), but the 35-year-old righty no longer belongs on the Yankees. Sorry, Freddy and sorry to your fans.

Garcia came up huge in the 12th and 13th innings in Washington on Saturday to earn his first win since last September, but he owed that performance to Yankees fans. I still can’t get over the writers who cover the team tweeting about how Garcia is a “gamer” and sarcastically asking their followers if they still want Garcia off the team after his effort in extra innings? I guess they forgot about him giving up 19 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings in his four starts in April? Maybe they forgot that in those four starts he got pulled in the second inning twice (against Boston and Detroit) and the only reason the Yankees went 2-2 in his starts instead of 0-4 is because they came back against the Orioles on April 10 and erased a 9-1 deficit at Fenway Park on April 21? And how much of a “gamer” was Garcia when he lost Game 2 of the ALDS to the Tigers? Isn’t the postseason when a “gamer” shows up? (I understand what the Yankees got out of Garcia and Bartolo Colon last year was a replica of the lightning caught in a bottle with Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon in 2005, but let’s be serious.) So, to answer your question, yes, I still want Garcia off the team.

And I want Garcia gone because he doesn’t serve a purpose. He has become the long reliever/extra innings/mop-up duty man only because Rivera is out and Robertson has been hurt. Those are actually the roles for Eppley and Rapada, but their recent success and those same injuries have moved them into more important roles. The only thing Garcia presents out of the bullpen is a scary option for Joe Girardi to turn to when his other relievers need a rest.

The problem is there’s a good chance that Garcia will survive the season with the Yankees unless Eppley and Rapada keep getting the job done and Joba Chamberlain and David Aardsma can make healthy returns, and he will survive because he’s owed $4 million this year. If you don’t plan on eating a meal anytime soon, then think about this: Garcia will make $4 million this season and R.A. Dickey will only make $4.25 million.