Theo Epstein on the closer by committee in 2003

Prior to the season, Jim Leyland expressed why he doesn't want to use a closer by committe. I appreciated his honesty.

And you automatically understand — and this sounds kind of selfish, but I told you this all along — there is no question that it makes it a hundred times better when you have a closer that is a closer — and a good one — because it takes a lot of pressure off the manager.

We can (talk) all we want, but I can tell you right now that if we have to mix-and-match, it will be a second-guessing-haven delight. Because if you use Coke, well, why didn't use Benoit? If you used Benoit, well, why didn't you use Villarreal, if he's on the team? If you use Villarreal, why didn't you use Alburquerque? He was fresh. I'm supposed to know how to use my pitching, so that doesn't bother me. But when you don't have a closer, you're open game."

GW bolded that portion of Leyland's comment.

In 2003 the Red Sox briefly tried a closer by committe and here's what Theo Epstein has to say about it a decade later.

"We felt like if we could have acquired a closer that was a lot better guy, we would have gone with conventional roles and tell everyone the roles in the 'pen and avoided some of the controversy," Epstein said. "Since we couldn't we let Urbina walk, we let [Cliff] Floyd walk that winter. We were lowering payroll, we wanted to spread some of the remaining money around and we wanted to get draft picks. We felt like the best plan was to get a bunch of good arms and see what happened. It was bad execution because a few of the guys we got didn't perform early so it became a huge controversy. In hindsight we were a little naive how big a story it was going to become and how it was going to take on a life of its own in a detrimental fashion."

Since bullpens are so volatile, you can never really count on every guy having as strong a season as you expect. In such a short amount of playing time like relievers get, even a really good reliever can have a bad season. A bad reliever can have a good season.

A closer by committee, if tried over a long period of time, would surely result in a few more wins, but it can be a disaster in any one season. A disaster that's not necessary on the field, but in the dugout and executive booth. There's no doubt that having set roles in the bullpen makes a manager's job easier, both on the field and off. It's especially easier off the field when the second guessers come out.

"It's just a balancing act," Epstein said. "If you have a manager who buys into it and relievers who buy into it, the way Jim Leyland does at times, finds the right matchup. If you have a great left-handed set-up guy and you have two or three left-handers up in the ninth inning they can close that day, you don't have to make a big production of it. One lesson learned is the less said about it the better. You assemble the most talent you can in the bullpen and let your manager figure it out and hopefully not be bound to make in-game decisions that don't make sense just because of convention.

"This happens all the time. What does it tell you that it happens more often when the game is more important? It probably shows it's probably the best strategy to help you win games, but it's also more difficult to manage publicly and internally over 162."

A decade ago I thought that bullpens would be used in this fashion today, but it's probably never going to happen.