NORMAN — Some relievers thrive when they move into the huge ninth-inning spotlight and some fizzle. And others turn into one-year wonders.
They can be a Jimmy Fallon, earning raves, a Conan O’Brien deflecting razzes, or one of those single-season phenoms that’s increasingly common, a bullpen Halley’s Comet that gets all the attention one summer and disappears the next.
After a half-decade as Mariano Rivera’s understudy in the New York Yankees’ bullpen, David Robertson feels ready for his move to the big time.
“I’m hoping it’s more fun,” Robertson says. “You get to high-five with everybody at the end of the game instead of just running in the dugout and going, ‘OK, Mo’s coming in. I’m going to go get undressed and get ready to high-five him when he comes in the clubhouse.”’
Top closers are baseball’s rock stars — tied to their entrance music and their oversized persona, whether of chaos or cool. It’s hard to think of Rivera without Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” or Trevor Hoffman divested of AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.”
But for every success there are multiple failures, especially these days when the managers and front-office executives feel intense pressure for their teams to produce right from the season’s start and every single night.
Hence, the reliever who goes from obscurity to supremacy and back.
“In the case of relievers, if you check the history it’s kind of a natural wave of things,” Baltimore Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace says. “A lot of guys have a real good year, or maybe two good years, and then the maybe hit a bump in the road for a year or two. That’s what makes Trevor Hoffman, Mariano, those type of guys special because they’ve done it over a long period of time.”