Dodgers closer Brandon League has four blown saves and an earned-run average… (Rob Carr / Getty Images )
Loyalty is a wonderful thing. You could ask Luis Cruz. Or better yet, Brandon League.
League is testing the loyalty of Manager Don Mattingly. Some might say his wisdom, but League is at least pushing Mattingly to the limits of his commitment to him as the closer.
League just has not been very good. He has not resembled the guy the Dodgers saw last September. That reliever was truly dominant. He went 2-0, saved six games in as many tries, had a 0.55 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and .137 opponents batting average.
The Dodgers were so excited, they gave League a three-year, $22.5-million contract and anointed him their 2013 closer.
Only this year’s League has not been the same guy. He is 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and opponents are hitting .298 against him. He has 13 saves in 17 tries, but many of the saves have been of the hold-your-breath variety.
And now it’s the middle of June and the Dodgers are still in last place. After League blew a two-run lead over the Diamondbacks in the ninth Monday, the Dodgers fell 8½ games back of Arizona.
So loyalty and mega-contract need to become secondary factors. The Dodgers can’t wait for League to find himself any longer.
It’s time to give Kenley Jansen back the closer’s role. He’s had his rough moments (1-3, 2.53 ERA) too, but overall is currently their best hope at nailing down a lead. If he’s not blowing people away like he did two years ago, overall he’s still their most consistent late-inning guy.
So Mattingly needs to make the move. It would be easier if Jansen was being dominant, but the move still has to be made. It’s not time to worry about League’s psyche. It is time to move him out of the closer’s role.
“It’s tough to answer that question right now,” Mattingly said. “It’s something to look at.”
At least he’s wavering. But he looks at League and mostly thinks he still sees the same guy from last September, with similar velocity.
“It’s pretty much the same, 95 and 96 (mph),” Mattingly said. “We don’t see as many chases with the breaking ball. The location is not quite the same. But his stuff seems to be the same.”
The results aren’t. And time is running out.
“I agree with you on that,” Mattingly said. “I’m not sitting here trying to defend Brandon at this point.”
League knows he wasn’t as terrible as Monday’s pitching line (four runs on four hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning). The first three runs driven in against him came on infield hits that flicked off gloves.
“Inches from being an out,” League said.
Instead, of double plays, the Diamondbacks score four times.
“Story of the year,” League said.
A story that needs to try a different direction.