Feldman: Mujica's been unflappable in closer's role
By John Bailey
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: Edward Mujica #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) By Greg Fiume
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: Edward Mujica #44 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after a 2-0 victory against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) By Greg Fiume
(BaseballStL) -- Who could have seen this coming, eh? At the trade deadline last July the Cards trade a blocked (and slightly overhyped) prospect in Zack Cox for some middle reliever with a 4.38 ERA in Miami. Fast forward 10 months. That "some middle reliever" is now the closer of the team with the best record in Major League baseball.
Edward Mujica is the latest diamond in the rough found by GM John Mozeliak and his lieutenants. Virtually no one expected Mujica to come in and be anything more than a stop gap until some of these more heralded prospects were ready for big league duty.
Um, ya. How wrong we all were.
For reasons only the players truly understand, getting the 27th out is simply harder than getting the 4th out. Or the 15th. Or even the 24th. The final inning of the game takes a special person, a special mindset and special stuff.
No one knew that Mujica had that because, well, he's never really been given a chance to do it. His entire career (from the Indians to the Padres to the Marlins) he's been cast as a middle reliever. Once you receive a label in this game it's very hard to shake it. And Mujica's label has been as nothing more than middle reliever.
That's a dangerous thing to do because he's never shown that he CAN'T do anything more. Mujica just never was given the opportunity. Now, that's not something the teams he was on before should be blamed for. On the contrary, they don't owe anything to Mujica just like no team owes anything to any of its players.
Teams are in the business of winning. And for whatever reason, there was never an opportunity to do more than middle relief that lined up with giving him that chance.
Heck, even here in St. Louis it took moving the ends of the world just to put the 29-year old in the ninth inning. It took Jason Motte - a healthy pitcher who had shown virtually no signs of wear and tear - to need Tommy John surgery. It took Mitchell Boggs to struggle mightily. It even took the simultaneous slow start of hard thrower Trevor Rosenthal. And while nothing was going right in the Cards bullpen the only person doing his job at that time was Mujica.
It was out of virtual necessity that he be given the chance to close games. Heck, no one else could be trusted. Not Rosenthal. Not Boggs. Not Joe Kelly. Not anyone.
And since being given that opportunity, something no one has done for him since entering the league in 2006, the man's only gone 12-12 in save opportunities and has given up but two measly runs in those 12 innings. That's just incredible work for someone who, let's face it, didn't cost very much at the deadline last year.
It shows never to doubt the abilities of someone who hasn't done something because they've never been given the chance to do it. Someone who has been given the chance but failed? Make your judgments at will.
But Mujica is living proof people are always capable of doing more.