Rafael Soriano, so good as a set-up man in 2007, entered the season as the closer, with Peter Moylan assuming Sori’s role as the 8th inning guy. The rest of the ‘pen was a work in progress, with the Braves gambling on a quartet of hard-throwing right-handers — Jeff Bennett, Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta — and a pair of veteran southpaws, Will Ohman and Royce Ring.
Not great, but adequate, or so we thought. Within two weeks Soriano and Moylan were on the DL. Moylan’s season was over, and Soriano’s might as well have been. He appeared in just 14 games that year, with three stints on the DL before undergoing shoulder surgery in August.
So the job fell to Acosta, a 26-year-old who struggled with command and was prone to giving up the long ball. He threw hard but didn’t miss many bats, striking out just 31 in 53 IP. His control problems continued, averaging 4.4 BB/9 IP. And the homers he allowed were almost always back-breakers.
Exactly seven years ago today, Acosta had an outing vs. the Marlins that summed up his tenure as closer. Entering the game in the 9th with a 4-2 lead, Acosta allowed a single to Cody Ross. Little-used catcher Mike Rabelo followed with a homer to straightaway center. And then it got worse. Jorge Cantu doubled and Hanley Ramirez went deep a second time to put the Fish ahead 6-4. Game over.
Bennett and Boyer had equally ineffective turns as closer. Meanwhile, Ring and Resop flopped badly, setting the stage for the likes of Julian Tavarez, Vladamir Nunez, Jorge Julio, Elmer Dessens, Buddy Carlyle, Jeff Ridgway, Phil Stockman … the list goes on.
Braves relievers finished 2008 with a a 4.25 ERA and 1.382 WHIP. If not for Mike Gonzalez, who assumed the closer’s role after returning from Tommy John, this ‘pen would’ve challenged for the all-time worst.