While writing about the Ultra Firemen set in my last posting. I got to thinking about two questions. So if this set was to be made for the upcoming season who would be in this set? The original set was based more on who got the most saves during the last season than who the top guys were. Keeping this in mind this would have been the ten men put in the set.
1. Jim Johnson Baltimore 51 saves
2. Fernando Rodney Tampa Bay 48 saves
3. Craig Kimbrel Atlanta 42 saves
4. Rafael Soriano N.Y. Yankees 42 saves
5. Jason Motte St. Louis 42 saves
6. Chris Perez Cleveland 39 saves
7. Jonathan Papelbon Philadelphia 38 saves
8. Aroldis Chapman Cincinnati 38 saves
9. Joe Nathan Texas 37 saves
10. Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh 36 saves
Not wanting to accept this as the list of the current games best due to injuries and other factors. It kept begging me to make what would be the set as I'd put it together. This leads me to question number two. What would this set look like in design? While it's not quite a finished product I came up with this card. Keep in mind we don't have any sort of photo program other than paint which came with the computer. Also I'd like to thank a 2003 MVP card for Fransisco Rodriguez who despite not being in this set gave up himself for the card design.
Now that we have that out of the way lets see the set and why they are there. These are in my sort of order with only two players having a reason for their positions but you'll see why as the list goes along.
1. Jose Valverde- Since his debut in 2003, Valverde has saved a total or 277 games along with 650 strikeouts. Jose has shown some serious power pitching and control problems at times but is always dangerous.
2. Mariano Rivera- Since arriving into the MLB in 1995 everyone has to admit the Rivera is the standard. Even missing 2012 I'm willing to bet that the set of closers would drop someone and include this man. How could anyone even imagine leaving out a man who has 608 career saves and has become the standard all closers are compared to. While I might be crazy I'm not stupid enough to do a set without Rivera.
3. Chris Perez- I must admit that I was thinking about doing J.J. Putz instead of Chris but after a ton of thought Chris got this spot instead. Being in the league since 2008 and having close to the same amount of successful seasons as Putz. Chris got the nod despite having 107 saves compared to 183 for Putz. Give him the 5 extra years Putz has over him and it's my belief Perez will have better stats by a hair.
4. Joe Nathan- Being in the league for 12 season but a closer for only 8 of those Nathan has gotten 298 saves in that time frame. His worst season came in 2011 with the Twins before trading him to his new home the Rangers. Other than the one bad year Nathan has consistently been one of MLB's top closers.
5. John Axford- Only being in the MLB for four seasons and the first only seven games. You have to see this man and know he is a future great. With 106 saves in that short amount of time he will be a force for years to come barring an injury or meltdown. John Axford is a name you will be seeing for years at the top 10 closers each season.
6. Fernando Rodney- Another of the close battles for entry into this set of players. Rodney barely beat out Joel Hanrahan only due to the blown saves. With just a few more saves than Hanrahan, Rodney barely made this list and almost because we needed a tenth closer.
7. Brian Wilson- As with Mariano Rivera, Brian Wilson missed almost the entire 2012 season. This would have been another closer that might have thrown off the list for this set. Wilson much like Rivera is one of the closers you think of every time anyone around mentions the best closers in the MLB. A reliever I consider a throwback to the old days with the look meant to intimidate the opposing player. Look for some great years in the future from Wilson as he return to the role in 2013
8. Craig Kimbrel- With closers having just a few years to 10 or more years. Craig Kimbrel is the young pup in this set. Only in the league for three years Kimbrel has already accumulated 89 saves for the Braves. Even though it's a small sampling of time. Kimbrel looks to be on track to possibly be one of if not the top closer for future seasons.
9. Jonathan Papelbon- Since arriving in 2005 Papelbon has been possibly the games second best closer to Rivera. With 257 saves Jonathan rates fourth in the group in less years than the top three. Given two more season he should become second in this group for all-time saves.
10 Rafael Soriano- This is one choice that was going through my mind more than any other. How do you put two closers from the same team on this list? With Rivera going down in 2012 and the Yankees in panic mode Soriano got the chance to step up and took it. While he can be erratic when called upon in limited chances. For three seasons he has been dominating racking up save after save.
So there it is. The Prowling Cat's Firemen. I'd love to hear who you think should have been put in the set, but keep in mind. You have to dump a guy to make it happen so who gets dumped?