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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

It was nothing but an innocuous tweet from friend and National League Tout Wars competitor Mike Gianella late Thursday evening – words intended to provide advice to any other fantasy players following him.

Like me, Gianella had watched Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford blow his second save in two nights, making winners of the Kansas City Royals. It was the action-reaction part of his comments that cut me so deeply.

“If K-Rod's available in your league, do I really need to tell you to pick him up?” Gianella typed.

If I wasn’t already hemorrhaging, that remark got my blood flowing. Just the speculation that the former Angels and Mets closer might once again be given the ball in the ninth inning did it to me.

I had drafted Francisco Rodriguez on draft day, paying $4 entirely because I expected this day would come. It isn’t that I was in love with K-Rod – it was more that I have never had complete confidence in Axford.

Instead of celebrating Axford’s downturn, it caused me pain – because I didn’t have the patience to hold onto K-Rod. The reduction of Tout reserve rosters from six to four - enacted several years ago to deepen the free agent pool – is doing what it was intended to do.

I released K-Rod on May 7 as I was chasing a more immediate save possibility in James Russell of the Cubs. I paid $5 for the privilege of receiving a grand total of no saves in no opportunities from Russell before I re-cast him back into the free agent pool several weeks later

At the time, not only was K-Rod not saving games, he was unplayable, in my opinion. The right-hander was 1-for-2 in save opportunities and had a 0-3 record with a 5.65 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio was an uninspiring 13:8.

Needless to say, during the very next transaction period, K-Rod was snapped up for a $3 FAAB bid. His new owner? Mike Gianella, of course.

It would not be as painful except that I had abandoned a core element of my draft day strategy so quickly and was reminded of it. Because I did not buy a single established closer, I had to roster a few players who would have a good chance at getting a shot at the ninth inning.

Instead, I went after established set up men with solid peripherals, figuring one or more of them would eventually come through. Perhaps I was too confident, as last season, I hit on three different emerging closers and was awash in saves.

Along with K-Rod, I drafted Luke Gregerson of San Diego, Kris Medlen of Atlanta and Tyler Clippard of Washington. I added Houston’s Wilton Lopez in the first FAAB period.

Despite Huston Street’s injury, Gregerson did not earn a chance to close for the Padres. The righty’s 2012 numbers have been nothing to brag about and are below his lofty career standards.

Medlen was never a closer contender. In fact, he had recently returned to Triple-A to get stretched out in preparation for joining the Braves’ rotation. Medlen is no longer on my roster anyway, as I had sent him to another owner as a trade sweetener.

Lopez delivered nice totals, but even if Astros closer Brett Myers is dealt at the deadline, the right-hander may not get a shot. After all, one cannot close from the disabled list, where Lopez arrived on Friday with elbow problems.

Clippard represents my only emerging closer success story to date. He has nine of my team’s season-to-date total of ten saves. It could have happened weeks before had Nationals manager Davey Johnson not stubbornly tried anyone and everyone else in the job until he finally had no choice by to give it to Clippard.

To this point, my closer in waiting strategy has mostly led me to continue to wait.

Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com and in-season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.


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