Newark, NJ – Every Met fan knew the look, the feel, and motions of this blown save. Heck, even Yankee fans had to suffer through this for a few weeks.
And now, with Armando Benitez in the Atlantic League, things haven’t changed.
The erstwhile major league closer came into Atlantic League All-Star Game in Newark with his division leading 5-3 and promptly gave up four runs on five hit to give the Liberty Division a 7-5 win.
“Look, I gave up a few base hits, but the game was fun for me,” Benitez said afterwards.
Sure the game was fun, especially with the celebrity softball game before hand. And yes, this All-Star game was an exhibition, but this was an important game for the players. Besides being a game for the fans, this was a showcase with over 20 major league scouts in attendance. The main reason why many of these players go to the Atlantic League is for a chance to prove they can still play and get picked up by affiliated ball.
So for a guy like Benitez, who yearns to go back to the big leagues, this was his chance.
And true to form, he blew it.
Unless of course, there’s an organization who wants an over the hill closer, that overthrows and then gets tattooed, Met fans learned that over the years. No matter how many easy saves this guy gets, when the heat gets turned up, Benitez starts to choke. Just look at Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS, or Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, or down the stretch in 2001.
You can argue that the Mets fortunes would have been better if they had a better closer.
Yet, you can’t blame Benitez for being what he is, the same way you can’t blame a terrible actor like Ben Affleck for constantly getting starring roles. You need to blame those that hire them. Steve Phillips should have jettisoned Benitez after the 1999 season and got another closer – or at least took his chances with John Franco. But Phillips kept him and everything that happened afterwards was not just the closer’s fault, but the general manager’s as well.
At least the Yankees learned their lesson after only three weeks. After he was sent to the Bronx, the Bombers immediately saw Benitez’s true colors – and the strain he put on Mariano Rivera, who was forced to clean up the mess. So he was shipped to Seattle for Jeff Nelson. No harm, no foul.
Now, six year’s later, he is in the Atlantic League, doing his thing. Sure he’s a name and a draw, but as we saw last night, no matter the competition, Benitez brings it on himself and the bigger the game, the bigger the choke.
Just ask any Met fan.