Wrapping up a 7-6 win over the Red Sox, Orioles closer Jim Johnson recorded his 50th save of the season, joining Craig Kimbrel as the only relievers to reach the 50-save echelon this season. For Johnson, it is the second consecutive year in which he has recorded at least 50 saves — he recorded 51 last year in helping his team into the ALDS, where they lost in five games to the Yankees.
Johnson joins Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera as the only relievers to have a pair of 50-save campaigns. No one has more. Only eight other relievers even have a one. Like Gagne, Johnson got his 50-save seasons consecutively.
Johnson had an up-and-down year. At times, he looked like the dominant closer that breathed new life into an Orioles team last year. At other times, like the two-week stretch in May in which he posted a 21.60 ERA in six appearances, he appeared to be throwing beach balls from 60 feet, six inches. But all’s well that ends well, as he ends the season with a sub-3.00 ERA, having converted 11 consecutive save opportunities.
Unlike last year, however, the rest of the bullpen was noticeably worse — about a half run per nine innings worse, in fact. Thus, the Orioles’ sterling 29-9 record in one-run games last year dropped to 19-31 this year. Thus, the 85-77 third-place Orioles will be watching the post-season from home.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.
Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.
It’s not known yet what kind of contract the two sides are negotiating. It could be a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, a non-guaranteed major league contract, or a guaranteed major league contract.
The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.
Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.
President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.