New York Yankees

When Chapman threw on his New York Yankees’ uniform on Monday night, Andrew Miller became the setup man and there were no arguments by the award-winning closer. 

By Christian Kouroupakis

After a year of extraordinary dominance from New York Yankees‘ closer, Andrew Miller, it was almost certain that a sequel was to occur in 2016.

How could it not?

Miller, in his debut season in pinstripes, completed the year with 36 saves and a modest 2.04 ERA in 61.2 innings pitched. The lefty was absent for some time due to a forearm strain but otherwise, he almost lights out.

Many people don’t know this but Miller finished at number ten in the American League’s CY-Young award voting.

He struck out 100 batters and walked only 20 while his strikeout per nine innings ratio was at a staggering 14.6. He and his partner in crime, Dellin Betances, both finished in the top three in the Major Leagues in strikeouts by a reliever.

Before game two of the 2015 World Series in Kansas City, Miller was named the American League Reliever of the Year by Major League Baseball’s commissioner Rob Manfred who recognized the filth that was the Yankees’ closer.

The honor, officially known as the “Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year,” is one of the prestigious awards any reliever can receive but if you’re not convinced how dominant of a time “Miller Time” was, maybe this will do the job:

“I’ve been lucky,” Miller told Ryan Hatch of NJ Media. “The Yankees are about as good an organization as you can find. Their reputation is impeccable. Having the opportunity to play there is better than I ever dreamed of.”

Then, when the Yankees hit the offseason, they had a unique opportunity to make the bullpen even more prominent than it previously was.

Aroldis Chapman was on clearance rack thanks to an alleged domestic violence incident and New York pounced on an opportunity to snag him by trading Caleb Cotham, Rookie Davis, Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda to Cincinnati. The new plan was: Chapman would fill the closer role while Miller moves down to the setup spot thus creating a “three-headed monster” with Betances as the seventh inning man.

The trio of Betances, Miller, and Chapman combined for a 1.70 ERA with 347 strikeouts in 212 2/3 innings last season and their team became the first in history to own three pitchers who each had 100 strikeouts as a reliever in the season prior.

That came with two little asterisks, however.

Chapman was handed down a 30-game suspension by Manfred and baseball’s brand-new domestic violence policy for that alleged occurrence in October. The three-headed monster would remain in its cave until May 9 when the Yankees played host to the Kansas City Royals.

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The responsibilities of saving ballgames were given back to Miller, and he did nothing to lose that job.

In 11.2 innings pitched he has not allowed a single earned run, struck out 20 batters (compared to one walk), and is 6-for-6 in save opportunities prior to Chapman’s return to baseball. He and Betances have struck out 47 of the 94 batters (50%) they’ve faced this season and are both in the in the top five in the Americal League in strikeouts.

It was crystal-clear to Miller that Chapman would become the closer as early as spring training, and once it became a reality that the ninth inning is no longer “Miller Time,” the electric lefty humbly accepted his demotion.

“The goal here is to win. I think if you go around and ask, there are 25 lockers in here, and I think everyone is going to say that,” Miller told the NY Daily News. “I think we’ve played well in the last couple of days, and the goal is to keep that going. Wins are what’s fun at the end of the day.”

Any other athlete, take Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Sam Bradford for example, might have had the audacity to demand a trade or publically demonstrate their resentment towards a demotion they did not deserve to attain.

Not Miller. The earnestness in his voice when questioned on the demotion came directly from his heart. The now set-up man believes every player should endure any role presented to them by coaches or higher-ups in the organization.

“I think he’s acting the professional way. That’s who he is as a person.”

Carlos Beltran via NJ Media

Miller demonstrated the high standards of behavior expected of a professional person, especially a New York Yankee. Simply put, the man acted like a true professional.

That is something we rarely see in sports today. Bradford was already mentioned and we have one of the faces of Major League Baseball cursing at umpires after games.

Imagine Bryce Harper being told he’s a fourth outfielder for the better of the Washington Nationals. “That’s a clown move, bro.”

Miller is a prime example of the few true professionals that remain in the game. In any environment, sports or not, the display of professionalism is essential at all levels of an organization.

The characteristics of these individuals will profit the reputation, morale, and accomplishment of a company. We’ve seen it for 20 years with Derek Jeter but it’s not only the individuals in leadership roles that need to show professionalism, and Miller’s no-ego motto is a prime example of that.

He is going to help this New York Yankees team reach new heights with this monster ‘pen. Chapman has never been in any other role besides the closer role and moving him may affect his dominance.

In addition to that, being able to use Betances and Miller in the seventh and eighth innings shortens the game to an incredible extent, something the Bombers could use with a shaky rotation.

For those who want to see Miller keep his closer role, he signed a four-year, $36-million contract before last season and will not become a free agent until 2018. Chapman isn’t anticipated to remain in the Bronx past 2016 thus making Miller the closer of the future.

It also goes without saying that manager Joe Girardi will make sure Miller gets save opportunities as well. The Yankee skipper has gone to a fault at times to rest his prized bullpen pieces and there will be days when Chapman gets a day off as he controls his pitcher’s workloads.

Praise Andrew Miller for putting his ego aside and doing what’s best for the team.The fulfillment of one’s duties within the team’s tactics while not highlighting personal reputation over the group’s accomplishments is an act that we rarely see and doesn’t go unnoticed.

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