As the New York Yankees move towards what could be a glorious period in franchise history, the future of one of their foremost bullpen arms is a major question mark.
When you are the parent of a young child, you never want your kid to grow up too fast.
Early on, you are in complete control. You are responsible for their achievements and you raise and shape them based on your demands. They are your prized possession and you cannot imagine a life without them.
Well, the path of life entails growing up. Eventually, they grow out of their old clothes, start to accomplish certain feats independently, and, finally, they separate into adulthood.
Currently, in the Bronx, the Yankees are that protective parent and Dellin Betances is the ever growing, soon-to-be independent big boy.
Year after year, the pinstripes have had a firm grasp on one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball. If they want him to pitch the sixth inning, he pitches the sixth. If they want him to shut down the seventh, he handily dominates the frame. If they want him to pitch the eighth, he bridges the gap effectively.
Now, if they put him in the ninth inning, as the team’s closer, he does the job there as well.
He has been a fun toy for them to play with. A dominant toy, for that matter.
However, there comes a time when an individual simply needs to move on and look out for their own good, develop their own marketable image, and distinguish their name as a man among boys.
For Dellin Betances, the climb to superstar status has reached this point. At the present, it is either preferential treatment or the loss of a brilliant commodity.
Last year, coming off an unreal season, he was slated to be the team’s closer. Without even gaining a real the chance to win the job, he lost it to Andrew Miller and spent the entire season pitching the eighth inning.
This year, slated to pitch the eighth, he was bumped back to the seventh inning when the organization acquired Aroldis Chapman to close out ballgames.
In fact, it took the departure of both Miller and Chapman for the flamethrowing righty to finally get his righteous chance on the big stage.
For the situation to require those depths of action is utterly concerning. Since the start of 2014, the man has pitched to a 1.65 ERA, has allowed merely 133 hits in 234.2 innings, and has whiffed 374 opposing batters. Without question, he is on pace to be the best bullpen arm in franchise history.
As far as a short stretch of dominance goes, coupled with sheer filth, he already is.
With those numbers stated and his impact being weighed, it should be saddening to realize that he has only saved 16 games in his Yankee career. Simply put, he has not been honored with the direct chance.
Let’s put it this way: the franchise has to start thinking about a highly-touted possession with an open mind. Before pursuing Chapman again in the offseason or doing anything and everything possible to create another “super ‘pen” to complement the absurdly talented youth, think about who your current closer is. Furthermore, think about what he is capable of, what you have yet to see, and how he best serves you moving forward.
At this stage, no fan is in a state of mind to make any assumptions about the guy. Given that he has converted every save since becoming the team’s closer, whether creating a hairy situation or not, there is no leverage that provides for criticism. In other words, there is no ninth inning sample size to work with.
Arbitration eligible at the end of the year and slated to hit the open market in 2020, the front office has an imperative decision to make. Do you make your recently-formed big boy happy? Or do you continue to treat him like a child?
As everyone knows, there are few things the human race hates more than having a leash.
Dellin Betances is not a dog, he is not an infant, and he is not even a naive youthful talent anymore.
He is a mature, remarkable back-end arm who deserves the best.
If New York does not proceed with him as the team’s hammer in 2017 and beyond, they will have made a mistake. Rather than having him wiggle out of sticky situations in the ninth, it will be themselves creating one.
He will then be in a position to escape and earn what he rightfully deserves, leaving the Yankees empty handed with no forthcoming phenoms in sight.