By: T.J. Zuppe
The Cleveland Indians benefited from one of the most dynamic relief corps in all of baseball last season. They experienced so much success, in fact, they fashioned themselves a name that went from inside joke to legitimate storyline – the Bullpen Mafia.
The fans of the Tribe are very familiar with the handful of pitchers that reside in the center-field bullpen at Progressive Field. But for reliever Vinnie Pestano, he hopes 2011 was only the first chapter of their legacy.
“We want people to know our names,” Pestano said in an interview with ESPN Cleveland’s Munch in the Morning. “We want people to know the Bullpen Mafia.
“I’d love for, if 10 to 15 years down the road, we are talking about the bullpen mafia like we are talking about the Nasty Boys, these days.”
“I’m confident with our matchups and the guys we have down there to get the job done more often than not.”
The Nasty Boys – a relieving trio of Norm Charlton, Randy Myers and Rob Dibble – played a huge role in the Cincinnati Reds’ championship run in 1990. The three combined for 44 saves and more than 350 strike outs.
For the 27-year old Pestano, the Nasty Boys are the gold standard for bullpen greatness. But is it a stretch to believe the crew of Chris Perez, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Pestano could reach that level in 2012?
Let us start by dissecting the numbers.
Perez saved 36 games, while Pestano added two of his own last season. But is the save stat really an accurate description of how dominate a reliever really is? Most would venture to say, no.
How about the strikeouts? The five combined for 258 in 2011. Just a smidge off from the 351 the Nasty Boys racked up in 1990. However, Charlton did strike out over half of his 117 batters as a starter late in the year.
So other than a killer nickname – pun clearly intended – what can the Bullpen Mafia do to officially be in that conversation in the future? The answer is staggeringly simple.
The 1990 Reds’ pen has a place in history because of the part it played in winning the Series. Being dominant in the regular season is one thing. Getting it done in October cements legacies.
The Nasty Boys pitched 8.2 innings of shutout ball in the World Series. Dibble and Myers shared the National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player award.
Those guys came up large when the lights shined the brightest, and they were rewarded for it.
So, getting back to question Pestano raises – could the Bullpen Mafia someday be viewed in the same category as the Nasty Boys?
Just win…then, let time decide.
TJ Zuppe covers the Cleveland Indians for ESPN 850 WKNR. Catch TJ on Munch in the Morning weekdays from 4:30a.m.-6:00a.m. on ESPN 850 WKNR and 8:00a.m.-9:00a.m. on ESPN 1540 KNR2.
Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe
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