CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – As Terry Francona rewrote the textbook on how a bullpen should be utilized during the 2016 Playoffs, Andrew Miller built a following as a folk hero and as a hybrid reliever.
The concept of a reliever who bridges the gap between the starter and closer has caught on across the league, the highlight being Astros All-Star Chris Devenski, who replaced Corey Kluber in the game.
As for fancy titles, Miller does not see it that way.
“I’m a middle reliever,” Miller said.
One title that Miller cannot brush off is “All-Star,” and the fact of the matter is, not a whole lot of middle relievers make the All-Star game. Normally the closer is the best pitcher on any team, leading the roster to be loaded with the last pitcher to enter the game.
Miller is not that, but he is surely the last pitcher opposing hitters want to see, and he may be the last pitcher to pitch on Tuesday night, should the American League have the lead.
Non-closers are gaining traction, with the rise of Miller and in turn Devenski, but the notoriety of such hurlers started with a teammate of Miller’s in New York.
“I think most of us don’t get too much attention. I started to see a little bit, particularly what Dellin (Betances) has been acknowledged for the last few years,” Miller said. “I loved playing with him and all.”
While Betances may have gotten notoriety for his success on the field, the story of the Yankee righty that made the most rounds was the disrespect he fielded from his own team’s President.
When he lost his arbitration case with the Yankees after asking for $5 million dollars, Betances and his agent were blasted by team President Randy Levine, calling the number a ‘half baked attempt to reset the market for relief pitchers,’ according to the New York Times.
The reason? Betances was not a closer.
The Yankees head man said it was like calling himself an astronaut, making himself look like a space cadet in the process.
Betances, while sharing a bullpen with Miller and eventual Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman for most of the year, finished third in the baseball in WAR behind Miller and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
The Yankee right-hander got attention through getting snubbed, while Miller was getting it for dominating hitters in the playoffs. The often quiet lefty said he is not crazy about the attention he is getting.
“I don’t play for the media spotlight or the articles that are written or anything like that,” he said. “The attention is a little, I don’t know, unexpected. It’s not that I dislike it, but I don’t necessarily care for it or I’m not seeking it out.”
Maybe the days of Miller going on without praise or articles about him are over, but the days of “middle relievers” getting snubbed in the open market or from the All-Star team may be.
That is, if you take Miller’s word for it.