Jon Heymon of SI.com has reported that 10 teams have shown interest in and requested the medical records of Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton. Broxton, a free agent, was once an elite closer for the Dodgers. His heated fastballs reached the 100 mph mark, and he was a two time All-Star. He even was the closer in the 2010 All-Star game, and helped the NL pick up the win. Scott and I have watched Broxton since his debut with the Dodgers on July 29, 2005 when he whiffed Albert Pujols for his first career strikeout. His dominance as a closer over a few years was remarkable. Unfortunately Joe Torre misused him, and after a disastrous Interleague outing in 2010 where he made an eye-popping number of pitches and then brought in to pitch in subsequent games, his arm was never the same. We witnessed him nosedive and the plethora of blown games to follow soon after.
Broxton was atrocious in 2011. He only pitched in 14 games, and only mustered 7 saves in 12.2 miserable innings. He allowed 15 hits and 10 runs in that small span, and only struck out 10 batters. He had a 5.68 ERA.
We witnessed Broxton blow game after game often frustratingly in the 9th inning with 2 outs. His decline in velocity coupled with bullpen mismanagement by both Torre and Mattingly fueled the fire. Mattingly was seemingly unable to accurately gauge imminent meltdowns, and he kept Broxton in during situations where his implosions were all too obvious.
We sighed with relief once Broxton was shelved for the season, and the Dodgers finally admitted he had an elbow injury. In September he underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery, and he supposedly will be ready for Spring Training. Although a team may pick up Broxton for cheap, his health and future as a pitcher is very questionable.
The 6’4″ 295 pounder once upon a time had an incredible fastball and slider. In 2006 he was primarily Takashi Saito’s set-up man. In 2007 Brox had a breakout year. He pitched in 83 games, striking out 99 batters which was good enough for 2nd best among all MLB relievers. He went without allowing a homerun for an astonishing 96 2/3 consecutive innings between the summers of 2006-2007.In 2008 he became the Dodgers’ primary closer when Saito landed on the DL in July. He infamously allowed the pinch-hit homerun to Matt Stairs in the 8th inning of game 4 of the NLCS vs. the Phillies. Broxton had a solid year in 2009 finishing with a 7-2 record, 2.61 ERA, 36 saves and 114 Ks. It was deja vu in the 2009 NLCS when he blew the save in game 4 by walking Matt Stairs, Carlos Ruiz was hit-by-the-pitch, and Jimmy Rollins hit a 2-out walk-off hit to score two runs for Philadelphia. Broxton started off 2010 strong, but quickly deteriorated after the All-Star break. Hong Chih-Kuo, who was having a career year, took over in the closer role.
Jonathan Broxton, in his heyday, was one of the best relief pitchers the Dodgers have had. Yet sadly, at only 27-years old, we can clearly see he has peaked. His once dominating fastball has decrescendoed to an underwhelming mid-90 mph on the radar gun. As Dodger fans, we saw this story unfold over the past few years right before our eyes, and we experienced many a frustrating blown save by the hands of our former elite closer. It seems like these hard-throwing pitchers have a short window of time before they expire. Without any other pitches in his repertoire, Broxton is very hittable now. Another team may choose to gamble and sign him to a 1-year deal in hopes that his surgery fixed the issue, and perhaps he can revive his career. As long as we don’t have to suffer through any more Broxton meltdowns, I’m a-ok with that. Go blue!