Despite all their talent, the Boston Red Sox opened the Major League Baseball season with three straight losses because they can't close games. Well, one of those games was lost because Josh Becket had a hard enough time just starting it, surrendering seven earned over 4.2 against the Detroit Tigers. But, two of the Sox' first three losses came by way of bullpen collapse, with right-hander Mark Melancon getting tagged with both defeats. With the team's intended closer Andrew Bailey sidelined by injury just before the season opened, Boston manager Bobby Valentine opted to split endgame duties between Melancon and Alfredo Aceves, who let up 3 runs himself without recording an out to blow the save opportunity during the extra-inning loss on Sunday.
Proven reliever Daniel Bard is penciled into the starting rotation and Valentine has no intentions of moving him back to the 'pen. If the Fenway decision makers are forced to look outside the organization for a closer then they may want to check in with New York about a possible trade. No, they shouldn't call after Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who also has a blown save to his credit this season as the Bronx Bombers have also opened the 2012 campaign with an 0-3 record. Instead of calling Yankees GM Brian Cashman, the Red Sox should check in on New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
Because he is a closer.
Not only did Anthony sink the game-winning, three-point shot with 8.2 seconds remaining during the Knicks' overtime win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, but he also drained a game-tying shot to force the extra session. In other words, he could also be a set-up man.
After hitting a game-winning shot against the Memphis Grizzlies last season, Anthony famously chirped, "I do this" toward the Grizzlies bench as he bounded up the court after splashing the winner. On Sunday, he did it again, capping a 43-point explosion that keeps the Knicks in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
According to the "clutch" stats compiled by 82games.com, Anthony is the third most prolific clutch scorer in the NBA. Through April 1, Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving is actually the top scorer in clutch situations, with "clutch" being defined by the fine folks at 82games as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points."
By the metrics at 82games.com, here are the 12 players who can get the job done when the stakes are highest. Who do you want taking the last shot?
*All "clutch" stats via 82games.com and tabulated through 4/1/12