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Closer Rankings: Want to play a game of What If?

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If only a few small things had gone differently, we'd have a whole different closer (and all-of-baseball) landscape right now.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

This'll do it for the Closer Rankings for the season. I could keep doing them the last couple weeks, but what is really going to change? Frankly, the most likely thing from here on out is eliminated teams start putting any old reliever out there to see what they have for next year, meaning my already-tenuous list of closers is going to look even worse.

No, we'll call it here. So to finish the season, I want to play a couple rounds of What If. The rules of What If are that we don't know the answer, but it's fun to imagine what might have changed. If nothing else, it's the annoying, imaginative child's favorite game ever.

What if the Mets hadn't had Jenrry Mejia suspended (twice) for PEDs? Mejia was good-not-great in 2014 as the Mets' fill-in closer, with a 2.78 ERA and 28 saves in 31 chances after he was moved out of the rotation. Mejia was supposed to be the team's closer this year, and while he was hurt when Mejia failed his test, but the team was slated to go back to him. What if he was decent, but not special? You know, just good enough to keep his job, not good enough to be what Jeurys Familia has been? Is the National League East more of a race? Would the Nationals actually be in a playoff spot?

What if Joe Nathan hadn't gotten hurt? Yes, Nathan was terrible last year, but if you imagine that, you know, he's still a guy who knows how to pitch, maybe an eighth-ninth inning of Joakim Soria and Nathan would have protected more leagues than the Soria-and-nobody bullpen did. Maybe that would have helped stem the tide of the absence of Miguel Cabrera, so maybe the Tigers would have held on to Soria, and David Price, and Yoenis Cespedes, and would have gotten Cabrera's return and Justin Verlander's mini-resurgence with their stars still around. And if they hadn't made those trades, where would the Blue Jays be? And the Mets? Would the Nationals actually be in a playoff spot?

What if the Phillies had just held on to Jonathan Papelbon? He's annoying, abrasive and overpaid, but Papelbon was also really, really good throughout his Philadelphia tenure. The trade made sense — it was time to move on — but things making sense had never really been a big part of Philadelphia's decision-making to begin with. What if they keep him? Does Drew Storen maintain his composure in the closer role? Does Washington not go into a tailspin? Would the Nationals actually be in a playoff spot?

What if Mark Melancon hadn't figured out his issues from the early season? The first few weeks of the season, Melancon seemed to be succeeding despite himself. He blew only one save in April, but had a 5.23 ERA in the month with diminished velocity and 15 baserunners in 10.1 innings. His leash was long, but was it that long? If Melancon had lost his job, could Tony Watson have handled it? And then who fills Watson's setup innings? At the least, the Pirates fall behind the Cubs. At the worst, they fall out of the playoffs. Do they trade for Joakim Soria? Would the Nationals actually be in a playoff spot? (Okay, no, not really, I just felt like all the others ended with the Nationals in the playoffs, so this one should, too.)

That's it, just some little thought exercises. None of those is close to my all-time favorite sports "what if" — that one's about Victor Cruz, and if anyone wants to hear it, ask in the comments — but sometimes it's fun to play alternate history.

Anyway, here's the season's last Closer Rankings, followed as always by What They're Talking About. Thanks for reading all season:

Closer Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week
1 Kenley Jansen LAD 1
2 Andrew Miller NYY 3
3 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2
4 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 4
5 Mark Melancon PIT 7
6 Craig Kimbrel SDP 6
7 Wade Davis KAN 18
8 Jeurys Familia NYM 13
9 Cody Allen CLE 12
10 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 10
11 Huston Street LAA 14
12 Roberto Osuna TOR 9
13 Shawn Tolleson TEX 16
14 Zach Britton BAL 11
15 David Robertson CHW 5
16 Ken Giles PHI 8
17 Luke Gregerson HOU 19
18 Kevin Jepsen MIN 17
19 A.J. Ramos MIA 21
20 Hector Rondon CHC 20
21 Santiago Casilla SFG 22
22 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 24
23 Dellin Betances NYY 27
24 John Axford COL 23
25 Tom Wilhelmsen SEA 26
26 Brad Ziegler ARI 28
27 Brad Boxberger TAM 25
28 Greg Holland KAN 15
29 Sean Doolittle OAK 29
30 Robbie Ross BOS NR

What They're Talking About

  • On Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Yankees bullpen depth chart:&#10;1. Andrew Miller&#10;2. Dellin Betances&#10;3. A raccoon&#10;4. Flaming trash can&#10;5. Please send help it&#39;s so cold oh god</p>&mdash; Jon Tayler (@JATayler) <a href="https://twitter.com/JATayler/status/645050398546464768">September 19, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Wade Davis and Greg Holland:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">There&#39;s going to come a point at which Ned Yost has to come to terms with making Wade Davis his closer. That point is Holland sitting 87-89.</p>&mdash; Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/643962557707980800">September 16, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On David Robertson:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">David Robertson last 3 appearances&#10;3.0 IP, 8 Hits, 9 runs (7 earned), 2 BB, 2 HR</p>&mdash; Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) <a href="https://twitter.com/ckamka/status/645425118701862912">September 20, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
  • On Robbie Ross:
    <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">time to plug my Robbie Ross post again <a href="http://t.co/YSgHzfWQlT">http://t.co/YSgHzfWQlT</a></p>&mdash; Matt Collins (@RedSox_Thoughts) <a href="https://twitter.com/RedSox_Thoughts/status/643988795910656000">September 16, 2015</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>