20th Anniversary Team Voting – Closer
19 seasons of Long Island Ducks baseball have come and gone. Players from all around the world and of all varieties of baseball experience have worn the Ducks uniform since the first pitch on April 28, 2000. In that time, they have played in front of nearly 8 million fans in Central Islip, and millions more around the rest of the country. Those players and coaches have also earned three Atlantic League Championships, seven Division Championships, 13 half-season Division Championships and over 1,300 victories. As the Ducks 20th Anniversary Season, presented by Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, approaches, it is time to determine which members of the Flock have stood above the rest.
One of the most important positions on any team is that of the closer. The person filling this role needs to be confident and poised getting the ball in the most high-leverage situation during a game. When a team has the lead over the final inning or two, it’s his job to secure the victory and keep the opponent at bay. Throughout their history, the Ducks have had some big names fill this role. Just last year, 16-year MLB veteran Francisco Rodriguez, who has the fourth-most saves in Major League history, took on the role of Ducks closer. This week, we look back at three of the very best closers to wear the black and orange. Here are the nominees:
Although the Ducks missed out on the playoffs during their inaugural season in 2000, their closer did everything in his power to get him to the promised land. Matt Wagner joined the brand new Long Island Ducks that year after making 15 appearances (14 starts) in the Majors with Seattle during the 1996 season. He proceeded to turn in a year that, to this day, is arguably, the greatest season ever by a Ducks closer. Wagner tied for the Atlantic League lead with 61 appearances and ranked first with 36 saves, 11 more than any other pitcher in the league that year. The save total still ranks as the franchise’s single-season record today. The former third round draft pick went 3-3 with a 2.26 ERA and struck out 69 batters while walking only 18 over 63.2 innings of work. He deservedly was selected play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game, and his performance was a major factor in helping Long Island post a league-best 82-58 record, which remains as the franchise record for most wins in a season. Wagner went on to pitch for three more seasons, including 2002 with the Road Warriors and 2003 with both the Newark Bears and Atlantic City Surf.
Another former big leaguer is our second nominee for the position. Bill Simas spent six seasons with the Chicago White Sox from 1995-2000, appearing in 308 games, before joining the Ducks in 2004. In Long Island’s Fifth Anniversary Season, he helped deliver the team and the community its first Atlantic League Championship. The right-hander led the league with 17 saves that year and posted a 1.95 ERA over 44 appearances. In 50.2 innings, he struck out 53 batters while walking only 14. Simas also recorded some big-time saves, closing out Long Island’s win in Bridgeport on August 9, 2004, to clinch the Ducks first-ever postseason berth and both of the team’s playoff series clinchers (all of which were one-run games). The former sixth-round draft pick returned to the Ducks in 2009 and earned an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection. He led the league once again with 27 saves and ranked third in appearances with 60. Simas ended the season with a 5-4 record, a 2.76 ERA and 53 strikeouts to 16 walks over 62 innings. The following season, he served as the team’s pitching coach before simultaneously being activated as a pitcher in July. At 38 years old, he went 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA and four saves. Simas’ 48 career saves in a Ducks uniform remains the franchise’s all-time record. Simas is currently the pitching coach of the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.
From one championship closer to another, Leo Rosales rounds out our 20th Anniversary Team closer candidates. Rosales, who pitched for three seasons at the MLB level with the Arizona Diamondbacks (2008-10), was acquired by Long Island from the Camden Riversharks in September of 2012 in exchange for outfielder Reid Gorecki. The trade would go down as one of the most important in team history. Rosales pitched three scoreless before leading the Ducks to an Atlantic League championship during the postseason. He recorded three saves in six games, including the winner-take-all Game Five during the Liberty Division Championship Series. One year later, Rosales went 2-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 18 saves in 39 appearances, earning an Atlantic League All-Star Game nod. The righty was dynamite in the playoffs once again, tallying four saves in five appearances, none bigger than closing out Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series at Somerset to clinch a second consecutive title. Rosales got off to a terrific start in 2014 with the Flock as well, totaling nine saves in 13 games and a 1.35 ERA before his contract was purchased by Leones de Yucatan of the Mexican League. He has since spent two more seasons pitching in Mexico and is now a pitching coach for the Single-A Tri-City Dust Devils in the San Diego Padres organization.
Deciding a winner will certainly not be easy! All three nominees have pitched in the Major Leagues, dominated with the Ducks and garnered Atlantic League All-Star honors. Two of the three have also won ALPB championships. It’s now your turn to help determine which of the three will be the closer on the 20th Anniversary Team. Cast your vote over the course of the next week by clicking the button below and choosing your favorite candidate. The winner, along with the remainder of the 20th Anniversary Team, will be unveiled at the beginning of the 2019 season!
Be sure to check back again next week, as we’ll unveil the final three nominees for the 20th Anniversary Team, highlighting the top managers in Ducks history.
Posted on April 12, 2019, in 20th Anniversary Team and tagged 20th Anniversary Season, 20th Anniversary Team, Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Bill Simas, Closer, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, Leo Rosales, Long Island Ducks, Matt Wagner, Voting. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.