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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:

Matt Wagner
Matt Wagner Action Shot

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.

Bill Simas
Bill Simas Action Shot

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.

Leo Rosales
Leo Rosales Action Shot

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.

15th Anniversary Team: Closer

The weather is getting warmer, the birds have migrated back north, and spring, at long last, seems to be in the air. That means one thing, Ducks fans: Baseball! Players officially report to this weekend, and spring training workouts begin on Monday. Then, just 11 days later, the team hits the road to open up the regular season against the Somerset Patriots on Friday, April 25. Two exciting weeks are about to unfold here on Long Island and around the Atlantic League.

With the start of the season now tantalizingly close, there are only a few spots left on the Ducks 15th Anniversary Team. Last week, fans cast their votes for the best reliever (non-closer) in team history. On Opening Night at Bethpage Ballpark (Friday, May 2), fans can see all the winners in a special spread in the 2014 Long Island Ducks Commemorative Yearbook, which will be available beginning on May 2.

This week, we take a look at the best closers in franchise history. Included among the nominees are the a two-time Atlantic League champion, a 2004 ALPB champion, the first closer in Ducks history, a former Yankee and a pitcher affectionately nicknamed, “Bubbie.” Here are the nominees:

Bubbie Buzachero

Buzachero spent parts of three seasons with the Ducks (2009, 11-12). His debut season saw the right-hander appear in just three games, pitching three and one-third scoreless innings. Before April was finished, he had earned a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays organization. Buzachero returned as the closer in 2011, and he put together an outstanding campaign. In 52 appearances, the Tennessee native earned 22 saves and compiled a 7-2 record with a 3.26 ERA and 39 strikeouts. He went on to pitch five postseason games as well, compiling a 1.23 ERA and picking up the win in Long Island’s Liberty Division championship-clinching win over Southern Maryland. After pitching in Australia during the winter and Austria during the first part of 2012, he returned to Long Island for a third season. While his time lasted just four games (one start), the righty’s 2011 campaign makes him worthy of being on this list.

Todd Erdos

Erdos, a five-year Major League veteran that spent three of those with the Yankees, pitched in parts of three seasons with the Ducks (2005-07). In his first year, the right-hander earned Atlantic League Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. He set a league record with 64 games pitched that season and also led the league in saves with 32 and games finished with 56. Erdos compiled a 3.96 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 61 and one-third innings, earning an Atlantic League All-Star Game selection as well. The Pennsylvania native went on to post a 5-3 record with eight more saves in 25 games during the 2006 season before his contract was purchased by the Brother Elephants in Taiwan during the month of June. Though he struggled during the 2007 campaign over 30 games, Erdos’ standout 2005 season was one of the greatest in franchise history. He retired as the Ducks all-time leader in saves, a record he held until 2009 when another closer on this list (Bill Simas) broke it.

Leo Rosales

Rosales is the only nominee that is currently on the Ducks active roster and has been a part of back-to-back championship teams on Long Island. He came to the Ducks in a late-season trade during the 2012 season and immediately filled a closer role the team needed. After tossing three scoreless innings in the regular season, he pitched six more games in the postseason, earning saves in all three victories over Southern Maryland in the Liberty Division Championship Series. The righty went on to earn the win in Game Five of the Atlantic League Championship Series to clinch the Ducks first title since 2004. The Los Angeles native returned again in 2013 and put together an All-Star season, going 2-2 with a 2.34 ERA, 18 saves and 45 strikeouts in 38 and one-third innings. He was even better in the playoffs, earning four saves total, three of which came in the ALCS against Somerset. The last of those saves came in Game Five against the Patriots to seal another championship for the Ducks.

Bill Simas

Simas, who was chosen for the Ducks All-Time Team during the 10th Anniversary Season in 2009, was the first Ducks closer to receive a championship ring. The righty first joined the Flock in 2004 and posted an impressive 1.95 ERA and 17 saves. Despite signing mid-season with the Seattle Mariners organization, Simas returned to Long Island in September and played a pivotal postseason role in helping the Ducks win their first Atlantic League championship. The California native then spent the next four seasons either playing abroad or out of baseball before returning to the Ducks in 2009. The four-year Atlantic League hiatus did not hurt Simas as he led the league in saves (27) and compiled a 5-4 record with a 2.76 ERA. He returned in 2010 as the pitching coach, but some early season injuries forced the Ducks to activate him early on. Although he hadn’t planned to pitch, the right-hander still put together a 2-1 record, a 3.30 ERA and four saves in 29 appearances. The six-year major league veteran finished his Ducks career as the franchise leader in saves (48) along with a 9-9 record and a 2.59 ERA over 133 appearances.

Matt Wagner

Wagner was the first closer in Ducks franchise history. Although he only played one season at the Duck Pond during the inaugural 2000 campaign, the former big leaguer wowed everyone with a 2.26 ERA and a league-leading 36 saves. Wagner’s 2.26 ERA was the second lowest in the league for a reliever (Al Sadler, 1.53 ERA) and his 61 appearances tied him for the league lead with Frank Thompson (Newark). In addition, the Iowa native recorded 69 strikeouts compared to just 18 walks over 63 and two-thirds innings of work that year, good for a 9.8 strikeout-per-nine innings ratio. After his time with Long Island, the righty spent three more years in independent baseball, including time in the Atlantic League with the Road Warriors (2002), Newark (2003) and Atlantic City (2003).

While the decision this week might be the toughest among all of the positions to this point, it is also final specific player spot on the 15th Anniversary Team. Following this week, only the Manager spot and the Final Vote position remain. A friendly reminder: if there is a closer that you feel is deserving of a nomination and is not on this list, you can write-in a player by selecting “other” in the poll below and typing in your choice. We’re two weeks away from Atlantic League baseball. Stay tuned all of next week for news, photos and video from spring training at the Duck Pond!

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