Spoiler Alert: If you have not watched Game of Thrones and plan to, do not read this
Who will wind up on the clay mound? This question was tentatively answered by Brian Snitker in a post-game interview following the 8-4 win over the Marlins last Friday, but how did we get to this point? Given that not everyone shares the same love of baseball as you or I do, I thought it might be helpful, or more exciting than our typical diatribes regarding the Braves bullpen, to put it in terms of Game of Thrones’ characters… so here we go.
Much like how Game of Thrones began with the death of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, the battle for the Braves closer role started with the season-long injury suffered by Arodys Vizcaino. Much like the Mad King, Vizcaino could be erratic and scary yet effective atop the mound. Furthermore, the Mad King was betrayed by his Kingsguard, as Vizcaino was cursed by his shoulder.
Similar to Robert Baratheon, AJ Minter has a beard; unfortunately, he also had a short reign as Atlanta’s closer. Minter got off to an egregious start with a combined four losses and only three saves through May. Additionally, like Cersei held the real power while Baratheon was on the throne, Luke Jackson was creeping up behind him, allowing a run in only four of his first 24 appearances. Ultimately, Minter and Baratheon’s inability to control their kingdom and suppress those around them spelled their end on the mound and the throne.
As aforementioned, Luke Jackson was the next to take the mound. While there was a comparison of him to Cersei in the previous paragraph, he is more akin to John Snow. John Snow never wanted the iron throne, but due to circumstance, he became a top candidate for it.
This is precisely the situation Luke Jackson was thrown into following the disappointing performances of AJ Minter. Furthermore, prior to the revelation that John Snow was an heir to the throne in season 6, he had no claims to the throne. Luke Jackson had one career save coming into this season – back in June of 2017… and this was only classified as a save because he pitched for three innings in a game the Braves won 14-1. Between that and a 2.70 ERA during the 2019 season up until he was forced into the ninth-inning role; it doesn’t quite add up to the resumé of a closer. However, much like John Snow was a fan favorite and did the best he could, Braves Country should look upon Luke Jackson the same way.
Next to the mound is Chris Martin. Martin is similar to the Hound, not only because of his proportions (yes, he is 6’7”) but because of his experience and travels. Martin, who was acquired just before the trade deadline, was never really considered for the role of the closer. Instead, he’s viewed as someone that can protect the closer. Additionally, as the Hound has been all over King’s Landing and even the North, Martin has made his way to several AL teams and spent some time in Japan. While he has had a bit of a rough start, let’s hope he returns to form so that he can adequately protect the king.
Finally, we’ve gotten to some of the final contenders. Shane Greene most compares to Daenerys Targaryen. Similar to how Daenerys was the “Breaker of Chains,” Shane Greene was supposed to be the “Closer of Games.” On top of that, Greene came from a far off place, Detroit, and while there was talk of his dominance, not many people in Braves Country were able to see it for themselves. He made it to the top, but also like Daenerys, it fell apart before it even started, and he found himself back in a set-up role after allowing five runs in four games.
Brian Snitker named Mark Melancon the closer after Greene’s disappointing initial efforts. Of course, the very next day, he would collapse in the ninth inning against the Marlins, allowing four runs in a game the Braves would ultimately lose. But despite that, Snitker will likely stick with him for at least a little longer, making his comparison Bran Stark.
Much like Bran, Melancon recently recovered from a forearm injury that plagued him and was not able to be diagnosed until going under the knife. He is also taking the throne due to his vast wealth of knowledge and ability to look back at the past and decide how to move forward. Melancon has been in the majors for over ten years and been selected to the All-Star Game three times. Combine this with the fact that he has 183 career saves; he may not be the sexiest pick to end up on the clay mound, but he appears to be the right one.