Ranking the entrance themes of MLB closers in the playoffs

Drew_Storen_2010_(1)The MLB playoffs are upon us, and with the Great American Pastime’s annual championships tournament comes a myriad of questions. How will Mike Trout fair in his first preseason? Will the Washington Nationals carry the momentum from Jordan Zimmerman’s season-closing no-hitter? Can anyone hit against Detroit’s starting rotation?

Most importantly, though, which closer has the most badass music?

The individual entrance theme is just one of many similarities between baseball and professional wrestling, including colorful costumes/uniforms, athletes wielding baseball bats as weapons, and of course, the infamous 1999 incident where Bartolo Colon leapt from the top rope to deliver his patented Colon Cleanser to Ray Durham.

While batters get to hear their song several times a game, the closer’s entrance is as theatrical as it gets for in-game action. A single man walks out from behind a wall and traipses across the entire field of play as some metal classic blasts from the stadium speakers. Every home crowd goes wild. Every home closer is “over.” Look no further than the effect that the opening strums of “Enter Sandman” have on any Yankee fan.

The issue, though, is that many closers don’t take advantage of this great opportunity. Most simply select the cock rock tune du jour, passing over a chance to define themselves through the power of song to a captive audience – and more importantly, to intimidate an opponent with only three or four outs left on their side.

Now that we’re past the anomaly of a play-in game in each league for the first time in…hm? What? A round? Like, an actual playoff round? What the f…

*deep breath*

Okay. Now that we’re past the manufactured drama of the one-game “wild card” round, we’re down to eight closers tasked with nailing down their team’s most important victories. As is only appropriate, we must judge these teams not by the talent of their roster, but by what Sick Puppies song each of them will take the field to.

As a self-proclaimed dual idiot savant who studies sports and music at the expense of most other aspects of his life (Jimmy Carter’s still president, right?), I’d like to lend my unique set of skills to these closers – skills that are a nightmare for people who enjoy reading purposeful sports columns. We’re going to break down each closer’s entrance song scientifically based on three categories, each on a scale from 1-5:

  1. Quality – Simply put, is it a good song?
  2. Familiarity – Is it a song the crowd already knows very well?
  3. Swag – How much of a badass does this song make you seem like?

Drew Storen, Washington Nationals

“Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch

Quality – 2

Familiarity – 1

Swag – 2

See, this is a classic example of a closer completely wasting the privilege of having an entrance song. Over a hundred years of recorded music, and you went with a generic alt metal band whose lead singer has an acting credit as a hobo clown? The best thing 56 Crazyfingers ever did was an LL Cool J cover, and the best thing Drew Storen has done in his career so far is not be Rafael Soriano. This is a painfully mediocre song that has almost zero mass appeal. See you on the links, Drew.

Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers

“Stand Up” by Steel Dragon

Quality – 1

Familiarity – 1

Swag – 1

Until this season, Joe Nathan was a well-established closer, an enduring name in in a role that recycles guys like Jonathan Broxton recycles pants. (How many X’s can you fit on one tag, anyway?). So how in the world has he gotten away with this song for the lion’s share of his career?

You’re probably having a difficult time putting your finger on Steel Dragon because they don’t exist. They’re a fictional 80s metal band from the Mark Wahlberg-Jennifer Aniston thing-that-passes-for-a-movie Rock Star, a who’s who of classic metal greats like Zakk Wylde and John Bonham’s son Jason fluffing up a derivative script that still has a better chance of seeing a sequel than Joe Nathan does of remaining the closer throughout the playoffs.

As a closer, you need to be excellent at your job, or you need to have a killer entrance tune. For most of his 19 years, Joe Nathan was a lights-out closer. Now, he needs a lights-out song.

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

“Cult of Personality” by In Living Colour

Quality – 5

Familiarity – 4

Swag – 4

Wrestling fans will love Casilla’s use of former WWE star CM Punk’s last entrance song, a hard rock classic with serious edge and a timeless opening riff. Casilla’s been trading the closer role with Sergio Romo for the past few years, so this could potentially be an indication that In Living Colour has more pull than Romo’s Latin entrance tune. There’s only one way this ends: in an attempt to pull a wider audience, Romo changes his entrance music to “La Bamba” and everyone kills themselves.

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

“Fade Away” by Breaking Benjamin

Quality – 3

Familiarity – 1

Swag – 1

As a native of eastern Pennsylvania, I am contractually obligated to like Breaking Benjamin because they’re a local band – Wilkes-Barre is a scant 120 miles from Philadelphia, you see. But nothing screams “replaceable closer” like strolling to the mound backed by a deep cut from a run-of-the-mill alternative rock band. No wonder Ned Yost forgot to use his bullpen Tuesday night. Holland may as well be entering to the sound of someone to microwave a Knorr Pasta Side.

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

“For Those About to Rock” by AC/DC

Quality – 2

Familiarity – 5

Swag – 5

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No no, come closer…closer…okay, too close, back up. Perfect. Ready?

*whispers* This isn’t a very good song.

Now, in the few moments I have before I am swallowed into a hole in the ground, doomed to listen to nothing but Danny Bonaduce morning drive radio for all my days, let me explain. AC/DC is the quintessential hard rock band. By their standards, and most others, this is a molasses-paced dirge of a hard rock song. I get that it’s supposed to be “bombastic,” but it doesn’t get there until Brian Johnson starts screaming “Fire!” around the 3:30 mark, and for a band that’s all about in-and-out, quick-hitting rock ‘n’ roll, that’s a long time to wait.

Fortunately, the twinkling guitar intro and pounding bass makes this ideal for a closer. After all, AC/DC was a band formed with the sole purpose of creating music to be played at every stadium and arena worldwide. Thunderstruck? Back in Black? Hells Bells? I defy you to remember the last time you attended a sporting event where Angus Young wasn’t part of the soundtrack.

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

“California Love” by 2Pac (feat. Roger Troutman and Dr. Dre)

Quality – 4

Familiarity – 5

Swag – 5

How are you going to top 2Pac and Dre if you’re a closer in LA? You’re not. Let’s just move on.

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, CA of the Pacific Coast of North America of the Western Hemisphere of the Earth of the Milky Way of the Speck on God’s Cereal Spoon

“Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, also known as Chase Utley’s walkup music

Quality – Screw You

Familiarity – Go To Hell

Swag – You Jackass

Seriously? “The Man” has been raking to this song his entire career, and you just decided to give it a whirl in the past year or so? You and Jeff Locke can both get shot to the moon in one of those one-way test missions.

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

“Hail to the King” by Avenged Sevenfold

Quality – 5

Familiarity – 3

Swag – 5

“Why don’t you just use a Metallica or a Black Sabbath song instead of picking stupid Avenged Sevenfold?” someone might say if his or her goal was to be WRONG. This is a fantastic song, and perfect for a closer. If a pro wrestler isn’t using this as their entrance music by the end of this calendar year, I’ll get the St. Louis Cardinals logo tattooed onto my back, with the only stipulation that I don’t have to actually get a tattoo.

Lastly, a hometown bonus:

Bob Wickman, Cleveland Indians

“I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles

Wait…how long ago? Really? Man. Okay.

Kerry Wood, Cleveland Indians

“Shattered” by OAR

Hold, on, him too? Wow.

Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians

No way, he’s gone? What in God’s name…

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Are we good, guys? He’s the closer, right? Still? Today? Good.

“The Sound of Madness” by Shinedown

Quality – 3

Familiarity – 3

Swag – 3

Whatever. The point of this is, every single Cleveland closer should be required to enter the game to “Cleveland Rocks.” Because that is a song about Cleveland. Own it. If Los Angelinos have to hear Randy Newman on every national sporting broadcast, and if Philadelphians have to hear the Rocky theme, and if Detroitians have to hear KISS, and if Pittsburgh has to listen to the new hit single “Yinzers Trying to Order Lunch,” then you have to listen to the Presidents of the United States of America always and forever.

(Side note: Remember how the Dropkick Murphys threw a fit and said Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t use “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” as his closer music once he left the Red Sox because the song belonged only to whoever Boston’s closer was? I wish the Presidents of the United States of America would make that same indignant remark every time Cleveland changed closers. “We’ll be DAMNED if anyone OTHER than our guy plays ‘Cleveland Rocks.’ OHIO!!!!”

Anyway. If there’s anything we’ve learned from this, it’s the following:

  1. Joe Nathan’s music taste sucks
  2. Huston Street is a jerk
  3. You’ll read just about any old piece of junk as long as it has a rating system

Enjoy the playoffs, everyone!

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