Jenks shrugs off doubters
Bobby Jenks was warming up in the bullpen Wednesday night, getting ready to come in and protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the Mariners, as he has done so many times before at U.S. Cellular Field.
But something was a little different on this night. At least one fan was a bit more focused on a blown save in Seattle last week and a tough ninth-inning loss he suffered against Minnesota on the first Sunday of the second half then his overall body of work.
“Before I got in the game, some (idiot) was out there telling me I (stink),” Jenks told MLB.com after striking out the side for his 21st save. “You know, where has he been the last six years that I’ve been doing my job?
“Situations like that, it bothers me a little bit. But not enough to where it affects me. I look at it and say, ‘Who is this guy? Does he know baseball?’
“Is he a fan or just a numbers guy and looks at the numbers and judges where I’m at. And obviously my numbers aren’t good,” said a defiant Jenks with a laugh. “I’ve had a few bad ones so far. All and all, in save situations, I’ve been doing my job when I’ve been healthy out there.”
Jenks has served as the White Sox full-time closer for the past five years. Arguably, the hard-throwing right-hander, who touched 99 mph on his fastball against the Mariners, stands as one of the most important White Sox additions in the last decade and possibly longer than that particular time frame.
The 2005 squad was dominant from start to finish in winning the team’s first World Series title in almost nine decades. But Jenks became that missing late-inning piece, with Dustin Hermanson injured, plucked by the White Sox from their system without losing a player via the trade route.
Since becoming the team’s last line of pitching defense, Jenks has amassed 167 saves to put him second behind Bobby Thigpen’s 201 career saves on the all-time franchise list. He was the second-fastest to 100 career saves behind Seattle’s Kaz Sasaki in Major League Baseball history, needing just 187 games, and of course, tied the Major League record of 41 consecutive batters retired in 2007, a mark since broken by teammate Mark Buehrle.
Yet, Jenks believes the respect he deserves is not always afforded to him–from the media, fans and even the organization, although he doesn’t come out and say it. Jenks knows how he simply has to save his talking for the field, as he did on Wednesday, by knocking down Franklin Gutierrez, Russell Branyan and Justin Smoak on strikes.
Blowing saves is part of a closer’s job, and it also is the one time a closer is sure to get attention. The veteran Jenks is able to separate his own feelings about the role he has talked about being born to fulfill with important perspective on what the team needs to be successful.
“Regardless of what happens, everyone on the bench is under a lot of pressure, and winning the division is the most important thing,” Jenks said. “If a certain situation calls for where (manager Ozzie Guillen) thinks I’m struggling, and maybe I am, and three lefties are coming up or two lefties and a righty, and (Guillen) goes to (left-hander Matt) Thornton, I got to understand a little bit because it’s still a team of 25 guys.
“It hurts a little. Yeah, I’m not going to lie. But it’s part of the game and you have to roll with it some time. When you do get the ball, go out there and do what you know how to do best. Hopefully, it turns things around and gets it going again.”
Before the road struggles, Jenks had recorded 15 straight saves. He hopes Wednesday’s domination starts another string of at least 15 and points up one of the game’s elite closers, even if one fan on Wednesday might disagree.
“He had two bad games, and it (stinks) for a closer or a bullpen to go out there and have one bad inning and everyone kind of wants your head, you’re losing your job,” said Mark Buehrle, who had a no-decision in Wednesday’s victory. “I think everybody has confidence in him. He has to go out there and continue to do what he’s doing now.”