The list of successful Canadian baseball players is not a long one. Joey Votto and Justin Morneau are probably the most well-known contemporaries. Larry Walker and Fergie Jenkins are the more recognizable names from days gone by. Overall, Canada is definitely more known for producing talent that can perform on the ice, rather than the baseball diamond.
That being said, for the last three years, Crew supporters have had the privilege of watching a relatively unknown Canuck, John Berton Axford, lock down the ninth inning like the Secret Servi…well…you get the idea. Axford has basically dominated since arriving on the scene. He earned his first save in 2009. He notched 24 of them in 2010, grabbing the Brewer’s closer role, and never looking back. The Ax Man was officially born.
In 2011, the Ax Man took his act to a whole other level. He has always had the Rollie Fingers wanna-be moustache. But, unlike other imposters, he actually has shown the skills to match it. And, as his hair grew, it almost seemed like he was the modern day Sampson, shrinking his ERA and converting save after save. Ax Man started a streak that would run to 49, only falling last week in a wacky game against those lovable losers, the Cubs. During that streak, the Crew was spoiled by Ax Man’s consistency. When you have a good closer, it is easy to forget how nerve-racking the 9th inning can be (just ask a Twins fan how it is working out since Joe Nathan departed and Fat…I mean….Matt Capps took over).
Though, what might truly be the best thing about Ax Man is the understated way in which he has gone about dominating the National League. I mean, even this guy’s intro music, “New Noise” is from underground punk rocker, Refused. Nothing about this guy is flashy. But, his numbers scream dominance and, a less grounded individual (thank you for those Canadian sensibilities) would let it go to his head.
And, even though the compensation for most MLB closers is significantly inflated. Having a reliable and steady presence to handle 9th inning duties is a luxury to be enjoyed. Just ask the Yankees. When the great Mariano Rivera went down a couple weeks ago shagging fly balls, he was replaced by the talented, though unproven, David Robertson. In Robertson’s second save opportunity, he promptly gave up 4 runs and blew a game against divisional rival Tampa Bay.
The Crew are fortunate not to have to worry about that. They have a guy who has IT. IT. Talked about often. Rarely properly defined. IT is that intangible that only a select few relievers have to draw upon when their back is up against the wall. Call it swagger, call it irrational confidence, Crew fans call it Ax Man. The good ones, the ones you know who have IT, usually have a snarl on their face when they take the mound. Almost a, “wait, you think you can hit me??” attitude. Ax Man has been snarling at hitters for two plus years and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Now, does that mean Ax Man is never going to blow another game? Absolutely not. In fact, Ax admitted as much, quite hilariously I might add, in a self-deprecating letter to the media announcing his wife’s delivery of their second child (turned out to be false alarm). However, amateur comedy and psychoanalytical skills aside, Ax is a luxury that Crew supporters should enjoy. There are only a select few teams that have 9th inning guys as reliable as the Ax Man. It is easy to take that kind of consistency for granted. Personally, I am going to try to sit back and enjoy the ride.