In Aug. 2011, the Orioles were struggling. Far out of the race, on their way to a 14th straight losing season.
Their closer, Kevin Gregg, had begun to falter, and manager Buck Showalter made Jim Johnson the closer.
Johnson had another stint as the ninth-inning man, in 2009. He had an uncomfortable time in the two months after the team traded George Sherrill.
But, this time he was ready.
Johnson saved eight games in the final weeks of 2011 and won the epic final game against Boston. The team began to play respectably.
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After some thought to making him a starter in 2012, Johnson had some back problems that set him back, and he was kept in the bullpen.
Johnson had one of the better seasons in baseball history as a reliever. Fifty-one saves in 54 chances, and he won one of those three games he lost. Johnson was rewarded with an All-Star Game appearance and some support for the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player.
2012 couldn’t be equaled.
He had 50 saves, but blew nine save chances and lost eight games. Fans blamed him for the Orioles woes and clamored for a change. Buck Showalter kept going to him.
One hundred and twenty-two saves, a 3.11 ERA, just five wild pitches in the past three years and no excuses.
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That’s what Jim Johnson leaves behind.
He’s second on the team’s all-time saves list, behind only Gregg Olson. He was one of only three Orioles that played for the team as far back as 2006.
The Foo Fighters will make their way to Oakland, and Johnson will, too. He’ll have an excellent group of starters to save games for, and they’ll be lucky to have him.
Sarasota will miss him, too. He was active in community activities there, having moved from frigid upstate New York. He organized a golf tournament during spring training. Now, he’ll train in Arizona and play on the West Coast, for at least a year.