In case you had forgotten, Atlanta Braves closer Mark Melancon spent part of a season as the Washington Nationals ninth inning guy.
Could you name all the closers the Washington Nationals have used the past ten years? Would you remember Mark Melancon? His time in DC was brief and his contributions meaningful, but if you had forgotten him, you’d be forgiven.
By the time management brought in Mark Melancon at the trading deadline in 2016, they had already messed with Drew Storen’s head, and shipped him away. They had already brought Jonathon Papelbon back after he’d choked Bryce Harper. The Nationals were making a push for another division title and needed a stable hand at the back end of their bullpen.
Felipe Vázquez was in that bullpen, though two years away from back-to-back All Star appearances as closer of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Blake Treinen was in that bullpen, though two years away from an All-Star appearance as closer of the Oakland Athletics. Shawn Kelley was in that bullpen, and he recorded seven saves filling in for Papelbon (and would save 11 as part-time closer for the Texas Rangers three years later).
Even though Papelbon had blown just three saves year-to-date, he had allowed runs in three straight appearances leading up to the trading deadline.
Enter Mark Melancon.
Melancon was a rental player, so off to Pittsburgh went Vazquez and in came a new closer. Thrown right into the role, (Papelbon appeared in just two games the next two weeks, and was released mid-August) Melancon converted 17 of 18 save chances and finished with an ERA of 1.82. In 30 games, Melancon allowed runs in five and had fourteen perfect appearances.
The Nationals would lose the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games. Melancon appeared in four of them, without allowing a run, and saving the one game he was asked to do so.
Mark Melancon became a free agent at the end of the year and the Nationals entertained bringing him back. Ultimately, they lost out to the 4 YR/$62M contract the San Francisco Giants threw his way. Melancon spent three injured and ineffective years with the Giants before being traded to the Atlanta Braves where he has righted the ship.
He went 2-1 with a 2.78 earned run average and 11 saves this year and has the Braves in the playoffs.
When Melancon jumped town, the Nationals rotated closers some more, before landing on Sean Doolittle. We know how that ended. The same way Melancon hopes his season ends.