It seems like an eternity since we witnessed the greatest closer of all-time do his thing. It’s difficult to fathom watching a Yankees lead in the ninth without Mariano Rivera there to protect it. We each got front-row seats to life after Mo when he went down while shagging flyballs that one fateful night in Kansas City. However, he quickly proclaimed that he wouldn’t go out like that, and why would he? Now, Mo’s tune has changed and thoughts of playing again are wavering.
For my generation, anybody on the mound in the ninth for the Yankees just doesn’t look right. Yesterday, a report from ESPN’s Andrew Marchand hit the internet quoting Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman as saying:
“He wasn’t certain on what he is going to do.”
Outside the fact that he’s the greatest closer of all-time, the Yankees survived a year without Rivera with Rafael Soriano at the helm. It was like Mo was never gone with Soriano manning the ninth inning, despite the plethora of baserunners, walks, and other high-stress triggers. Soriano worked his way to 42 saves despite missing a month’s worth of save opportunities and gave us the “untuck” at the end of the game.
Like our own Chris Carelli wrote earlier today, Rivera spending time with his family all year and being age 42 might have much to do with this uncertainty. Andy Pettitte went through the same thing in 2011. Both can still pitch very well so the competitive juices still flow vigorously through their veins, but you get the overwhelming feeling that both are family men and maybe they want to begin enjoying the fruits of their labor and leave the spotlight for good. There’s no shame in that.
I’m a selfish person, however, and I don’t want to see either one of them leave. We’ll leave Pettitte’s future for another post, but for Mo, you can’t go out like this. Being carted off in Kansas City is not the last image of the Great Mariano Rivera I want. It’s certainly not one that I want to tell my kids and grandchildren. You have 600+ saves? So what? I want to see you flash that big white smile, raise your arms to the sky, and everybody jumping on you after you struck out the final batter in the 2013 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Oh, and before the game, Luis Gonzalez threw out the first pitch. Is that really so much to ask?
Back to reality, I think, as well as many others, this is a contract ploy. Subsequently, this also helps drive up the price on Soriano too as he is expected to opt out of his third year in hopes of finding a better situation (and more money). I know it’s the fan in me, but I want to believe that Mo wouldn’t put the Yankees in this spot. Not only would he not retire due to injury, but he’d want to give the organization an opportunity to find an ample replacement. Saying that, I’m hoping David Robertson isn’t thrust into that role, he’s much better suited as the set-up/get-us-out-of-this-mess guy. Mo’s heir apparent from 2008, Joba Chamberlain, isn’t seeing the mound in the ninth inning any time soon. The team has no one with experience to replace Mo, unless they make a trade or throw loads of money at Soriano.
As Yankees fans we knew this day would come, and it’s a scary thought indeed. For almost 20 years the ninth inning was protected by one Mariano Rivera, now we might be like every other club on the back end—vulnerable. That is one adjective that the Yankees and its fans haven’t experienced in that role in quite some time. Come 2013, we might just have to live with it.