“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…
There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time. I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion. It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is. He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto). But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong. He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself. He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).
I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time. But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals. I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season. Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s. Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.
If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be. I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career. I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.
That first step is a doozy…
David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities. I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man. Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important. I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.
A few favorites…
With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:
· Favorite living former Yankee: Don Mattingly
· Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime: Thurman Munson
· Favorite all-time player: Lou Gehrig
· Favorite manager: Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
· Favorite owner: George Steinbrenner
· Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera): Robinson Cano
· Favorite Yankees team: 1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)
There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for...most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today. I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974. I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan. I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.
I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle. A great player who really could have been even greater than he was. I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy. It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.
Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success. There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.
Hard to close…
It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers. So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell). This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL. But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity. Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.
Game of Stars…
I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready. I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype. It is good for baseball. Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement). While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC. I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.
Where’s the caveat?...
When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score. C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins! It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston. So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.
What am I doing writing this post? I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers! Have a great weekend, everyone! J