Even though members of the media might want to try to make a story out of something that is not necessarily newsworthy (it is there job to an extent) we should not get too worked up over some of the things we hear or read. One of these such things is that New York Yankees’ closer – and future Hall of Famer – Mariano Rivera is treating 2012 as his final season. Joel Sherman of the New York Post mentions that Mariano Rivera’s actions suggest that this could be his final season in New York Yankees pinstripes. New York Yankees fans have certainly been spoiled for the past decade-and-a-half. I really don’t know if there will be anybody better than Mariano Rivera. Ever. There is reason to remain optimistic though.
As I mentioned, there is nobody that will step in and replace everything that Rivera brings to the table. There were guys who might have been better statistically over short stretches (Eric Gagne and John Smoltz perhaps in the early-mid 2000′s), but who has combined annual All-Star production with Mo’s longevity? Trevor Hoffman is the only guy in our current generation and not even he is in the same class as Rivera. Baseball fans – not just Yanks fans – are lucky to have been able to watch Rivera all of these years. Even if he whooped your team’s tail over and over again, there is something special about getting an up close look at the Greatest of All Time.
I’m not quite ready to worry about Rivera retiring, but let’s play along with Sherman for a minute. What if this is his final season? In the most contradicting analogy I could come up with, Mo continues to be a big, warm, cozy blanket…with ice water running through the threads (how does that make any sense?). The dude just NEVER gets rattled. There is nothing better than watching a tight game in the ninth inning and knowing that your closer is going to pound the strike zone with quality pitches. No disrespect to the Atlanta Braves’ Craig Kimbrel (he’s an utter beast), but you’re not going to see Mo collapse the way Kimbrel did on the final day of the 2011 season.
The security will be missed in the 9th inning, but the New York Yankees have a lot of options to turn to. The obvious in-house candidates are Joba Chamberlain, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Some might argue for Dellin Betances although I’d rather him get a fair shot at the starting rotation. You also have a number of minor league relief pitchers making a quick rise up the organizational ladder. I HIGHLY doubt someone like Mark Montgomery (51 K in 28.1 innings split between short-season and Low-A) gets a legitimate crack at the closing gig anytime in the relatively near future, but arms like his will be vital in picking up the slack when Rivera does eventually retire.
I still say that New York Yankees fans should not buy too much into this speculation at this point. At the same time, if you haven’t been doing so already, it would be smart to cherish every single pitch that Mariano Rivera makes this season. He continues to defy Father Time, but at some point sooner than we’d like, the New York Yankees are going to be handing the ball to someone other than No. 42.
For more New York Yankees bullpen banter throughout the season follow me on twitter @craigmwilliams.