Figuring out how to replace a club legend is never an easy proposition for a professional sports team, especially when that person is as utterly dominant at their craft as Mariano Rivera was as closer for the New York Yankees.
After all, Rivera can claim the record for the most regular season saves ever, the most postseason saves ever, five world series championships and the feat of being the only player in MLB history to post an ERA half that of the league average while throwing over 1000 inning during their career.
And despite the difficulty of figuring out how to replace a legend like this, the facts are that the Yankees have the perfect in-house replacement for Rivera. That replacement is David Robertson, the man who closed the game after Rivera went weeping off of the mound at Yankee Stadium.
Since making his debut in 2008, Robertson has developed into one of the most stable relievers in the Yankees bullpen and the unquestioned setup man for Mariano Rivera. Over his six-year career, Robertson has appeared in 337 games, throwing 327 innings with 427 strikeouts, a 1.25 WHIP, 116 holds and 427 strikeouts.
Robertson has been able to accomplish these impressive statistics by using a two-pitch repertoire that includes a deceptively fast low-90s fastball and curveball that he only used 26 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs.
But more important than Robertson’s effectiveness and repertoire is that moving him into the closer role would fill a gaping hole without making a risky and expensive move in free agency.
The Yankees have been shown by past experiences that attempting to replace club legends with big-money signings do not work out very often. This is in part because fans often don’t fully appreciate a player that did not come up through the Yankees’ system, but also because many players are not prepared for what comes with playing in New York.
In the past, the Yankees tried to replace the gritty Tino Martinez with the big-money Jason Giambi, the smooth Bernie Williams with the whining Kenny Lofton and the dominant Roger Clemens with the erratic Randy Johnson. None of these players was suited for playing in New York, and couldn’t live up to the expectations that came with replacing a player that both the fans and organization had come to love.
And replacing none of these players would come anywhere near the same stratosphere as trying to replace Mariano Rivera, who is revered around the Bronx like a modern-day Mickey Mantle.
The expectations that come with attempting to replace a player that as big in stature as Rivera would only be multiplied tenfold by trying to throw money at the problem. Everyone from the fans, media, to the Yankees players themselves would know that Robertson was completely deserving of the chance, and would at least in the back of their mind be ungrateful towards management for the decision.