The Yankees were already eliminated from playoff contention, so it really didn’t matter whether they won or lost. They obviously wanted to win their remaining games and end 2013 on a high note, but they didn’t need the Sandman to keep title hopes alive.
Furthermore, David Robertson is an extremely capable reliever in his own right. In fact, he’s probably the Yankees closer of the future. Having Robertson close this series was an orientation of sorts, a ceremonial passing of the torch. But more noteworthy is that Rivera already had the perfect goodbye.
True, Andy Pettitte pitched against Houston even though he was already honored by the fans and the organization, but the setting of the final series made it a totally different story for Pettitte. Houston is his hometown. I’m sure Astros fans wanted to see Rivera pitch because they respect him as a ballplayer and the greatest closer who has ever lived, etc., but he’s not the local boy – and that’s the crucial distinction.
Pitching against his hometown team in front of hometown fans, Pettitte had one more line on his farewell checklist. Plus, there’s no way Pettitte could go out with a loss, no matter how well he pitched in his Yankee Stadium finale. Rivera, on the other hand, retired all four batters he faced in his last appearance and got the assist on the final out himself. The only way it could have been more appropriate is if he broke the last batter’s bat.
There is simply no topping Rivera’s final act at the Stadium and the manner in which he was taken out. To play Rivera in a virtually meaningless game in a ballpark that has no deeper significance to the man would be pointless. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it would cheapen his Yankee Stadium goodbye – he has that moment forever – but there’s no way anything could be better.
The lasting image of Rivera’s career should be him hugging his dearest teammates as a sold-out Yankee Stadium gives him a standing ovation. And because the Yankees didn’t play Rivera against the Astros, it will be.