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“Say it ain’t Mo!” The Yankees Next Closer

As the hours blend into days, Mariano Rivera’s injury truly sinks in, and it’s time to stop being sad and move on.  Mo insists he will return to the team and can never be replaced anyway, but someone will have to step up in his role for now.  Who will it be?

I think this is an enormous opportunity for the Yankees to break with convention and stop using designated roles for their two best relievers.  Instead, when it gets to the 8th and 9th inning, Joe Girardi should look at who’s coming up in the 8th inning and line up the best pitcher to face the best hitters.  For example, if the 2, 3 and 4 hitters are due in the 8th inning, I think I’d like to see the best pitcher available face (David Robertson or Rafael Soriano) those hitters rather than saving that pitcher for the bottom of the order in the 9th.

If Phil Hughes continues to struggle and the Yankees have a serious need in their bullpen, he could slot in there nicely.  We know he’s had great success out there and I’ve never been a huge fan of his work as a starter, so it seems like a good match.  Not only that, but Hughes is well suited to be an old school, multy innings reliever in the style of Goose Gossage or Sam Malone.  Or even a young Mariano Rivera, who would dominate the 7th and 8th innings.

Who knows what will happen… and suddenly, the Yankees biggest strength (the bullpen) now has a serious question mark.  The Joba Chamberlain injuries loom even larger!

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Mariano Rivear's Career is probably over

Let’s just start saying it, start getting used to it: Mariano Rivera’s career is probably over.

Say it and exhale. Then say it again.

If this is the end, it sucks hard that it had to end this way; stumbling on the warning track while shagging batting practice fly balls. Rivera has been doing it for years, and I’m sure no one ever thought he’d get hurt doing it, never mind have it threaten his career. If he did decided to retire after this season, he should have rode off into the sunset like the hero at the end of a western – now, he probably won’t have that opportunity. Instead, he’s been torn from us in tragedy – one minute he was there, the next, he was gone.

Rehabbing a knee at Mariano Rivera’s age and at this point in his career, when he was so close to (most likely) retiring anyway seems like a daunting task. Sure, he’ll have to rehab no matter what, but will he want to come back and pitch again? Mariano Rivera, who is a deeply spiritual man, may interpret this as a sign from God that his time in baseball is done. I can’t argue with that as the only thing he has left to accomplish is proving that he can come back from this knee injury. I don’t need to cite his resume; the man is a living legend.

It’s still early in this process to know for sure, but Rivera’s probably gone for good. We’d all best make peace with it.

Baseball will never be the same.

"Mariano Rivera Is Done" Articles

I thought all of the "The beginning of the end for Mo?" articles after the season opener were about Mo’s pending retirement announcement coming some time this summer, but no, they were about how he blew the save against the Rays and perhaps time has finally caught up with him. Once i realized this, I didn’t bother reading any further because I’ve read that article before many times over the last few years and as we all know, Mo always recovers.

What i didn’t realize was I’d read these articles a million times over the last 10 years. An awesome cut and paste of various "Is Mo done?" articles from the last decade or so can be found here. Of course, since blowing the save in game 1, Mo has pitched 3 scoreless innings for 2 saves, so yeah, business as usual

Why does Mo struggle in April? I’d say that in the past, it was probably winter rust – even his training program can’t simulate live baseball conditions against the pros. These days, I’d say it’s a combination of rust and his revised winter throwing program – and by that, I’m pretty sure Mo said he stopped throwing over the winter a few years ago. I believe this is because there is just too much wear and tear on his arm at this point, which has had it’s fair share of surgeries over his career.

Anyway, as per usual, I wouldn’t worry about Mariano Rivera any time he blows a save. He might pitch like a machine most of the time, but he is just a flesh and blood man, despite the fact that I worship the guy like a deity. If you want to worry about something, worry about the psyche of the guy who has to replace him. The first rough patch he goes through his going to be brutal.

ENJOY OPENING DAY AT YANKEE STADIUM!

Yankees Take First Half of Double Header & More

Phil Hughes missed yet another start due to injury – this time, it’s the back spasms again. The Yankees bullpen put together a superior effort after Hector Noesi’s start – well, I guess Howell didn’t get anyone out but the combination of Valdes, Kontos, Laffey, Wade, Logan, Ayala and Mariano Rivera blanks the Rays completely. Joe Madden probably left Big Game James Shields in the game too long and the 8th inning proved to be his undoing as Eduardo Nunez homered and he lost a hard fought battle with Brett Gardner and then walked Derek Jeter. Robinson Cano made Madden pay for going with JP Howell for a lefty on lefty match up by doubling in the rest of the damage – before that inning, the Yankees only other scoring that the could eek out was a double by A-Rod that plated Derek Jeter. The Yankees are so close to clinching the AL East I can taste it! (It tastes like… victory.)

And since I’m already being weird: Red Sox starter Erik Bedard was served legal papers by a Yankee fan attorney regarding a child support dispute – the mom wants a cost of living increase because Bedard’s salary has gone up since their original agreement. Anyway, the Yankee fan, Tom Cabral, posted about it on Facebook and Yahoo.com didn’t have any problem taking screen grabs of what he wrote – or, what anyone of his Facebook friends wrote. They didn’t even bother to obscure his friends’ names. You can view the torrid tale here. Other stupid crap that’s currently posted on the MLB page at Yahoo includes a video discussion regarding whether or not Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. Was that ever a question, even before he broke the record? And if no Mo, then who? Trevor Hoffman? Don’t make me laugh.

Mariano Rivera Breaks Saves Record

Now that Mariano Rivera has supplanted Trevor Hoffman and taken his rightful place as the all time saves leader, it’s difficult to say anything about Mo that hasn’t already been said – but if it’s Miller Time at the end of a hard day’s work, I’d say that for Mo, it’s Statue Time.

That’s right, Statue Time. Can we build this guy a damn statue already? I know Derek Jeter’s 3000 chase was a lot more celebrated and Jeter is probably the most popular baseball figure in town since Babe Ruth, but Jeter is a mere mortal compared to Mariano. Even the pompous asses at ESPN would refer to him as The Great Rivera because that’s what he is – GREAT. There’s plenty of room in Babe Ruth Plaza for another statue, so somebody needs to get to work on that, ASAP.

So bow down, mortals – you’ll never see anyone like this ever again.

Read more about Mariano Rivera here.  Read more of my gushing about how great he is here.

Kevin Kernan, please step down from the ledge

On August 10, 2011, Kevin Kernan (whose hair actually looks worse than mine) of The New York Post wrote the following:

If Mo goes south, the Yankees have no chance.

Joe Girardi’s club can live with A.J. Burnett being the Mediocre Man just trying to have fun. They can survive for a time without Alex Rodriguez and they can weather Jorge Posada’s struggles that cost him his DH job.

But if Mariano Rivera falters, the Yankees might as well call it a season. They go as Mo goes.

The New York Post is a tabloid – I get that. It’s a News Corp publication, which means you have to crank up the crazy dial to 11, and that’s fine, too – yet their sports reporting is usually OK – at least, in comparison to the rest of the paper. (Page 6 not withstanding.) But lets not lose our minds completely. Let’s take it piece by piece, statement by flawed statement:

"If Mo goes south, the Yankees have no chance."
I take that to mean either the Yankees won’t make the playoffs or the Yankees will immediately falter in the playoffs without Mo. According to sportsclubstats.com (as of today), the Yankees currently have a 97% chance of making the playoffs. That sounds pretty good to me, and Mo has not been throwing his best ball of late.. (As of today, baseballprospectus.com has them at 99%.) Oh, and they just took two out of three from the closest wild card contender and their 26 games over .500, so yeah… probably going to the playoffs. But maybe that’s nto what Mr.Kernan means – maybe he means that without Mo being Mo, the Yankees can’t win a playoff game… although, as we all know, there are games a team can win without using a closer – they’re usually called blowouts. For example, if the 9th inning roles around (home or away) and the Yankees are up by 7 runs, they’re probably not going to bring in the closer. Why waste an outing? Let’s look at it this way: suppose Mo’s recent struggles are the beginning of a trend and not a deviation from the norm; if that’s the case, then obviously the Yankees won’t use Mo as their closer – they’ll turn to David Robertson or the grossly overpaid Rafael Soriano, who lead the league in saves in 2010.

Joe Girardi’s club can live with A.J. Burnett being the Mediocre Man just trying to have fun.
Sure, I guess they can… although when your starting pitcher gets smacked around, its pretty hard to overcome, and if you’re losing in the 9th inning, it doesn’t really matter who your closer is, because you won’t need him.

They can survive for a time without Alex Rodriguez and they can weather Jorge Posada’s struggles that cost him his DH job.
The Yankees have done a lot more than surviving since A-Rod went down – he’s been gone for over a month now and again, the Yankees are 26 games over .500! Jorge Posada (who I have the utmost respect for… well, taking himself out of the line up that day kinda hurt my image of him) has essentially stunk all year and, again, not to keep waiving their record around, but his performance isn’t exactly killing them, and now that he’s relegated to off the bench duties only, he’s really only guilty of taking up a roster space, which won’t even matter when rosters expand in September. So yeah… ‘survive’ – ‘weather’ – gotcha.

But if Mariano Rivera falters, the Yankees might as well call it a season. They go as Mo goes.
Again, the Yankees bullpen has been a strength this year… imagine if they still had Joba Chamberlain? They lost that guy and his regained velocity, biting slider and swagger and didn’t skip a beat. Mo is great, and he’s still my first choice for closer (above any guy in baseball), but he’s not the only reliever on this team, and the job that David Robertson (cough 2011 all star cough!) has done this year is totally overlooked when you say something like ‘They go as Mo goes" – not to mention the presence of Rafael Soriano, who has been a beast since coming off the DL.

I understand that Mr. Kernan needs to help The Post sell papers and writing "relax, everything is fine" probably isn’t the best way to do that, but at least it would be true. And, at least he wouldn’t look so foolish, not to mention that reporters have been writing this particular ‘Yankees can’t win without Mo’ article for nearly 10 years (specifically after any time he struggles), and Mo always reverts back to himself and proves him wrong. With no drop in velocity and the fact that he doesn’t completely implode (see yesterday’s save for more details), the only other thing that I think Mr. Kernan could be suggesting is that there is a chance that Mo has forgotten how to pitch, and that seems unlikely.

Look, nobody believes in Mo as much as I do (I cross out "God" on all my greenbacks and write ‘Mo’), and it’s always shocking to see him not be perfect, never mind fail at saving a game. But the fact is, the guy is over 40 and he’s not actually God – he’s a human being, and he’s defiantly not a machine. I saw him and Jorge Posada do an interview on "Yankess on Deck" during which he forgot the English word for toothpaste… he’s just a man, all be it an extraordinary one.

Mo saves… just not every time, and that’s OK. He’s still the best there is.

Night of Blunders decreases Yanks wildcard lead

MLB.com’s headline, "Abreu torches Yanks with homer off Mo" might be hyperbole (the game was tied, after all; it wasn’t a save situation), but it’s general sentiment sums up the Yankees performance during the evening well enough.

This season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have scored 447 runs – that might sound like a lot, but when you compare it to the Red Sox’s league leading 629 or the Yankees own 607, you realize that you’re dealing with a team that has trouble scoring runs – at least compared to the superior teams in the league. So of course, A.J. Burnett promptly gives up the big hit and allows 4 runs in 6 IP… did I mention he allowed all 4 runs in the 6th inning? The guy has won some big games for the Yankees (game 2 of the 2009 world series), but these days, Burnett often folds like Superman on laundry day – faster than a speeding bullet. I think it’s time to admit that Burnett can’t start a game in the playoffs.

Yes, Mariano Rivera gave up the go ahead 2 run home run, and boy, did he look shocked. Mo usually goes through a phase where he gets hit hard around this time of year, so it’s no concern – but it couldn’t of happened at a worse time.

Curtis Granderson, who started things rolling with a solo home run, ended the scoring just as suddenly when he he got picked off with two outs in the bottom of the 9th as the Yankees tried to rally back from a two run deficit. I know it happens to everyone, but it looked HORRIBLE.

The Yankees need to put last night’s blunder behind them and rally behind Ivan Nova, who gave the Chicago White Sox a tremendous beating his last time out. They still retain a 6 game lead in the wild card, but the Yankees are a decidedly better team than the Angels, and there’s no reason to let things get interesting.

A Sox by any other name…

After a four game sweep of the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees headed to Boston to end a road trip with three games against the Red Sox – to determine the fate of the division!

Well, we all know how it turned out – Boston took two of three and reclaimed their hold on 1st place in the American League East. After the previous road trip and the beating the Yankees gave the White Sox, you might have had high expectations with the Yankees going into Fenway, and that would be fair – the Yankees are certainly playing better ball of late, even without A-Rod.

It just didn’t happen for the Yankees this weekend, and, as usual, the prime suspect was starting pitching. If the Yankees have had a theme over the last decade (minus a year or two), it’s been the starting pitching putting too much pressure on the bullpen, and this series was no different. On Friday, Bartolo Colon just didn’t have his best stuff (as has been the case through most of his starts since returning from the DL), CC Sabathia was just bad from the first inning (any time you see Fransisco Cervelli doing that half split catcher’s stance in the first inning, you know you’re in trouble) and Freddy Garcia through a zillion pitches in such a short while (98 pitches in 5 IP) that I’m shocked Sweaty Freddy didn’t dehydrate.

But whatever; the Yankees are one game back in the east now, and seven games up in the wild card – they’re going to the playoffs.

The Red Sox are inside CC’s head?
I heard people saying the Red Sox are inside CC Sabathia’s head before and after Saturday’s game… I don’t buy it. I know he hasn’t beaten them in four tries this year, but that’s they way it goes sometimes. He’s certainly had success against them before, and since coming to the Yankees, even if his lifetime numbers aren’t dominant against the Red Sox. And, it’s not like he had his best stuff on Saturday and the Red Sox beat him – he was bad right from the start. You can say that’s some sort of Red Sox hangover, but I don’t buy it.

Posada to ride the pine
Jorge Posada is going to be a pinch hitter for the rest of the year instead of part of a DH rotation with Andruw Jones as Eric Chavez takes over for him. It’s just another phase out of Posada’s Yankee career, which will be even more pronounced when Jesus Montero makes his appearance as part of September call ups Frankly, I’d rather see Montero in the roll full time, but I guess we’re stuck for a few more weeks.

Mo is human
It would have been nice for Mo to nail down the save last night and win a series at Fenway against the Red Sox, but it didn’t happen – a near home run that turns into a lead off double is pretty hard to pitch around, even for my savior. Oh well.

Somebody wake up Joe Girardi!

AJ Burnett is not necessarily the best pitcher to ever grace a mound with his presence. Sure, you’ll hear tales of his filthy stuff, and it’s true, to an extent: Burnett has some good pitches in his arsenal, including a hard fastball and a snapping curve ball. In yesterday’s fourth of July game, he struggled but overcame in the 1st inning but overall, pitched 6 solid innings. Sure, at the end of the 6th, he looked a little tired, but I couldn’t begrudge Joe Girardi for sending him out there for the 7th, especially after how much the bullpen worked in the Mets series. But at some point, you have to go to your bullpen.

AJ Burnett is not the sort of guy who saves your bullpen; he’s just not. Sure, he’ll go 8 innings every once and a while, but it’s just not who he is. So after that Shelly Duncan at bat, during which Burnett was clearly tired and didn’t have anything left and couldn’t snap off a curve ball to save his life, Girardi left him in there. He didn’t go to his bullpen, he didn’t send Larry Rothschild or even Russell Martin out there to give him a breather.

After the Duncan single, I thought it was obvious that it was time for a call to the bullpen to get somebody up before the ball got back to the infield, followed by a lengthy mound visit. Then, the next batter should have been given the unintentional intentional walk. By then, your bullpen guy ought to be ready to go, and you make the change. It’s that simple.

Instead, BOOM – home run, and the Yankees go on to loose a game they should have found a way to win. Nice job, Girardi!

YANKEESNEWS VIA TEXT:
Today’s text reads: “HBO & MLB Productions to produce a 1 hour special chronicling Jeter’s 3K chase.”
My guess is that working titles include, “Boring as Hell: Jeter’s 3000 Chase” or “Jeter Documentary: The Best Editing You’ll Ever See,” because this must be one boring film. How much drama could the end possibly have in store? Jeter did not have a good offensive year last year (.270 average, 179 hits), nor has he this year (.256 average, 68 hits), and he’s been hurt for the last several weeks with 6 hits to go. Maybe I’ll get more excited about this as we get to the end, but right now, I’m not interested in Jeter’s personal achievements – but I’m happy to have his glove back, because Edwardo Nunez can not field.

YANKEES VIA EMAIL:
subject – MLB best Six Yankees are headed to the All-Star Game

In case you didn’t already hear, the Yankees heading to the All Star game are

Can we PLEASE climb out of Jeter’s ass? A-Rod has been to the All Star Game a few times, why can’t we count how many times he’s been? And really, Jeter is one of the six best Yankees on the team? Really? Derek Jeter is having a better year and/or is more valuable to the team that Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia or Brett Gardner? Or how about David Robinson, for that matter? I feel like I spend a lot of time writing negative things about Jeter in this space, but I don’t hate the guy – I just don’t think he’s the golden god everyone else makes him out to be – at least he’s not anymore.

Whatever, I don’t care about the all star game and I wish no Yankees were going, because if anyone gets so much as a cramp from appearing in the farce, I’m going to be PISSED!

The Streak Is Over

So many inspirational phrases come to be mind; before the game, it was something to the tune of, "The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they’ve done!"

Make who pay, you ask? Uhm, Joe Girardi for calling all of those bunts; the Yankees offense for not knowing how to bunt; A.J. Burnett for coughing up a lead; Freddy Garcia for coughing up a lead; Joba Chamberlain for giving up that homer; the Yankees offense for their continual RISP failures; Jorge Posada for throwing a hissy fit when Girardi moved him down to 9th in the batting order… you know, those things.

During the bottom of the 9th, with a runner on second and one run in, Mariano Rivera came running out to the mound, shouting to his teammates: "Infielders, outfielders – my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come, when the ability of our team to win a game fails, when we forsake our friends and refuse to play [cough] Jorge [cough] But it is not this day! This day we play! For all that you hold dear, for your pride and vanity, we stand together, Yankees of New York!"

But after the game, it went more like this:

"Win at last, win at last; thank god all mighty, the Yankees have won at last!"

"Ask not what the Yankees can do for you, but what you can do for the Yankees!"

"It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…" OK, maybe it’s not like that one at all.

It’s kind of like that part at the end of The Two Towers: "Victory! We have victory!" Yeah, it felt that way, except instead of facing an insurmountable army (300 style), it was just a matter of the Yankees getting out of their own way. All teams slump, but its tough when a team slumps for so long – but the first big hurtle has been jumped – a win has been secured. It’s time to march into Baltimore and kick ASS!

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