Thursday, September 15, 2011
Ruben, not Mariano, was expected to be Rivera No. 1
These days, Yankees GM Brian Cashman is saying "There will never be another Mariano,'' but 20 years ago, people in the Yankees organization were saying similar things about another member of the Rivera clan.
"When he started out, he wasn't considered a great prospect,'' Cashman said of Mariano Rivera, who on Tuesday became just the second closer in baseball histry to record 600 saves. "If you turn the clock back and you ask who was the best Rivera in our system, it was Ruben. Mariano was just known as Ruben’s cousin.''
Ruben Rivera, in case you've forgotten, was a highly-touted outfielder who some in the organization thought could develop into the next Mickey Mantle. "If you asked which Rivera was going to be a Hall of Famer, it was Ruben,'' Cashman said. "Mariano wasn’t in the category like Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos or Jesus Montero or, going back a couple of years, Phil Hughes, a can’t-miss guy.''
Ruben Rivera had two go-rounds with the Yankees, appearing in 46 games in 1996 in which he hit .284 with two home runs and 16 RBI before being traded to San Diego in the deal that brought Hideki Irabu to the Bronx, and returning in 2002. Rivera's second Yankee career ended in disgrace when he was released in spring training for stealing a glove and a bat out of Derek Jeter's locker and selling them for $2,500, a crime he later admitted to. In nine big-league seasons, he batted .216 with 64 HRs and 203 RBI. Now 37, Rivera, plays for Piratas de Campeche of the Mexican League.
Meanwhle, cousin Mariano, after failing as a starter, developed his devastating cutter, served an apprenticeship as the set-up man to John Wetteland before becoming the closer in 1997, and is now almost universally considered the greatest closer in baseball history.
"It shows how scary this game can be,'' Cashman said. "When you label guys can’t-miss, usually they miss.''