New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera
Dustin Pedroia over Robinson Cano? Let's take a look at the facts:
• The highest OPS Pedroia has produced in a season is .869. Cano has bettered that number six times.
• Cano has won the Silver Slugger award five times, which goes to the best offensive player at a particular position. Pedroia has one.
• In the past seven seasons, Cano has played in an average of 160 games. Pedroia has appeared in 141 per season in the same span. Pedroia won the MVP in 2007, while Cano's best showing was fourth in 2012.
• Pedroia crushes Cano in grass stains.
When you add it up, Mariano Rivera's take on the Cano-Pedroia competition -- an item designed to sell his book, "The Closer" -- is wrong. Cano is a better player than Pedroia. If you had one game, you would rather have Cano than Pedroia. Plus, there is a better chance Cano would be available to play.
The real damning criticism is Rivera throwing his ex-teammate to the wolves, writing that Cano's commitment level is not one of an elite player.
"This guy has so much talent, I don't know where to start," Rivera writes of Cano. "There is no doubt that he is a Hall of Fame caliber [player]. It's just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don't think Robby burns to be the best. ... You don't see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players."
As a reporter we get to see a fair amount, but Rivera had a much better seat to judge Cano's commitment. While I saw the jogs to first and the seeming nonchalance at times, I also witnessed Cano taking extra BP more than any of the Yankees stars.
Still, I have to defer to Rivera's view on Cano's desire. Rivera has climbed to join the all-time elites in baseball, and he watched Cano nearly every day of Cano's major league career. So it tells you a lot that Rivera thought Cano could have tried harder.
Cano is gone. The Yankees thought enough of him to offer $175 million. In the rewriting of Cano's Yankees career, it seems like he was worth little to nothing. Even if you believe he was only going 80 percent, I'd take it over 100 percent of Pedroia in a big spot.
Randy Levine: On behalf of the Steinbrenner family, we are excited to have #NYCFC play here at Yankee Stadium.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 21, 2014
Randy Levine: The real reason Mariano Rivera retired is he is going to be the striker for New York City Football Club.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 21, 2014
Yankee Stadium capacity will be set at 33,144 seats for most #NYCFC home matches.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 21, 2014
Mariano Rivera is officially announced as the first season ticket holder of #NYCFC. Account number: 42.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 21, 2014
Mariano Rivera: There are a lot of people that love soccer in New York City. Soccer was always my number 1 game. Baseball got in the way.— New York City FC (@NYCFC) April 21, 2014
And for one day, anyway, no Shawn Kelley.
So who exactly is available to pitch the ninth inning for the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon against the Orioles?
"That's a great question," manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday morning.
It's a question he wasn't willing to answer, a question that might not even have a definite answer.
A week into the season, without a blown save or even a run allowed in the ninth, the Yankees are going into a game without anyone who could remotely be considered a closer.
Rivera, of course, retired. Robertson, the anointed successor, is on the disabled list with a left groin strain. Kelley, who earned his first career save in Monday's home opener, is considered unavailable because he has pitched two days in a row and warmed up in the games before that.
Which leaves ...
"We'll see where [the Orioles] are in the lineup," Girardi said.
It's unlikely Girardi would use Adam Warren, because he has pitched the past two days and Girardi doesn't like using relievers three straight days this early in a season. David Phelps has pitched twice in the past three days, and Girardi prefers not to use relievers three times in four days.
That leaves Dellin Betances, a rookie right-hander who had trouble throwing strikes his previous time out, and Matt Thornton, a veteran left-hander who has 23 career saves but doesn't have a great history closing games. And after Thornton pitched Monday, Girardi said he wasn't sure how much he'd be able to get from him Tuesday.
It's not a closer crisis, not when the Yankees still haven't lost a game in the ninth inning this season. But it's not exactly ideal.
CABRAL GETS THE CALL: The Yankees called up 25-year-old left-hander Cesar Cabral to take Robertson's roster spot, giving them three lefties in the bullpen (with Thornton and Vidal Nuno), in a week where they'll face the Orioles (with Chris Davis and Nick Markakis) and the Red Sox (with David Ortiz, Grady Sizemore and A.J. Pierzynski).
Cabral impressed the Yankees with 10 scoreless appearances in spring training, but he lost out to Nuno for the final spot in the Opening Day bullpen. Cabral made eight appearances for the Yankees last September, with a 2.45 ERA.
HOUSTON --- Rookie Yangervis Solarte saw his name in a major league lineup for the first time in his life. Since he was a child, he has watched Derek Jeter play, so he did what any fan of the game might do. He picked up an extra lineup card and went to every starter, including Jeter, and asked them to autograph where their name appeared.
On a night when David Robertson succeeded Mariano Rivera for the first time, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki made a case for more playing time, Jeter picked up his initial RBI in his final season and the Yankees won for the first time in 2014, Solarte stole the headlines by going 3-for-3 with an RBI, two runs scored and one nice stab on a liner at third. After it all, he might have grabbed himself some more playing time.
"I'll see what I'm going to do," Joe Girardi said when asked if he would play Solarte again Friday night in Toronto during Masahiro Tanaka's debut.
The Yankees signed Solarte as a minor league free agent from the Texas Rangers. Even without a spot on the 40-man roster, he beat out Eduardo Nunez by hitting .429. It is still very early, but he possibly could work himself into some time at third in a platoon with Kelly Johnson or if Brian Roberts were to get hurt at second.
"Incredible," the 26-year-old Solarte said of being at third beside Jeter on Thursday. "It is someone I have seen since I was a child. And to be here today, with him, it is something that you don't accomplish every day."
Ichiro used to be an every day player, one of the all-time greatest hitters for batting average. But at 39, he has been relegated to a reserve who must take advantage of every opportunity he receives.
On Thursday, he picked up two hits, including a double. With Alfonso Soriano looking a little ragged at 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, Ichiro started to make a campaign for more time.
"When you are playing in the big leagues, there is never a game where there is no pressure, you are always under pressure," Ichiro said. "That is the same any time."
Starter Ivan Nova had no sharpness Thursday. His final spring training tune-up was rained out, putting rust on his stuff and perhaps resulting in his inconsistency Thursday.
"I was able to pitch with really one pitch," said Nova, who uncharacteristically didn't have his curveball.
He used four double plays and the end was set up for Robertson. Robertson has picked up saves in his career, but this was No. 1 post-No. 42. It was a 1-2-3 outing.
"It is nice to actually get a win for us," Robertson said. "I didn't have runners all over the place. I didn't make it too dramatic so that was a lot better."
The Yankees finally got started on the 2014 campaign, and with all the big, expensive names on this team, it was the most unfamiliar who was in the middle of it all.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will throw first pitches to Derek Jeter and
Jorge Posada on Monday afternoon before the Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles.
Pettitte and Rivera will be honored later that night with the the Pride of the Yankees Award.
The game starts at 1:05, but fans are asked to show up by 12:30 to see the pregame activities.
Kelli O'Hara, Tony nominee and co-star of the Broadway musical "The Bridges of Madison County," will sing the national anthem.
During the seventh-inning stretch, James Moye of the Broadway hit "Bullets Over Broadway" will perform “God Bless America.”
"I appreciate a lot the teams and all of the people that have made this, my dream, possible, and I hope that this is an event that would repeat itself and that no one could forget," the legendary Panamanian closer said at the press conference room.
The "Legends Series" marks MLB's first visit to Panama since 1947, and Jeter didn't hesitate in taking advantage of the event's significance to joke about his former teammate's nearly 20 years with the Bombers.
"It is a privilege for me and for us as an organization to come here to Panama, which is an amazing place, and I can't think about a better person to honor than Mariano," said the Yankees' shortstop, who said that he had made two previous visits to the Central American nation.
"It is a great opportunity to come back here and once again bring baseball to Panama and I'm very happy that MLB made professional baseball games here come true since 1946 ... when Mo was a little kid," Jeter said before the crowded room broke into laughter.
Stanton also stressed the importance of being able to share the podium with the two legends, winners of five World Series rings.
"It is an honor to be here and honor Mariano; that's what we're here for, to honor him and bring the game of Major League Baseball to Panama and expand the sport," the 24-year-old outfielder said.
"I never had the opportunity to meet Mariano or Derek but they're ballplayers that I grew up watching ever since I was a kid and they made me love baseball, so for me it's an honor to be here."
Representing commissioner Bud Selig was MLB executive vice president of labor relations Dan Halem, who said the mission of promoting professional games in diverse parts of the world is not only the globalization of the sport, but also to stress the importance of baseball as a positive influence in society.
"It's MLB's mission to continue the globalization of our game and we're committed to bringing games to our millions of fans on a worldwide scale," said Halem, who's been working under Selig since 2007.
"We're very happy to be here, and like the commissioner says, baseball is an important social institution and the best things is that these games and event will benefit the people through the Mariano Rivera Foundation."
Levine pointed out that for the Yankees it was a priority to have the opportunity to honor Rivera in his native country.
"Once Mariano made the decision to retire last year, as big as his farewell tour was, we thought it was necessary that we needed to give him another honor and this has been a great event," said Levine, who added that Marlins owner Jeff Loria also helped make the event happen.
"The Yankees are an international brand and there are Yankee fans all over the world," Levine said. "Our players enjoy this type of event a lot and we always try to make it, so now we'll try to return and expand to other places."
Levine emphasized that he feels this has been the perfect moment and place to close and honor Rivera's career, and to initiate what's going to be a farewell tour for Jeter, who announced in February that the 2014 season would be his last in professional baseball.
"[It's the icing on the cake] because this is his country. When you go around there [with Rivera], you see how the Panamanian people adore him and the respect they have for him. It's very touching, for me, to honor Mo at the beginning of Derek's farewell and it's a pleasure for everyone to see Derek Jeter wherever he goes. Never again will we see two type of players like them two together, they're two of the biggest Yankees of all time."
The day kicked off with a tour of the Miraflores Locks at the Panana Canal, with Rivera himself serving as tour guide and joined by, among others, manager Joe Girardi, outfielder Brett Gardner, reliever David Robertson and bench coach Tony Peña.
"It's been fantastic seeing the guys and up until now we've had a wonderful time. I couldn't be any happier than what I am. It's a dream come true," Rivera said Friday night.
"We went sightseeing and toured the canal and everything was seen and it was very beautiful to be there. I think we all wanted to see a ship pass by but we arrived too late and couldn't see it. But anyways it was an unforgettable experience."
"The trip was overwhelming enough as far as how it works," said Girardi. "Getting to know the entire history and seeing how a new canal is being built is an experience I'll never forget."
"It's been an extraordinary experience. It's incredible how the world is united through a canal and it's good that it's a Latino country," said Peña, who joked that although Rivera has done a great job as a host, he should study a bit more to become a better tour guide.
After a traditional Panamanian lunch, Mo joined Derek Jeter and Robertson, his successor as closer, in a visit to the Children's Hospital.
"At first it was overwhelming getting to the hospital," Robertson said. "But it later on it was awesome to see so many smiling faces, although I would have liked to have learned a little more Spanish before having gone, being that it's a bit difficult with the language barrier. But it was fantastic to be able to have given them some toys and helped them put them together and see them have a very good time."
"It was a joy to see the smiles in the faces of the kids," Jeter said. "We're here to support Mariano and I know how special it is for him that we're here. All of you know the relationship I have with Mo. And this is important for him, it's important for me."
The busy day Friday concluded with a dinner at a gala in honor of Rivera which numerous Yankees and Marlins players attended to pay homage to Rivera and raise funds for the Children's Hospital.
The gala featured an auction of items signed by Rivera, including an oil painting of the Panamanian pitching from the mound at Yankee Stadium and a Panama jersey from the World Baseball Classic signed by the former closer.
"It's been a long time coming that I wanted to do this and at last it happened. For me it's an honor to welcome my teammates," Rivera said in front of more than 400 invited guests.
"I don't have the words to express the gratitude and happiness that I have that my teammates are here. This dinner we have is dedicated to the Children's Hospital and now I feel thankful that the teams arrived well, that there aren't any injuries and that it keeps being a great party in celebration of baseball."
On Saturday morning, the Yankees and Marlins held the official news conference of the "Legends Series," which, like the gala, took place at the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower.
A baseball clinic was also slated in the afternoon for underprivileged kids before the first exhibition game at Rod Carew Stadium.
The Japanese right-hander listened patiently to the translation, pursed his lips as he thought for a moment, and then answered.
“Off the top of my head, no," he said through an interpreter. “Actually no one comes up."
Since Tanaka had already met Derek Jeter, there was no blaring headline in the answer, and you could almost hear the sighs of relief from the Yankees' media relations staff that he didn’t say Alex Rodriguez.
But what Tanaka did say only reinforced the fact that a year from now, after Jeter retires, there isn’t likely to be a single player in the Yankees' clubhouse a newcomer to the team will say he has always wanted to meet.
Once Jeter is gone, the Yankees will still be a good team. The desires of ownership and the pressures of the New York market guarantee that will always be the case.
But without Jeter -- and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, and yes, A-Rod -- the Yankees will be just another good team, with plenty of talent and not an ounce of mystique.
Unless, of course, Tanaka turns out to be as good as advertised.
Because unless, and until, the Yankees pry away Bryce Harper or Mike Trout from their current employers, there simply is no transcendent player or personality on their roster.
Except for the promise of Tanaka.
There is still a long way to go before anyone can even begin to judge how good the 25-year-old will be in the major leagues, because there’s no one on planet Earth, neither superscout nor sabernerd, who can look at video of Tanaka dominating Japanese hitters and envision how the same stuff will translate against, say, Miguel Cabrera.
But there is a definite charisma about Tanaka, an easygoing charm in the face of the media hailstorm, that tells you if this kid turns out to be the goods, he could be the next Yankee other players will someday want to meet.
Not to denigrate anyone on the current Yankees roster, but most of them have either seen their best days (Jeter, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda) or will never see days good enough to transcend being simply a competent major league ballplayer.
For now, anyway, the days of the Yankees having guys who seem as big as, or bigger than, the game are about to retreat into the past once Jeter leaves the clubhouse.
As good a player as Jacoby Ellsbury or Brian McCann turns out to be, neither seems to have that aura that made Jeter or Mariano special, that drew other players to them and brought fans into the ballpark.
For better or worse, Tanaka is likely going to be the new face of the Yankees for the next five years, if only because of the size of his contract -- $155 million -- and the size of his own personal media contingent, which is exceeded only by the size of his expectations.
For that kind of money, you can throw Brian Cashman's “reliable, consistent No. 3 starter" projections right out the window. Tanaka is likely to be either spectacularly good or spectacularly bad. Mediocrity simply does not figure to be in the cards for this player.
Sunday, Tanaka did no more than take pitcher’s fielding practice, a sham of a drill in which pitchers mime delivering a pitch and then practice sprinting to cover first base. PFPs, as they are known, are generally a collective yawn to the public and the media.
But when Tanaka took PFPs, he was watched by hundreds, as he was Saturday during his first bullpen session.
(By the way, Yankees officials confirmed the line drawn in the dirt Saturday to keep reporters a good distance away from the bullpen area was indeed a "Tanaka Line." Sunday, reporters were invited, encouraged even, to get as close a look as possible at David Robertson, the new closer, and Manny Banuelos, the boy wonder, as they threw their first bullpens of the spring.)
And afterward, his locker was once again mobbed, by not one but two crowds, first of English-speaking journalists and then by the Japanese contingent, characterized by a Yankees official as larger even than the one that followed Hideki Matsui around in his MLB rookie season of 2003.
By comparison, Sabathia, Robertson and Kuroda were virtually ignored.
That will change in a couple of days, when the regulars get here and especially on Wednesday, when Jeter holds his news conference to discuss his decision to retire after this season.
But Tanaka-palooza is guaranteed to resume shortly thereafter, no doubt peaking on the day he makes his first preseason start early in March.
After less than a week of training camp, it is obvious he is the most compelling figure in this camp, and aside from Jeter, is likely to be the most compelling figure on this team all season long, and probably for as many seasons as he chooses to remain a Yankee (his contract includes a player opt-out clause after four seasons).
Of all the players who will be on the roster after Jeter is gone, Tanaka is the one that a decade from now, a young player entering the Yankees' clubhouse for the first time might admit to a group of reporters he has always wanted to meet.
The is new because the former closer, a fellow by the name of Mariano Rivera, rarely picked up a baseball before March.
But this is the beginning of a new era for the Yankees' bullpen, and Robertson, who has distinguished himself as a setup man but is a veritable novice as a closer, has a long way to go before he earns any of the perks that went with being Mariano. Those included a light spring training workload -- generally eight innings or less -- a long time between bullpen sessions, sometimes as much as a week, and no spring training bus rides. It was a running joke that the Yankees didn't even provide Mo with gray pants during the spring because he wouldn't be making any road trips.
Robertson, on the other hand, expects to go through his normal spring training routine, which probably means bullpens every three days, appearances in every other game, and yes, road trips. And it should comfort Yankees fans to know that in the offseason, Mariano has assumed a mentor-like role with his expected successor.
"I spoke to him once at the [Baseball Writers] dinner in January and basically he just made fun of me the whole time, like he always does," Robertson said. "First thing he said to me was, 'You nervous?' But that's just Mo, he's been on my case, but in a good way, for the last couple of years. I’m sure that he’ll have plenty of advice for me after a I blow one."
Mo -- out of Robertson's earshot, of course -- has said he believes Robertson is ready to step into his role.
"That means a lot," Robertson said. "I’ve spent a lot of time with Mariano and I think he knows what I’m capable of and he’s always told me what I’m capable of. I think I have the abilities to be the closer. It’s not proven yet. But I know in my heart I can do it, I just have to go out there and prove it to myself."
The process begins today.
ManBan on the bump: Lefty prospect Manny Banuelos, coming off Tommy John surgery but considered a candidate to earn a spot in the bullpen, will throw today, as will Shawn Kelley, a possible successor to Robertson as the setup man, and Cesar Cabral, another left-hander who could wind up as the second lefty out of the pen with a good spring. No Michael Pineda throwing session yet.
Hit the road: A day after he mentioned -- twice in the course of a 10-minute interview -- how difficult it was for him to get through a one-mile jog on Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka was seen lacing up a pair of running shoes and heading out to the field to work on his long-distance chops.
And you are?: A funny scene ensued at the security gate to The Boss this morning when an athletic-looking young man, burdened down with a backpack and duffel bag, asked the guards for directions to the clubhouse. The guard, thinking the man was just another of the dozens of photographers who have descended on Tampa, asked to see identification.
Turns out the guy was Brendan Ryan, who stands to see a good amount of time at shortstop this season.
The idea is that Drew could play second and third base this season and then become Jeter's replacement in 2015. As a hypothesis goes, it is not terrible.
However, a source told ESPN New York the Yankees still aren't interested in Drew. It didn't sound as if they are going to change their minds, either.
The Yankees could hope that hitting coach Kevin Long can turn the slick-fielding Brendan Ryan into a better hitter. If that doesn't work, they could always go into free agency (J.J. Hardy after this season) or make a trade for maybe someone like Troy Tulowitzki or Jose Reyes.
Maybe Drew signs a one-year deal and the Yankees go after him after the upcoming season.
Numbers never lie: Robinson Cano's No. 24 will be worn by nonroster invitee Scott Sizemore.
I'm no Mo: David Robertson made it clear he is not trying to live up to any legendary expectations. He might be the next Yankees closer after Mariano Rivera, but he is not replacing the all-time saves leader.
As Robertson praised Jeter, he drew the comparison to the to-be-determined 2015 Yankees shortstop and his position now.
"Obviously, they are not going to be Derek Jeter," Robertson said. "Whoever takes over, they'll have big shoes to fill. It is kind of like my situation with Mo. I don't expect to step in and be Mariano Rivera. I'm not. Everyone knows that."
Robertson played down the idea that there is much of a difference between pitching the eighth and the ninth. While on a technical level each require three outs, many baseball people -- including Yankees GM Brian Cashman -- believe the final ones come with a different set of mental hurdles.
"If you make mistakes in the ninth, it costs you the game. If you make mistakes in the eighth, it costs you the game," Robertson said. "It is nice to know sometimes you can get away with making a mistake in the eighth and Mo can come in and close it."
As for Jeter, Robertson echoed the universal praise.
"Right now, I'm thinking about the first time I saw him do his jump throw," Robertson said. "We were playing the Florida Marlins, and I come in the dugout and I'm like, 'I can't believe he got to that ball, jumped and threw it.' And I got to see it in person and I'm on the field with him. It [is] memories like that that I'm going to hold on to and cherish."
Robertson added Jeter said hi to him as a rookie, which made him feel a little more at ease in the clubhouse.
Impressions: Michael Pineda looks as if he is in great shape -- a huge contrast from two years ago. He will compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Alex Rodriguez's locker is vacant.
Tanakapalooza: Masahiro Tanaka was given the honor of taking Rivera's old locker. Tanaka said he didn't know if he were worthy. Tanaka also said he will try to adapt to the American way of doing things. That will be part of his transition to the majors. Tanaka said that Hiroki Kuroda just advised him to be himself.
McCann can't: Brian McCann was cordial in his first spring training meeting with the media, but he didn't say much. He did express that he doesn't think he will be the next face of the Yankees after Jeter.
My best prediction for that honor is Tanaka because of his youth and the fact he has not played for any other major league teams. Plus, if you look at the next five seasons of the Yankees, he might be the most important player -- well, until they spend their next half billion or so.
Major League Baseball and the Players Association officially announced Thursday that the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins will play two exhibition games, March 15 and 16, at Panama City's Rod Carew Stadium.
The "Legend Series" will be designed to honor Mo, who retired after the 2013 season as the all-time saves leader.
"As long as I can remember, it has been my dream to bring my team, the Yankees, to play baseball in Panama," said Rivera, who will be an ambassador for the event.
"I grew up playing in Puerto Caimito, where I developed my passion for baseball and began a journey that brought me to New York. It is my hope that this legacy series will inspire other young players to pursue their dreams. I am very grateful to Major League Baseball, the Players Association, the Yankees and the Marlins in making this dream become a reality."
Rivera, along with Magic Dream Productions and Patricia Lynch will be the promoters of the event. A gala for both teams the Friday before the two-game series will benefit the Mariano Rivera Foundation.
Major League Baseball was last in Panama in 1947 when the Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers played several exhibition games.
Considering the nature of the 2013 season, it should not be surprising that the most memorable moment came not in the course of game action, but during a pitching change. Then again, the sight of Mariano Rivera leaving the mound at Yankee Stadium for the last time, led back to the dugout by his long-time teammates and friends Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, might have been the most memorable moment of any Yankee season in recent history.
That night, I wrote it was "the most emotional moment seen at Yankee Stadium in many years'', and in the Rapid Reaction I called it the modern-day equivalent of the famous Lou Gehrig "Luckiest Man" speech on July 4, 1939, after he had been forced to retire after having been stricken with ALS. Some readers correctly pointed out that Mo's retirement was in no way comparable to Gehrig's tragic death, although I meant to compare the two events in terms of their emotional impact on the crowd.
There was hardly a dry eye in the ballpark as Rivera, his body wracked with sobs, pulled Pettitte into a bear hug and wouldn't let go for what seemed like an eternity. But then, Mo had saved a major-league record 72 of Pettitte's 255 career wins and the two share a bond seldom seen in professional sports. Pettitte. who would pitch his final game Houston two days later, said, "It was just great," Pettitte said. "I don’t need anything else. I just feel so fortunate to have been out there and been a part of this weekend; the last few days have been incredible."
The tears were still flowing an hour later at the post-game press conference, as Joe Girardi, who coordinated Mo's heart-tugging exit on the fly, and, finally, Mo, took their turns at the podium.
"I don't know how I got those last few guys out. I don't know what I was doing," said Rivera, who revealed he needed a trip to the trainer's room to compose himself between the eighth and ninth innings. "Everything started hitting -- all the flashbacks, everything that led to this moment ... I was just bombarded with emotions. It was amazing, amazing. Spectacular."
And for one night, it no longer seemed to matter that the Yankees had lost the game, 4-0, or that there would be no October baseball for the Yankees this season, since they had been eliminated the night before, or that, from that night on, Yankee Stadium ninth innings would never be the same.
In a season filled with moments best left unremembered, Mariano Rivera gave us all one more moment never to be forgotten.
From opponents to fans to teammates and even the media, Mariano Rivera has been honored every which way in 2013. But he is not coming back for 2014 -- and the Yankees will be forced to figure out a new way to end games.
Rivera is replaceable. No, not in terms of sustained greatness. His longevity as the best closer ever is not what the Yankees are trying to replicate. What they need to do is find someone who can give them 44 saves in 51 chances, like Rivera did in 2013. In 2012, Rafael Soriano already proved it is possible for one year, untucking 42 times in 46 tries.
So let's look at the candidates to replace Mo:
David Robertson: Internally, there is the belief D-Rob could do the job as the closer. The key word there is "could," not would. Depending on the financial make-up of the offseason, Robertson could go into spring training as the clear favorite.
Now, some might point to Robertson looking shaky as the closer in the aftermath of Rivera's injury in 2012. While Robertson had a scary save and then blew a game before hurting himself and losing the role to Soriano, it is unfair to hold that against him. In 1997, Rivera blew three of his first six chances. The Yankees stuck with him and it sort of worked out, right?
Even though it doesn't make logical sense, the ninth is different than the eighth. The Yankees can't be sure Robertson is built for the ninth unless they give him the chance. They just might.
2. Joe Nathan: Nathan, 39, has been a successful closer for a long time. A local guy with his Stony Brook, N.Y., connections, it would be a nice story if he came to the Bronx to replace Rivera. In 2013, he saved 43 of 46 games. His ERA was just 1.39.
Yes, Yankees fans have seen him melt down in the playoffs, but if the Bombers eventually decide to invest in the back-end of the bullpen, combining Robertson with Nathan could maintain a strength for the club. Nathan won't be cheap. He made $9 million in 2013. Still, despite the expenditure, at least the Yankees will be getting younger in the spot.
3. Grant Balfour: Balfour had a very good season in Oakland as the closer, but is he better than Robertson? To me, if Balfour comes in as the closer, Robertson taking his job will be a possibility throughout the season.
Balfour, 35, had 38 saves and blew just three in 2013, but he only earned 34 saves in his entire career before that. Balfour made $4.5 million. I don't really see him as a fit unless he and Robertson are battling for the closer role.
4. Fernando Rodney: He was great two years ago. Not so much this past season. It would be fun to have him on the team so everyone can make a big deal about his hat and histrionics. I don't see him either.
5. Jesse Crain: Maybe use him for the eighth inning and Robertson takes the ninth.
6. Joba Chamberlain: OK, OK, you have read enough. Make your comments known down below and hopefully you will close out today with some pumpkin pie.
QUESTION: Who should replace Mo?
Nuevo nombre de la calle 4 y Broadway, ¡sólo por las próximas 24 horas! pic.twitter.com/h2xeaLOGhP
— Marly~ESPN Deportes (@MarlyRiveraESPN) November 21, 2013
Mariano Rivera siendo honrado con su nombre temporalmente en la calle 4 con Broadway pic.twitter.com/MCOgE309xi
— Marly~ESPN Deportes (@MarlyRiveraESPN) November 21, 2013