Can we get a hold of ourselves here? Everyone just sit back and relax for a minute. The Sandman isn’t going anywhere yet. No, not our favorite drunken wrestler who launches chairs at partygoers in Yonkers, NY. I mean arguably the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. It seems that this year, the New York media found their rope to latch on to. Rather than beat the dead horse of A-Rod’s steroid scandal (I guess hip surgery is what makes reporters forget things like “cheating to get ahead in the game.”), all the New York papers want to talk about is the shaky inning Mariano had on Saturday afternoon when the Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Rays. One New York paper went as far as to say that while this year’s Yankee team is a special one, what would happen if this is also the year Mo falls apart?
Excuse me? Did I just read that correctly? Did the New York Daily News try and insinuate that possibly, after allowing less than one walk per nine innings (in fact, one walk per twelve innings, to be exact), and having a rough outing, that Mariano Rivera could be on the decline of his lights out career. You have got to be kidding me. The audacity of this idiot’s insinuation boggles my mind. The only reason Mariano even walked a guy, was because Joe Girardi had another managing blunder, and ordered Mo to intentionally walk Evan Longoria.
Let me dissect that one for you. Mariano Rivera, the most dominant closer in all of the major league, is told to intentionally walk a guy who hadn’t had a hit since May 30, and who is 2-for-7 lifetime against him. The guy wasn’t even at 100%. He had a bum hip, and you really want to intentionally walk him? That’s absolutely a travesty in my eyes. Do you not trust your closer, Old Faithful himself? Way to go, Joe. It bit you in the ass, because the winning run was from Longoria’s walk. Great job, there. Glad we dumped off Torre and shunned Mattingly for some of the wackiest managerial calls I’ve ever seen.
Mariano came back on Sunday, and was absolutely lights out. He didn’t just save the game. He was dominant. That walk must have sent shockwaves through Rivera, and sparked a fire under him the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while. Because, we’ve all grown accustomed to the calm, cool, level-headed Rivera, not the angry beast that came out on Sunday to finish off the ball game. Not to mention, he came back on Monday night for more of the same business. No hits, no walks, one strikeout. The line was identical to Sunday’s. Wait a second. I thought he was falling apart! I thought he was done! Finished! I called the pall bearers and everything!
Stop joking with reality, for the love of Christ. In his last ten appearances (not Christ’s, I mean Mo’s), he’s netted 7 saves. Two appearances were in extra innings at home (where a save is not possible in that situation), and only one loss (Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay). I don’t think we’re ready to put Mariano in a coffin yet. I realize the logic behind it. He’s 39 years old, he’s not going to pitch forever. At some point, we will definitely see Mariano Rivera face the facts that he just doesn’t have the stuff to face major league hitters anymore. I’ll be honest, that will be a sad day. Not so much because I’m an avid Yankee fan, but because we will probably never see a closer so dominant over such a long stretch of time. Name me one other closer in the past 15 years who has been this kind of dominant for that stretch. Sure you have guys like Eric Gagne and Brad Lidge, who are so dominant for a small stretch, but injuries get the best of them, and time is definitely not on their side. The only guys who come close are Trevor Hoffman (a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer), and Jonathan Papelbon. And I only throw Papelbon in because he is so dominant right now. I don’t own a DeLorean to go into the future to see how well he will continue to pitch, so for now, that’s it. Rivera, Papelbon, and Hoffman. Provided Papelbon keeps up his stuff, soon, he will be the only dominant closer left in the game that will span over the course of a decade or more. That’s sad.
Rivera, thus far, has aged like fine wine. He manages less blown saves as each year progresses while finding himself in more games, and continues to bring it home for the Yankees. With a team that is surely playoff bound, you have to know that Rivera will continue to be your rock. He has the same stuff he always had. He’s taken great care of his arm over the course of his career. We’re about one-third of the way through the season right now, and Rivera can potentially net himself over 40 saves for a 7th time in his career, and get the most strikeouts he’s garnered in over 5 years. It can be a great year for Mo, as well as the Yankees.
To question his ability after one blown save (his only of the season) shows that the New York media had that article in the can, ready to go after the first sign of trouble. It’s sickening to see how truly great players get treated in New York. I hope Mariano turned around and shut these idiots up, hopefully for the rest of the season. One blown save, and two purely dominant finishes directly after. Any doubt in your mind should not only be erased, but a firewall should be placed in to further prevent you from ever thinking that again. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit in the wind, You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you sure as hell don’t ever, under any circumstances, question the ability of Mariano Rivera.
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Erik Espenberg is a native New Yorker who is an avid fan of the Yankees, Rangers, and Jets. When not writing for Camel Clutch, he can be found killing his brain cells playing assorted video games. He can be contacted at [email protected].