Rivera’s understudy will be tested in October

Let’s get one thing out of the way. NOBODY is replacing Mariano Rivera. Not David Robertson. Not anyone. Someone else will close games for the Yankees in 2012, but they won’t be his REPLACEMENT.

50 some odd innings in a season isn’t hard to replace.
Nor is it hard to find someone to secure 30 some odd saves a year. Hell, Kevin Gregg did that year in and year out and teams couldn’t wait to dump him. If your ERA is around 4, then most times you pitch an inning with your team up by 3 or fewer runs, you’ll keep the team from taking the lead. Do that 30 times and boom, you have big save totals.

But Rivera had a quality that can’t be put into numbers.
Watch teams in the 8th inning against the Yankees in a close game.

Teams HAD to score in the 8th to tie it because they knew that Rivera wasn’t going to lose it.

He was a difference making closer, that most rare of commodities.

But as we know, that isn’t where Yankees are judged.
A great regular season can be totally nullified by a bad post season. Ask A-Rod who won 2 MVP titles but was showered by boos in both those years when his bat went AWOL in October.

And likewise a memorable post season can redeem a mediocre regular season.

El Duque Hernandez rarely put up great regular season numbers but came up big in October. Aaron Boone and Luis Sojo were marginal players in the Bronx but drove in Series winning runs and will always be considered to be Yankee heroes.

Rivera, whose regular season accomplishments had no equal, somehow was better in October.
8-1 record.
Lowest ERA in post season history (0.70) and had went 42 for 47 in post season save chances. Throw in two post season MVPS and more World Series clinched than anyone in history and you have almost a perfect resume.

Think of that. He blew 5 leads in 32 different post season series.

You think David Robertson, a talent pitcher to be sure, will come anywhere close to that?
You think Yankee fans, who have been spoiled to accept not only October appearances but also success in the 9th inning, will adjust well than a slammed door in the 9th?

Even if Robertson saves 40 games between now and the end of September, it can all be thrown in the dumpster with one bad inning in October.

No pressure.

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The advantage of a Red Sox season with low expectations

Tonight the Red Sox lost a heart breaker in extra innings.
And I’m not tallying anything.
I’m not banging my head against the wall.

I’m not HAPPY they lost. I’m not INDIFFERENT.
But I don’t think the Red Sox are doing squat this year. Even with the shaky Yankee rotation and now with the closer situation in flux, I don’t think the Red Sox are going to be anything other than what we have seen so far.

Win a bunch… lose a bunch.
One week look unbeatable… the next week look worse than the New York Knights before Roy Hobbs arrived.

They went on that unbelievable winning streak.
Guess what?
They’ve lost their last 3 to the A’s and Orioles.

It’s going to be that kind of year, Red Sox fans.
Get used to it and root for the kids (like Middlebrooks, Doubront and whomever else is coming up from Pawtucket) and enjoy the good streaks when they happen.

But don’t scan the standings or scoreboard watch.
After many stressful summers, this is one just for fun.

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Rivera says he will return in 2013. Why?

I understand there must be great disappointment felt by Mariano Rivera that his career, the likes of which have never been seen by a reliever, would end so abruptly and in such an anticlimactic way.

He was supposed to throw his last pitch in October, not finish his career tripping before a Kansas City game in May.

So he said with great bravado that he will come back, at age 43, from an ACL injury.

I don’t mean to be a jerk, and I have no reason to doubt Mariano’s sincerity. But why?
What for?
What would be the purpose of coming back?

Most All Star relievers flame out after 5 or 6 seasons. Very few remain oustanding for a decade.
Rivera went from 1996, when he was the set up man for John Wetteland to last year as an elite and dominating force from the bullpen.

He has more saves than anyone in history, has clinched more post season series than anyone and is widely considered to be the greatest reliever in baseball history.

His post season stats are super human and his regular season dominance has made him peerless.

So what exactly does he have to prove?
What milestone needs to be met?

All Individual marks have been achieved.
And the elusive title to redeem the failures in 2001 and 2004 came in 2009. That year every other closer for every other playoff team lost a critical game in the post season, except Rivera who was on the mound to clinch number 27.

It can’t be money. He’s earned over $140 million in his career.

Is it because he wanted a send off worthy of his career?

Other great relievers didn’t have the dramatic ending either.

Rich Gossage was also 42 in 1994. He had bounced around between 1998 and 1994, even going to Japan. He got a 3 inning save on August 8, 1994 for the Mariners in Texas. The players went on strike that week and Gossage never pitched another game. His career ended on the picket line.

At age 38, Rollie Fingers pitched his last game on September 17, 1985. It was a meaningless game between Baltimore and Milwaukee. Fingers faced two batters. One of them, Gary Roenicke, homered. After striking out Rick Dempsey, he never pitched again.

So what is it?

I’ll tell you what it is.
It’s the Yankee culture.

The Yankees can’t let go. The Yankees organization, their fans, the players, the bat boys… nobody can let go of the past and they can’t ever say good bye.

I’ve written about this before and even created a 25 man roster to illustrate my point, but the recent Yankee years have been a parade of former players having curtain calls and coming back two or even three times.

The Yankees are addicted to the rush of bringing a hero back either from injury, retirement or exile on another team. And part of that sensation is the assumption that when the player comes back, it will be just like old times.

Remember Billy Martin returning during an Old Timers Day in 1979… then in 1983… and 1985… and 1988.

Remember Clemens in the suite? Or the return of Tino?

Or now having Andy Pettitte prepare for his third tour of duty with the Yankees (once he gets out of his suit he had to wear to court.)

Of course Rivera is going to come back. That’s the Yankee script. It makes no sense for him to come back. He owes the Yankees, their fans and baseball absolutely nothing. And in a way, if he comes back a shell of his former self, he would have been better off not coming back at all.

And Yankee fans will never admit the POSSIBILITY that Rivera would be anything less than a Hall of Famer in his inevitable return.

Mr. Rivera, you have nothing left to prove and save for that initial standing ovation you will get when Enter Sandman plays one more time.

Your career already has a fabulous ending: The speech at Cooperstown.
Isn’t that better than an ill advised comeback?

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