There’s great and then there’s Mo…
Seriously, he didn’t need to record 602 saves to prove that he was baseball’s all-time best closer. Today, Yankees legend (go ahead and attach the tag) Mariano Rivera became the all-time saves leader, eclipsing former San Diego Padres great Trevor Hoffman by one. I don’t want to take anything away from Hoffman who clearly was one of baseball’s greats, but he clearly limped to 601 saves in those final years with the Milwaukee Brewers. Rivera, in contrast, retains his position as one of the best in the game despite his age. Hoffman’s final year, despite his record 9 years with 40 plus saves, did not include at least that threshold. Rivera, on the other hand, captured the record with his 43rd save of the season.
Many Yankees fans worship Derek Jeter. While I admire Jeter, and I am glad that he has spent his career with the Yankees, my favorite current Yankee has been Mariano Rivera. Going into 1995, my favorite player had been Don Mattingly for a number of years. Despite his back ailments toward the end of his career, I always appreciated the character and the quality of the individual. When you think of guys you’d like to emulate, Donnie Baseball was certainly one of those guys. He was always genuine and sincere, and the one opportunity I had to meet him in person only reaffirmed that he is a quality individual. When Mattingly retired, I obviously continued to follow the team but I can’t say one player stood out among all others to me. That is, until Mariano Rivera emerged from the shadow of closer John Wetteland, who departed via free agency after the 1996 season. At first, I was skeptical to see the break-up of the awesome duo of Rivera-Wetteland. I loved the way Mo would come into the 8th inning throwing nothing but pure heat with his cutter, and then Wetteland would come on in the 9th like a psycho and retire the side, albeit with a few nervous moments. After Wetteland moved on to Texas, I wondered if Rivera would be able to make the conversion to closer. Rich Gossage had been my all-time favorite closer for years, and I didn’t think the team would have another who could match the Goose, let alone exceed him.
Rivera, from the moment I first saw him appear in the Yankee pinstripes through today, has been nothing short of the consummate professional. He is clearly the type of guy you want to be like. He accepts and forgets setbacks, and he never gloats in victory. I have never seen or heard him criticize others, and he has always accepted responsibility (which is huge for me). I will be sad when Mo takes the mound for the final time, but the way he has continued to pitch, that day isn’t coming any time soon. It has always been hard for closers to make the Hall of Fame, but I have no doubt that Mo will be a first ballot selection. Some guys are good, some guys are great, but none of the guys are Mo.
Frankly, I am quite surprised the Yankees find themselves in first place with a fairly comfortable lead in the AL East over the Boston Red Sox. If the Yankees had been able to play at least .500 ball against the Sox this year, they’d have the division clinched by now. On paper, I really believed that the Sox had the best team. But of course, you have to play the games, and the Sox have had health challenges that have caused them to fall behind the Yankees. When the Sox picked up former Seattle pitcher Erik Bedard at the closing deadline, I mistakenly thought it was building excess capacity. In retrospect, the Red Sox needed more help in the starting rotation, and even over-paying for health risk Rich Harden would have been worth it. I know that the Red Sox could still rally to capture the AL East flag, particularly considering the Yankees sluggish play of late, combined with the fact that they still have to play the hard charging Tampa Bay Rays seven more times. But with just a couple of weeks left in the regular season, I’d rather be up 5 games than down by as many.
That schedule hit me like of wind chill of 40 below…
I am closing out my first baseball season as a resident of Minneapolis, and I was able to see the Yankees when they were at Target Field in late August. Nevertheless, I was a bit dismayed when I saw the 2012 Yankees, and realized that the Yankees wouldn’t make the trip to Minneapolis until late September. On one hand, you want your team to clinch early, but I hope the team is still playing meaningful baseball when they make the trip to the Twin Cities.
My first season as a “local” Vikings fan is not going so well…
Speaking of Minnesota, life as a Minnesota Vikings fan has definitely not been fun this year. The Vikings have been a great first half team against both the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they failed to make the necessary adjustments at halftime. In both games, a miserable second half led to a close defeat. As the Vikings stand at 0-2, it’s clear that they could have easily been 2-0. I am not a fan of Donovan McNabb, but I recognize that having rookie Christian Ponder at QB would not have meant automatic victories. Teams can rebound from 0-2 starts, but they really need to win this coming weekend. That’s no small task given the opponent is Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions. No NFC North games are easy, but Lions definitely have the players for an offensive juggernaut. The Vikings need to reach deep within themselves, and play like they are capable of. They can beat the Lions, and hopefully they’ll prove that ‘on any given Sunday…’.
Have a great week, everyone!
With nothing to talk about, the speculation continues
about what free agents the Yankees are looking at. The latest has pitcher Justin Duchscherer and
outfielder Andruw Jones within the team’s sights…
UPI/David Richard via Newscom
I like Duchscherer, although he has been beset with
injuries and depression in recent years.
I recognize that he is considered an “average” pitcher, but he does know
how to win. He’ll never be the second
coming of Chris Carpenter, but when the alternative at the 5th spot
in the rotation is Sergio Mitre, he’d be worth the shot. I have quietly been hoping the Yankees would
sign former Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis but there has been no activity on that
front. It wasn’t that long ago
(pre-Ubaldo Jimenez) that Francis was considered the ace of the Rockies
staff. If the signing of Francis is not
meant to be, then I like Duchscherer over other options like Jeremy
Bonderman. I like the addition of either
Francis or Duchscherer even if somehow and magically Andy Pettitte decides to
return for one last season.
The other rumor has the Yankees considering outfielder
Andruw Jones. I actually wanted the
Yankees to sign Jones last off-season.
He ended up with the Chicago White Sox and hit 19 home runs. I realize that he will never be the Atlanta
Braves’ version of Jones, but in the right role, he can excel. I lived in the Los Angeles during his final
year with the Dodgers and it was pathetic to see Jones as a shell of what he
used to be. Still, I think he’d be a
good fit as a role player for the Yankees.
Jones could also step into left if either Brett Gardner or Curtis
Granderson missed any time due to injury.
What can Larry Rothschild do to restore Joba Chamberlain’s
confidence? With A.J. Burnett and Joba
at the top of his to-do list, I wonder if Larry fully understood what he was
getting himself into. If he can somehow
turn both of these guys around, he will be a legend in Yankees history.
Speaking of Rothschild, the Yankees announced their 2011
coaching staff and the only change was Larry in for former pitching coach Dave
Eiland. All things considered (and
nothing against Eiland), but I feel very good about the pitching being in the
hands of the long-time Cubs pitching coach.
It’s also good to know that Tony Pena will return to his role as bench
coach for manager Joe Girardi. I think
that’s a good pairing, even if Pena will have to coach against his son, Tony
Pena Jr., who is currently a member of the dreaded Boston Red Sox.
There has been so much talk lately about the impending
free agency of St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. Personally, I do not want to see Albert in
anything other than a Cardinals uniform.
Hopefully, the first ballot to be Hall of Famer and the Cardinals can
find a way to ensure that Albert stays in St. Louis for the duration of his
Scott Rovak/Getty Images
There are going to be some really great pitching
performances in the National League this season. Granted, the class of the rotations is the
Philadelphia Phillies, but so many teams have improved (like the Brewers, Cubs,
and Marlins to name a few). Plus, let’s
not forget the solid starting five of the World Champion San Francisco
Giants. Give me the #5 starter, Madison
Bumgarner, for the Yankees rotation…please!
I have to admit that I was pleased to see future Hall of
Fame closer Trevor Hoffman retire today.
It fixes his save total at 601, and certainly makes it within reach for
also future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.
With a two year contract and standing at 559 saves, there’s no reason in
the foreseeable future that Mo can’t erase the difference. I think both Trevor and Mo should be first
ballot elections, although I’d admit that Lee Smith should go in before either
one. With Mo, I have definitely been
grateful in recent years that I’ve been able to watch one of the all-time great
New York Yankees. It’s a lengthy list
but Mo will exit at the head of the class for his position. I am envious of anyone who actually saw my
idol, Lou Gehrig, play, but I’d also say that I’ve been very fortunate to see
Mo pitch. It’s nice to know that when
#42 is retired at Yankee Stadium for Jackie Robinson, it will be shared by
Mo. Nevertheless, I wish the very best
for Trevor Hoffman, who I hear is headed back to the San Diego Padres for their
Finally, I wanted to say how much I miss former Yankees
beat writer/blogger, Peter Abraham. I
keep up with him with Boston.com, and his latest post shows why he is simply
one of the best…if not the best.
Okay, one more thing.
The loss of Dallas Green’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Christina Taylor
green, to the shooting in Arizona is devastating. I can’t help but think of the great things
that she could have and most likely would have accomplished in her
lifetime. It was a senseless tragedy and
we are clearly the worse for it.
Somehow, the world is a lesser place today because of her loss. I am also saddened for the others that lost
their lives, and I wish for a full and speedy recovery by Rep. Gabrielle
Giffords. The restoration of her life
and career is so important to the balance of life…
With the Mark Teixeira signing officially out of the way, the Yankees began their off-season rummage search with the signings of Jason Johnson and Angel Berroa. I think I heard something about John Rodriguez too. Granted, Berroa was a previous ROY, but I really would not have known anything about him if he had not been traded to the Dodgers last year to fill-in for Rafael Furcal (I lived in LA at the time). I guess the Yankees are looking for bodies for Tampa next month…
As much as I love Andy Pettitte, I completely agree with the Yankees’ approach. I really think that no organization knows when to part ways with aging players like Boston, and now is the time for the Yankees to make one of those hard decisions. At this point in his career and given the current market, Andy is simply not a $10 million a year guy anymore. Those resources are better served elsewhere. With Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Alfredo Aceves, and now Jason Johnson in reserve, the Yanks should try to take a chance on someone like Ben Sheets.
Congratulations to Jason Giambi for his new deal, pending a physical, with Oakland. He did redeem himself in my eyes with his play last season, and I think it’s fitting that he returns to his original team. I fully expect to lose a game next year due to a ninth inning Giambino home run…
My favorite quote today was by Yankee co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner: “If some owners are upset we invest in our team, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.” I think Hal is proving to be a very capable leader for the organization.
Is Derek Jeter really going to 35 in June? Wow! Where did the years go? It seems like he was just an 18 year old kid out of Kalamazoo…
I kind of like those rumors of Trevor Hoffman potentially going to the Dodgers. It seems like a good fit. He makes his home in the area, and I don’t think Joe Torre wants to hand the full-time closer’s role to Jonathan Broxton just yet.
I saw a return of new articles reporting that Bobby Valentine would be a leading candidate for the Yankees managerial post if Girardi fails this year. Ugh, that’s not really something I’d want to see regardless of what happens and no matter how much Bobby V may have changed…
With the Yankees luck in recent years, Carl Pavano will win 15 games for the Tribe…
Starting to see more rumors involving Xavier Nady so I suspect that he may be the odd man out. All things considered, I’d probably rather see Nick Swisher go since I think he is better suited for first base than an outfield position as evidenced by Chicago last year. It would be a shame for the Yankees half billion dollar investment to go array because of poor OF decisions this winter (I am sure that my Red Sox friends are losing sleep over that one! Ha!).
Personally, I’d give a Hall of Fame Vote to Jim Rice if I could. Regardless of what has been said, the fact remains that the guy was one of the most feared hitters of the 70’s.
Whatever happened to Butch Hobson?…