It seems that every year now when New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blows a save, fans and media alike wonder aloud if this is it. “Is the historic run over?”
You can expect sports talk radio lines to be lit up like a Christmas tree in New York today, not with the talk of the Knicks being swept (that Melo trade worked out well didn’t it?) but the fact that the 41-year old Rivera has now blown back-to-back save opportunities. The Yankees did come back to beat the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, but that’s not really relevant here. The fact that Rivera took the mound two times in a row and gave up the lead is. This is the first time Rivera has blown consecutive save chances since April 15 and 20 of 2007.
Rivera got the Yankees out of the eighth inning, but could not stop the Orioles from tying the score in the ninth. He gave up a run on two hits and a walk and struck out two while tossing 33 pitches and obviously laboring toward the end of his outing. Rivera now has an ERA of 2.53 on the year which is pretty good for most mortals on the mound, but a concern for him. In his last two appearances over 2 1/3 innings, Rivera has allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts with two blown saves.
8th inning set-up man, Rafael Soriano, was unavailable with a lower back issue on Sunday turning the 8th inning over to David Robertson. After the game, Soriano sounded like he thought he would be ready for Monday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox. The interesting thing here is that if Soriano is ready to go, Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, might turn to him for a save opportunity if the situation prevents itself rather than Rivera. This would not be because he’s replacing the Yankee all time great, but simply because the 41-year old is coming off a stressful 33 pitch outing. If you want to see some back page headlines in NY, watch and see what happens if Rivera doesn’t come out for a save opportunity tonight after blowing two in a row. If you think that wouldn’t stir the media pot, how about a tired Rivera getting send back out for the 9th and blowing a third save opportunity in a row?
Andy Pettitte retired prior to the 2011 season making the “Core Four” the “Core Three”. Jorge Posada is now relegated to a DH role, every time Derek Jeter comes to the plate there is talk of dropping him in the line-up or moving him from shortstop, and now there are signs that the immortal one may be showing some kinks in the armor. To say the Yankees as we knew them are no longer the Yankees as we knew them is an understatement.
The problem here is the Bronx Bombers don’t seem to have a contingency plan in place in the event that some of their older players are unable to perform. The Yankees just spent $30 million locking up the 41-year old Rivera for two more years, they guaranteed the 37-year old Jeter $51 million for three years (plus an option for a 4th), they have to pay the 35-year old A-Rod $31 million this year, $29 million in 2012, $28 million in 2013, $25 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015 and $20 million in each 2016 & 2017 (plus $6 million for each of five different milestones designated as historic achievements). For most franchises locking up these aging stars past their primes would be a recipe for disaster. It will be interesting to see how the Yankees try to reinvent themselves over the next few years.
Lost in all of this is the fact that CC Sabathia, who is the horse of the Yankee staff and the one starting pitcher who can be depended on every five days, has an out in his contract after 2011 and has been pretty coy with the media when questioned about staying in New York. If Rivera isn’t going to be Rivera anymore, and some of the aging veterans start to falter, one has to wonder whether Sabathia would want to return. I’m just saying….
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