In the back of my mind, something about Mariano Rivera’s recent comments about his contract bugged me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But this morning, it dawned on me that Rivera has changed his position a bit on the Yankees over the last few years.
Three years ago, when he negotiated his current contract extension, Mariano Rivera had nothing but praise for the Yankees. In this article in The Times from 2004, Rivera expressed his desires to remain in pinstripes. ”I don’t need to [be a free agent],” he said. ”This is where my house is. I’d have to find another house. This has been home.”
This wasn’t the first time Rivera had expressed these feelings. In 2001, he basically said the same thing, and in both 2001 and 2004, he hinted that he would probably pitch only until 2007. Well, 2007 has finally rolled around, and Rivera is feeling restless. He is, for the first time in his career, inching toward free agency, and numerous other teams could use a Mariano Rivera in their bullpen. As Buster Olney might opine, Mariano Rivera is a good fit for many, many teams.
So I wonder what’s changed in three years. It’s possible that Rivera is using his own impending free agency as leverage to help Joe Torre. Rivera could have no intention of leaving the Yankees, the organization he’s been with since 1990. Or it could be something else.
Maybe Mo is tired of the speculation surrounding his effectiveness and his elbow. Maybe he’s tired of the three-ring circus in the Bronx. Maybe he was dismayed to see his friend Bernie Williams so unceremoniously dumped last year and wants the team to recognize and honor those who have contributed for a decade or more to a great run.
Either way, something about the Yankees has affected Rivera since he last re-upped with the team. Hopefully, that something won’t be a deal-breaker this time around.