That depends what the definitions of ‘any closer’ and ‘prove’ areBy
Charlie Manuel is a confident guy. He knows he has a good team, and when the press asks him he’s sure to tell them. When talking about opponents he doesn’t gush about their greatness or their achievements. For the most part, when talking about opponents, Manuel notes how his team is going to play well against them. Like with Andy Pettitte tonight. Manuel talked only about the negatives.
“Andy Pettitte, he’s a lot like anybody else who ages — his stuff is kind of starting to dwindle down.” What does it say, then, about Andy’s postseason performance to date? It’s hard to put up those kinds of numbers with dwindling stuff, no?
Here’s a stranger quote from Manuel. In it he makes two mistakes, and they’re big enough to warrant a mention:
“We can hit Rivera,” Manuel said. “We can hit any closer.
We’ve proved that. He’s good. He’s one of the best closers in baseball, if not the best. He’s very good. But I’ve seen our team handle good pitching and, you know, we’re definitely capable of scoring runs late in the game.”
The first two parts of that quote are incompatible. The second part might be true; the Phillies might be able to hit any closer. Mariano Rivera, as we’ve learned over the past decade and a half, is not any closer. This doesn’t even need further explanation. His postseason ERA is ridiculous for a reason. You can go hit Joe Nathan and Jonathan Broxton and that would be a good job. They’re good closers. But they’re not Rivera.
That’s not to say that you can’t hit Rivera. It has been done. But beating other closers doesn’t necessarily mean you can beat Mariano. He’s on a level unto his own. JoePos gets it.
The next part of Manuel’s quote is just strange. “We’ve proved that.” You’ve proved what? That you can beat other closers? That’s great, but as established above, every closers are not Mariano. You can’t assume you can hit him because you can hit other closers. And, in fact, Manuels team has not hit Rivera in limited experience. They managed one hit in one inning off him in the regular season, and then couldn’t score in two innings against him Thursday night.
Manuel’s players have never proved that they can hit Rivera. They are a collective 8 for 47 against him with one double. The only two players with more than 10 plate appearances are Raul Ibanez and Matt Stairs, and they have four hits in 30 at bats between them. That’s hardly proving anything. In fact, if it proves aything, it’s that the Phillies hitters have as hard a time hitting Rivera as any other team in the league.
The Phillies are a confident team. We get that. They think they can beat anyone, as any team in their position should. I just hope they don’t really think that because they can hit NL closers that they can hit Mariano Rivera. He’s proven in both the abstract and in the concrete that he’s a cut above. The Phillies will have as difficult a time with him as the rest of the league does.