Jun
24

For Rivera and Yanks, a trade that wasn’t

By

Still a Yankee after all of these years. | Photo credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP

What Mariano Rivera did last night was nothing short of amazing. Pitching in his second inning of work for the first time since Game 6 of the 2009 World Series and on the mound that was the site of his greatest failure, Rivera almost let this one slip away. After a Curtis Granderson home run put the Yanks ahead, the Diamondbacks loaded the bases with no outs against the Yanks’ closer. And then Mo went to work.

Facing Arizona’s 4-5-6 hitters, Rivera was ruthless. As I paced around my living room at 1:45 in the morning, the Sandman induced a foul out, a pop out and a strike out. The game ended without a fist pump, a little dance on the mound or even a smile. In fact, Mariano looked relieved and sounded more than a little bit annoyed with himself for nearly blowing his 72nd career win. The greatest demands self-perfection.

As Mo’s ERA dipped to 1.03, we thanked him for last night’s win. After a while, it’s easy to take Mariano for granted. He’s just there, ready to do what he needs to do to get outs, to save games, to nail down a W. He doesn’t need the histrionics of Jose Valverde or Jonathan Papelbon. He just is Mariano.

But more than once, the Yankees almost missed out on the opportunity to enjoy 16 years of excellence. As a young pitcher, Mariano was a hot commodity in the Yankee farm system, and George Steinbrenner always wanted the next best thing. Last summer, I reflected upon the time the Yankees almost traded Mariano and Jorge Posada for David Wells. Had that deal gone through in 1995, Yankee history would be shockingly different.

That wasn’t, however, the only time the team nearly traded their future Hall of Famer. After inheriting the closer mantle in 1997, Mariano had a post-season collapse against the Indians. The Yanks were five outs away from a trip to the ALCS when Rivera served up a two-out home run to Sandy Alomar. While Ramiro Mendoza would lose the game in the 9th, Rivera’s inability to nail down the game cost the Yanks a shot at a Championship Series rematch with the Orioles. It stung.

Some in the Yankee organization were still willing to part with Mariano Rivera over concerns of a bad arm, and that winter, he was again the subject of trade rumors. When the Mariners quietly let it be known that Randy Johnson was on the market, George Steinbrenner tried to pounce. Unbeknownst to then-GM Bob Watson, the Boss proposed a Rivera-for-Johnson swap straight up. The Mariners rejected that trade but came back with another shocking offer.

Seattle, trying to exploit its position, asked instead for a starter to go along with Rivera. That start just happened to be Andy Pettitte, but the Yankees were “turned off” by that request, The Daily News reported in November of 1997. That would have been a deal for the ages, and it wasn’t the only proposal floated with Rivera. The Expos asked for him along with Posada and Eric Milton in a potential deal for Pedro Martinez, and the Twins initially wanted Rivera in a package for Chuck Knoblauch.

We know how this story ends. The Yanks never landed Pedro; they got Randy Johnson seven years too late; and Chuck Knoblauch arrived for a package of nothing much and helped lead the Yanks to three World Series before losing it in 2001. Rivera, meanwhile, perseveres and not trading him remains one of the best moves the Yankees have made over the past twenty years.

Categories : Days of Yore

112 Comments»

  1. BigBlueAL says:

    Werent there rumors of trading Mo for Felix Fermin right before the 1996 season because they were concerned about Jeter playing SS??

    • bexarama says:

      I don’t know if these rumors are actually true but I’ve definitely heard them.

    • Kiko Jones says:

      from a 6/30/09 USA Today article:

      There was some debate before the 1996 season about whether Jeter was ready to become the everyday shortstop and the Yankees considered trading Rivera to the Seattle Mariners for Felix Fermin. They concluded Jeter was ready.

      “We thought we didn’t need a shortstop,” Cashman said. “We did not know we were sitting on a Hall of Famer.”

      Also, the Yankees did not protect Mo from the 1992 expansion draft that could’ve landed him on the Marlins or Rockies. Neither one picked him, of course, so…

  2. Dela G says:

    im glad we never traded mo back then, but man, i cant imagine how many games that 1998 team wins with randy johnson

  3. Jay T says:

    It’s amazing to find out all the deals that almost happened. Not just Mo but almost all of them. What about the proposed DiMaggio for Ted Williams?

  4. Captain Bawls says:

    I mean, not to sound blasphemous here, but if we had gotten Johnson for Mo straight up – I don’t think anybody would be complaining about that :P

  5. bexarama says:

    I know the 1998 team would probably have won, like, 125 REGULAR SEASON games with Randy Johnson but every time I hear rumors of Mo (and Pettitte!! I’m still very happy Seattle chose Hitchcock, not Pettitte, in the Tino deal.) getting traded my stomach just clenches up, I can’t help it.

  6. Opus says:

    Looking back on it, maybe the team would’ve won even more with Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez instead of Mariano Rivera. But I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I like watching this team win because of Mariano. He’ll always be a great person and I’m glad he’ll always be a Yankee.

    • Looking back on it, maybe the team would’ve won even more with Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez instead of Mariano Rivera. But I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.

      I find this highly unlikely.

      • nsalem says:

        Randy Johnson’s teams appeared in the post season 8 times.
        On 5 of those occasions his performances were so inept his team did not make it to the next round. When you are a number 1 starter and you pitch poorly twice in a five game series, you must shoulder a good deal of the responsibility (ie Mr. Wang) Yes he was dominating in 01 and deserves a great deal of the credit. He was also so dreadful in 5 other series and deserves an equal amount of credit for his teams failures. I am not arguing his full body of work, I am just pointing out that he pitched his team out of playoff series 5 different times. To say that the Yankees would have been better off with him rather than Mo
        is laughable.

    • Tampa Yankee says:

      But I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
      I doubt that. I’m pretty sure you would have enjoyed the dominance of Pedro and Johnson. Also, I think your views towards Johnson and Pedro are what they are because of what they did vs the Yankees after 1997. In 1997 we are talking about a pre-Boston Pedro and a pre-D’back’s Johnson. Also, Mo wasn’t “Mo” quite yet so that is also skewing your opinion.

      • That.

        People cease being insufferable jerkface assholes when they are on your team, winning titles for you. Then they become iconic personalities who are fan favorites even despite their horrible attitudes.

        See also: O’Neill, Paul.

        • Captain Jack says:

          Currently Joba Chamberlain falls into that category too, I have a feeling everyone would hate him if he were on a different team.

          • Meh, if he were on a different team, he’d just be a solid young starter emerging as a potential future star. He’d have made his debut in someone’s rotation in 2008, would have scuffled a little (like all young starters do), and would have been shut down when he hit his innings limits, come back in 2009, and probably would be making the leap right now in 2010.

            He’d be Ricky Romero.

            • Captain Jack says:

              The fist pumps, the DUI, the fatness…yeah I’m pretty sure we would definitely root against him.

              • Do we root against Jose Valverde? Or do we barely notice Jose Valverde?

                I think it’s the latter.

                • Captain Jack says:

                  Do we barely notice K-Rod?

                  • If he hadn’t beaten us in 2002, yeah, we probably wouldn’t have noticed him. At least not until he came to the Mets or people started saying dumb shit like “He’s better than Mariano Rivera”.

                    I’m not saying that we wouldn’t eventually have a dislike for Joba if he turned into a superstar douchebag, but if he was just a young starter in Kansas City or Oakland or Atlanta or Milwaukee, all his antics and theatrics would be a minor blip on baseball’s collective radar.

                    He’s only a story because he’s a Yankee.

                    • Captain Jack says:

                      If he hadn’t beaten us in 2002, yeah, we probably wouldn’t have noticed him. At least not until he came to the Mets or people started saying dumb shit like “He’s better than Mariano Rivera”.

                      Even then he became a superstar closer without that due to his nasty breaking pitch and histrionic tourettes.

                      I’m not saying that we wouldn’t eventually have a dislike for Joba if he turned into a superstar douchebag, but if he was just a young starter in Kansas City or Oakland or Atlanta or Milwaukee, all his antics and theatrics would be a minor blip on baseball’s collective radar.

                      He’s only a story because he’s a Yankee.

                      I disagree…if he becomes successful, he becomes a story. If he’s a story people begin to watch him, they’d notice his theatrics and his DUI incident (people knew when Brian Giles hit his girlfriend, and he’s the most underrated player of my lifetime). If he played in Atlanta people would definitely notice him. He’s a big story because he’s a Yankee, but Yankee or not he’d be a story because of his stuff.

                  • whozat says:

                    I barely notice KRod. I roll my eyes whenever I see him close out a mets win over the Yanks, and whenever else I run into a highlight of him I think “wow…with that motion he’s going to be hurt WAAAY before that contract is over…”

                    • Captain Jack says:

                      Well he plays for the Mets now…that’s where big names go to die. Anyone who says that they immediately didn’t think of his histrionics when people bitched about Joba’s fist pump is a liar.

                • bexarama says:

                  We’d probably be like “He’s a douchebag” when we played against him if he was fistpumping excessively or whatever (though that’s another debate for so many other times) but I don’t think I’d actively hate/dislike him. I can definitely understand the POV that Joba is not one of the more likable Yankees, however.

                • Dirty Pena says:

                  I think it 100% depends on the team. If Joba and Papelbon switched spots, I’m pretty positive I’d hate Joba more than I hate Papelbon.

        • RL says:

          No, Pedro and Johnson would have still been (or was in Johnson’s case) insufferable jerfaces with the Yankees. O’Neill, wasn’t good enough before the Yankees to me to be concerned with.

        • Sweet Dick Willie says:

          People cease being insufferable jerkface assholes when they are on your team, winning titles for you

          Eh, maybe you (and maybe most people) feel that way. But for me, no number of championships can make Clemens anything other than an insufferable jerkface asshole.

          And I’m sure I’d feel exactly the same about Papsmear, although I pray to Mo I’ll never have to find out.

          • JGS says:

            You’re saying you weren’t cheering for Roger in this game? I’m calling shenanigans

            • Sweet Dick Willie says:

              I NEVER rooted for Clemens. However, since I ALWAYS root for the Yankees, that presented a dichotomy.

              But I can honestly say that I never found joy in Clemens doing well. If he helped the Yankees win, well, I took joy in that, but I didn’t like him when he was w/ Boston, I didn’t like him when he was w/ Toronto, and I didn’t like him when he was w/ the Yankees. And I certainly didn’t like him when he was w/ Houston.

              Why? Because, IMO, he is an insufferable jerkface asshole.

        • pounder says:

          See also: Roger Maris.Reggie Jackson. Cecil B. de Fielder. Jose Canseco.et cetera,et cetera,et cetera.

      • Opus says:

        I never hated Pedro and Randy, I liked them. It was a pleasure watching two of the most dominating pitchers of all time perform (Pedro’s 1 hit, 17 K performance against the Yanks in 1999 is still one of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen). I didn’t say what I did because of hatred for them, I did because Rivera is my favorite player of all time, second place isn’t even close. I’ve enjoyed watching him play more than anyone. And I’ve even enjoyed seeing him handle disappointment. And I, like many here, enjoy watching homegrown Yankees succeed.

        (Sorry if I disagree with those that think they know how I’d feel better than I would.)

        • But the problem is you say:

          “I didn’t say what I did because of hatred for them, I did because Rivera is my favorite player of all time, second place isn’t even close.”

          If Mo Rivera had been traded for Randy Johnson in 1998, Mo Rivera would have never had the chance to be your favorite player of all time.

          Your argument is moot.

  7. steve s says:

    If you delete his huge successes against the Yankees, Johnson was mediocre to a bust in his non-Yankee post-season performances (even in his prime). Not so sure having Johnson over Mo/Pettitte would have meant more rings for the Yanks.

    • JGS says:

      Most pitchers are mediocre to bust when you delete their successes

    • If you delete his huge successes against the Yankees, Johnson was mediocre to a bust in his non-Yankee post-season performances (even in his prime)

      Randy’s postseason series:
      1995 ALDS v. NYY: Dynamite
      1995 ALCS v. CLE: Dynamite
      1997 ALDS v. BAL: Kinda crappy
      1998 NLDS v. SDP: Friggin’ Amazing
      1999 NLDS v. NYM: Crappy
      2001 NLDS v. STL: Solid
      2001 NLCS v. ATL: Friggin Amazing
      2001 WS v. NYY: Friggin Amazing
      2002 NLDS v. STL: Crappy
      2005 ALDS v. LAA: Crappy (and old)
      2006 ALDS v. DET: Crappy (and old)

      He wasn’t “mediocre to a bust”. He was good more often than not, and dynamite quite frequently.

      • Also:

        Pitcher A, postseason career: 3.50 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 4.13 K/BB
        Pitcher B, postseason career: 3.90 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 2.31 K/BB

        Pitcher A had 16 career postseason starts and went 7-9. Pitcher B had 40 career posteason starts and went 18-9.

        I think you can figure out who’s who and what this exercise means.

        • Captain Jack says:

          I think you can figure out who’s who and what this exercise means.

          All I get out of this is Pitcher B knows how to win.

        • steve s says:

          He was 2-9 in the post season if you don’t count his 5-0 against the Yanks (and the only other team he ever beat was the Braves). In 11 post season series his team lost 7 of them. His record in those 7 series losses was a combined 0-8! Based on my original statement how do you call that good and I don’t see how you can even call it mediocre. He was as big a bust in the post-season (excluding pitching against the Yankees as per my original statement) as any big-time pitcher ever!

          • Pitcher A, postseason career: 3.50 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 4.13 K/BB
            Pitcher B, postseason career: 3.90 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 2.31 K/BB

            Wins and losses are horrible ways to evaluate a pitcher.

            • nsalem says:

              Changing the comparisons from Johnson to Mo to Johsnon to Pettitte is a great strategy. This is one you can
              win. Sincerely Von McDaniel

            • steve s says:

              If you told me that Johnson pitched better comparatively in the post-season than he did in the regular season (excluding the Yankee post-season performances) but was just unfortunate when it came to wins and losses then ok; but it appears to me he was much better in the regular season than in the post-season in most of his non-Yankee post-season performances. Also I think it is fair to say no matter how poor a stat that you may feel Wins/Losses are, in the post-season Wins/Losses against the superior teams carries more weight and meaning than regular season Wins/Losses do (sort of axiomatic) and is a more meaningful measure of performance under post-season circumstances than regular season performances. Without doing any in depth stat analysis wouldn’t you rather have Smoltz over Johnson in a post-season must win situation just based on their respective post-season W/L performances?

              • Q: Without doing any in depth stat analysis wouldn’t you rather have Smoltz over Johnson in a post-season must win situation just based on their respective post-season W/L performances?

                A: I don’t know, because if someone asked me that question, I’d do in depth statistical analysis before answering intelligently, because people are entitled to thoughtfully considered answers to questions asked.

              • JGS says:

                Also I think it is fair to say no matter how poor a stat that you may feel Wins/Losses are, in the post-season Wins/Losses against the superior teams carries more weight and meaning than regular season Wins/Losses do

                Nope. Wins/losses aren’t meaningless during the regular season because you can rack up a lot of wins against bad teams, they are meaningless because they don’t tell you anything about how well a pitcher pitched. That’s still true in the postseason, and thus wins/losses are equally meaningless.

                Without doing any in depth stat analysis wouldn’t you rather have Smoltz over Johnson in a post-season must win situation just based on their respective post-season W/L performances?

                Why on earth would you only look at the W/L records and use that as your only criterion? Derek Lowe has 9 wins this year and Zack Greinke has 2. To answer your question, Dave Burba. That guy never lost a postseason game. Never

          • He was as big a bust in the post-season (excluding pitching against the Yankees as per my original statement) as any big-time pitcher ever!

            So, lemme get this straight. Your argument is, when you DON’T look at the biggest of his big games, he was a big bust.

            That doesn’t make sense.

            • steve s says:

              I see what you’re objecting to. He was a post-season Yankee killer no doubt so if I said he was the greatest post-season pitcher of all time (just counting the games against the Yanks) that would be an absurd statement as well. My original argument, though, was just a reaction to the “what if” Johnson was traded to the Yanks in 1998 (which means his 3-0 in 2001 never happens) and then focusing on his other post-season performances which were not up to his own regular season performances and were surprisingly not too helpful in getting his teams rings.

              • JGS says:

                The greatest (non-Mo) postseason pitcher of all time was Christy Mathewson. 0.97 ERA, 0.836 WHIP in 101.2 World Series innings. His record was 5-5

              • My original argument, though, was just a reaction to the “what if” Johnson was traded to the Yanks in 1998 (which means his 3-0 in 2001 never happens) and then focusing on his other post-season performances which were not up to his own regular season performances and were surprisingly not too helpful in getting his teams rings.

                It’s still a flawed argument, though, because you’re making the assumption that the good performances Randy had against the Yankees wouldn’t be/couldn’t be duplicated if those performances came against other teams if he had been a member of the Yankees.

                You’re subtracting his good performances against a great team and not allowing for the possibility that he’d have good performances against other great teams if he were here in pinstripes.

                That doesn’t make sense.

        • bexarama says:

          I know B is Pettitte, I’ll assume A is Johnson. tRA+ is real dude!

  8. Kevin says:

    If the Yankees had Pedro or Randy Johnson, it’s reasonable to believe they would have pitched well and late into ballgames. But who would have saved 23 consecutive games and pitched 34 consecutive scoreless innings at the back of the bullpen? Does having Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, or Ramiro Mendoza as a closer instead negate the great starting pitching?

  9. Peter says:

    I have a weird that the non-trade of Mo was already written up last year.

    This felt like reading from cache.

  10. Kiersten says:

    I think we can all agree that not making the trade worked out splendidly for us and making the trade probably would have worked out the same. When you’re talking about swapping HOF talent for HOF talent, you pretty much win either way.

    • NO WE CAN’T AGREE, BECAUSE RANDY JOHNSON IS A MEAN JERKFACE!!!

    • nsalem says:

      Would you trade Willie Mays for Nellie Fox?

      • No, I wouldn’t. Ironically, though, in your analogy, Randy Johnson is Willie Mays and Mariano Rivera/Andy Pettitte are Nellie Fox.

        Willie Mays and Randy Johnson are the “good” side of those potential HoF swaps.

        • nsalem says:

          a) “Yeah, I actually think swapping Mo Rivera and Andy Pettitte for Randy Johnson at the peak of his powers is a deal we probably should have made. I think we win MORE rings that way.” Your words

          b) Now you are comparing Nellie Fox and Mo. very weak

          c) If Randy was traded to New York and stayed he would have made a fortune in MaxClarity Ads
          d) Mo 5 rings to Randy’s 1. Rivera was a key element especially as a stopper in the last 4.

          • A.) Yes, I think we shouldn’t have traded Mo and Andy for Randy. That being said, I also agree with Kiersten above that if we did, it still would have worked out for us pretty well with numerous titles won.

            B.) I’m pointing out how your analogy sucks.

            C.) Nobody cares.

            D.) That’s a function of the teams that they’re on. If Randy was on teams with Jeter/Posada/Bernie/Paulie/Cone/Clemens/etc., he’d probably have more than 1 ring. If Mo wasn’t on those teams, he’d be Trevor Hoffmann.

            • nsalem says:

              A)We will never know, but we won five rings with Mo.
              B)But not as suckee as suggesting we should have traded
              Mo and Andy for Johsnon
              C)You would care if you had a complexion like Randy’s.
              D)Jeter,Posada,Bernie,Paulie,Cone and Torre have said over over that “no way we win those all those rings without Mo.(maybe you
              know something that they don’t).
              E)I agree with almost everything that you post, but I severely disagree with this. Peace

  11. bottom line says:

    This could be the best story I ever saw on RAB.

  12. The Fallen Phoenix says:

    Lost in the Randy Johnson v. Andy Pettitte dialog…the two tag-teamed to help the Diamondbacks win in 2001. Or have we all forgotten Game 6? I wish I had.

    …just saying.

  13. Total Dominication says:

    I take Pedro or Unit. Mo forgive me.

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