Once upon a time, Baseball America once put Ruben Rivera on the cover of their magazine with the caption “The Next Mickey Mantle?” I haven’t ever been able to find a picture of it online, but trust me, it happened. Jim Callis and all those other folks readily admit it.
The Yankees signed Rivera as a 17-year-old free agent out of Panama on this date in 1990, and less than four years later he had become a fixture on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list. He was number 76 in 1994, then number two behind only Alex Rodriguez in 1995. The next year he was number three behind Andruw Jones and Paul Wilson. The year after that he was number nine, and in his final appearance on the list, before the 1998 season, he was number 40.
Rivera had cups of coffee with the big league team in 1995 and 1996, hitting .281/.377/.438 in 107 plate appearances, but they traded him to the Padres in April of 1997 as part of the package for Hideki Irabu. I suspect a deal of that magnitude would break the internet today. Rivera spent parts of four seasons in San Diego but never did live up to the hype, hitting .204/.301/.397 in nearly 1,200 plate appearances before being released and giving it a go with the Reds, Rangers, and Giants. The most memorable play of his career is the one you see in the video above.
The Yankees did bring Rivera back in between his stints with Cincinnati and Texas, but he was released in Spring Training after stealing a glove and bat belonging to Derek Jeter, then selling them to a memorabilia dealer for over two grand. The players reportedly took a vote and asked the front office to release him after the incident. Rivera has spent the last six seasons annihilating the Mexican League for the Piratas de Campeche, hitting .344/.446/.638 with 155 homers in 589 games. Those are Mickey Mantle numbers all right, they’re just in the wrong league.
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Here is tonight’s open thread. The Monday Night Football game is the Chiefs at the Patriots (8:30pm ET on ESPN), plus the Devils and Islanders are in action as well. Talk about whatever your heart desires, anything goes.