Open Thread: Ruben Rivera


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.

* * *

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.

Categories : Open Thread


  1. Jesse says:

    My condolences go out to Greg Halman and his family after his tragic death. RIP.

  2. MannyGeee says:

    That Ruben Sierra guy was pretty awesome….. Oh wait.

  3. Jamey says:

    Oh wow I totally forgot about that with Ruben, lol. I just spit orange soda all over my desk.

  4. Mickey S says:

    How a player who only played in 22% his respective teams games can win the MVP completely devalues the award. Total bom bok.

    • radnom says:

      You’re tasked with putting together a team to compete for the next season. For your first pick, you’re given the option of having 2011 Verlander, 2011 Gardner or 2011 Swisher.

      Who do you pick?

      Gardner and Swisher are both very good players, but everyone would pick Verlander – he is more valuable than either of them even though he only plays in ~22% of his teams games.

      I don’t think Verlander should have won this year (although I would have him in my top 5), but from that example its clear that elite pitchers can be unquestionably more valuable than good hitters. Given that, I think its silly when people says pitchers should never win the award.

      It should be rare (and it is), but if a pitcher has a really great bordering historic season and the rest of the field is meh, then yes a pitcher can absolutely be the most valuable player in his league. Its happened before and will again.

      Verlander had a great year this year, but not an outrageous one, and there were a lot of really strong offensive performances this year as well. I wouldn’t have voted for him.

      • Mike says:

        You’re comparing the best 2011 pitcher to Swisher, why don’t compare him to, say… Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle, heck, even Pujols.

        If you were the Padres’ GM and were given the chance to draft a player, ANYBODY from the American League, would you rather have Verlander over, say, Miguel Cabrera, Adrián González or any other player who participates in his team’s 80-90% of games?

        Or put in other words, would you sign Cabrera, Pujols or Adrián for 20 millions if there was a clause in their contracts specifying they will only play at most twice a week?

  5. J.R. says:

    Wow, I never knew about the bat and glove scandal. That’s also a weird way to handle it, having the players vote. I can’t remember that ever happening.

    Can anyone else think of an example where a player was cut by team vote?

  6. jsbrendog says:

    weird he has annihilated the league and no one has even given him a minor league shot. mui interesante

    • JAG says:

      Well he’s 38 now, so there’s really no point in even offering a minor-league deal.

      • jsbrendog says:

        yup, there’s those things called details i sometimes neglect. nice.

        • Mike says:

          There’s also the whole “trying to buy his contract off the Mexican summer League”, which behaves like… a mafia. If somebody from México wants to make it to the Majors and is scouted by a team, that boy has to have his rights bought by a Mexican summer team first and then sold. He can’t go play to other countries without that happening first. AND when he is signed, 75-80% of his money goes to the team that owns his rights in México.

          Me and a few writers have been against it but it is something they just would never listen to. In one of the most recent examples, Luis Heredia signed with the Pirates for 3 million dollars, 2.75 millions approximately, went to the Mexican team, the rest went to him.

          AND that also happens with foreign players, though not as drastic, but still MLB teams try to be as far away from that league as possible. The winter league is different, and lots of MLB teams used to send their best players, but the competitiveness level is so high that nowadays a lot of them don’t want to play in winter LOL (Angel’s player, Andrew Romine, Austin’s brother, plays for Mazatlán this winter and is having an AWFUL AWFUL season, constantly booed for his lack of patience and indiscipline at the plate, not to count that he thinks he is the best thing that has happened to baseball since Babe Ruth).

  7. Art Vandelay says:

    “some of the worst baserunning in the history of the game !”


  8. candyforstalin says:

    two years ago, bobby abreu got twice the points and twice the votes zack greinke did in the al mvp voting. greinke had a 9.3fwar and 9.0bwar season. abreu had a 3.1fwar and 2.7bwar season. a lot changes in two years.

  9. Steve H. says:

    It’s funny that Montero has been considered the best Yankee offensive prospect since Jeter, when at the time, Rivera was the more highly regarded of the two.

  10. candyforstalin says:

    wow. 2/14m for nathan is soriano insane.

  11. DERP says:

    I thought Boston might get Nathan. He wasn’t bad last year (especially coming off TJS) and would have been good for them.

  12. Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan says:

    “My” Panthers just embarrassed the Devils. Ha!

  13. Marc says:

    I just spent way too much time looking at the top 100 for the past 21 years.

  14. RetroRob says:

    Nathan signing with Texas is fantastic. He had troubles against the Yankees when he was a top reliever. Now he’ll probably be good for a couple wins on the Yankees ledger come October.

    Thinking positive.

  15. Robbie Knopf says:

    Favorite Ruben Rivera stat: he is the only player in the history of major league baseball to hit 20 home runs and steal 15 bases while hitting under the Mendoza line. He accomplished the “feat” in 1999 with the Padres.

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.