What Went Wrong: Mariano Rivera

Cashman: "I don't look at Nunez being valuable in an everyday role other than shortstop"
What Went Right: Rafael Soriano

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(AP Photo/YES Network)

For the last 15 years, the Yankees have always had one indisputable advantage over their opponent regardless of who they were playing. When push came to shove in the late innings, Mariano Rivera was always there to march out of the bullpen and restore order with his humble but brutal effectiveness. On May 3rd of this year, the Yankees lost that advantage.

A few hours before the Yankees were scheduled to play the series opener of a four-game set against the Royals in Kansas City, the team’s 25th game of the season, Rivera took an awkward step shagging fly balls during batting practice and crumbled to the ground on the center field warning track. He was carted off the field and taken for tests while his teammates went on to lose the game, and afterwards Joe Girardi shared the grim news.

“It appears that he has a torn ACL,” said the skipper. “He will obviously go back to New York and be examined by our guys.”

Rivera did go back to New York and he was examined by the Yankees’ doctors, but the diagnosis did not change. He had torn a ligament in his right knee and would require surgery that would all but certainly end his season. If there was any good to come out of the incident, it’s that a pre-surgery exam discovered a blood clot in his right calf. After a round of blood thinners and treatment, Rivera finally had surgery to repair the knee on June 12th, nearly six full weeks after the initial injury.

Prior to the injury, Mo had been pitching like his usual self. He actually blew a save on Opening Day, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks (one intentional) while recording just one out in the walk-off loss to the Rays. The next four weeks were vintage, flawless Rivera. He struck out seven and walked zero in eight scoreless innings across eight appearances, allowing just two singles and a double while going five-for-five in save chances. Rivera made his final appearance of the season on April 30th, saving a 2-1 win over the Orioles. It was the team’s 22nd game of the year.

Rivera was limited to ceremonial first pitches — not memorable final pitches — in the playoffs. (Alex Trautwig/Getty)

By all accounts, Mariano has recovered well from the surgery but not well enough to rejoin the team for the stretch drive, which Brian Cashman insisted would not happen the entire time. Rivera threw off flat ground in the Yankee Stadium outfield in August, which created quite a stir. He didn’t start jogging as part of his rehab until just a few weeks ago. Surgery to repair a torn ACL typically requires a six-month recovery period, and there was no bending of the rules for Mo.

Rivera told reporters that he was unclear about his future a few hours after the injury — “At this point, I don’t know. I’ll have to face this first” — but the very next day he stood at his locker and declared that he would return to the team in 2013. “I am coming back,” he said. “Write it down in big letters … I’m not going out like this.” It was a whirlwind 24 hours for fans, who were worried that they had already seen the final pitch of his career.

The Yankees survived the season without their long-time closer and can now look forward to having him back next season, but now more than ever there are questions surrounding Mariano. He’ll turn 43 years old next month and it’s unclear if and how the injury and long layoff will affect him going forward. Rivera has never once been a problem or any kind of significant concern for the Yankees, but there are reasons to be skeptical about his ability to be himself moving forward. After all the great things he’s accomplished in pinstripes, it’s hard to believe Mo landed in the What Went Wrong category this year.

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Cashman: "I don't look at Nunez being valuable in an everyday role other than shortstop"
What Went Right: Rafael Soriano
  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

    I don’t even need to read this article, just the picture at the top is enough to make me cry :(

    • jjyank

      I won’t lie, I felt a twinge in my heart looking at it.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      This is actually an accurate portrayal of how I feel whenever I think about what happened to Mo: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr.....qaqfyi.gif

    • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

      That might have been the saddest non-death related day of my life.

  • Rich in NJ

    If they are going to remain budget-conscious, an incentivized contract makes a lot of sense.

    • jjyank

      Why? I doubt Mo would be shooting for a two year deal. As long as there’s no 2014 money involved, I don’t see an issue.

      • Rich in NJ

        How can a two year deal not implicate 2014?

        • jjyank

          I think you misunderstood me. I meant that I don’t think Mo would want a 2 year deal, so he would be getting a 1 year deal. So that’s just 2013 money.

          • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

            Mo can stop time.

            The correct answer.

          • Rich in NJ

            I did. Sorry.

            I think it depends on how they intend to move forward. IOW, what will the addition of a big bat (or two) cost? How much more will Pettitte, Kuroda, and maybe Ich want? Can they move Granderson and gain that payroll space.

            On Mo specifically, I don’t see why it’s wrong to ask him to absorb some of the risk given that there is at least some uncertainty about his performance.

            • jjyank

              No worries.

              I don’t think Mo on a one year deal with stop Cashman from making any other moves, regardless how how much that 1 year deal is.

              • jjyank

                *will stop Cashman.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          There’s no indication he’ll look for a 2 year deal.

  • Thunder Road Runner

    Impossible to know what we can expect from this truly greay player going forward…

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

      I fully expect 30+ saves, a sub 2 ERA, roughly a 1:1 K:IP ratio, and a WHIP right around 1.00

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Sounds like Mo.

  • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

    Yeah, that really sucked.

    Hard to know what else we could even say here.

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

    My god…I’m on Mo’s B-Ref page right now…you really take for granted how great he’s been…since taking over the closers role in 1997 he has one, ONE(!!!!!!) season with less than 30 saves. It was in 2002. He had 28.

    • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

      +20,000,042.

    • Mister D

      Here’s a fun one using fWAR. Over the last 20 years, 96 different pitchers account for the 175 (arbitrary cutoff) best reliever seasons. Mariano has 13 of them, doubling up on 2nd place.

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

        This is why if the Monstars ever come to earth Space Jam style, instead of a game of basketball, I’m challenging them to one inning of baseball and bringing in Mo as my ringer.

        • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

          yeah, but who would you send to bat? No Yankees unless its a strikeout contest, or not in October, amirite???

          • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

            Only teh clutchiest. Mark Scuturo, Cody Ross, and Cody Ransom. (Remember the Yankees are a better TEAM when he’s at third base.)

            • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

              Also, the EddardWorld All Stars, as documented over the past few days:

              David Freese
              Pete Kozma
              Manny Machete

    • jesse

      He also has the greatest ERA+ of all time at 206.

    • Mister D

      Here’s another, also using fWAR: Soriano’s 2012 would have been the worst full season of Mariano’s career.

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM)

        That really says it all because as far as I’m concerned Soriano was the greatest story of the season after Andy Pettitte coming out of retirement.

      • Rocky Road Redemption

        That’s just ridiculous.

      • Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs)

        Untuck THAT.

  • Darren

    I don’t even think Mo should be in the category of “What Went Wrong”.

    He’s not Grandy or Swish or Russel Martin. He should have his own tag.

  • MannyGeee (Eddard’s Big left handed hairy monster)

    He sacrificed himself and his knee in order to provide the opportunity for Soriano to untuck himself to a season where he would opt out of his contract (which by all accounts looked like it would take a miracle to happen)…

  • gc

    Strangely, I’m not all that worried that he will be ineffective going forward. If it were an arm injury, I would be. I have this feeling that the year off will actually prolong his effectiveness in his career (if he decides he wants to keep on playing, that is). We shall see…

    • jjyank

      Good point. I thought the same thing about Pettitte coming back, and that worked out pretty well.

      Besides, its Mo. Trends derived from other pitchers don’t apply to him. Never bet against Mo.

  • vin

    MUCH better image…

    http://i48.tinypic.com/fyd15k.jpg

  • Rocky Road Redemption

    You gotta breathe a sigh of relief that we manged to clinch the best record in the AL without him.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    No need to worry about Mariano. He has a low mileage arm and he controls his weight. The only thing that may give him a problem is his legs. Most pitchers that I have heard talk say that the legs are the first thing to go.

  • Jonathan

    I was there in KC when it happened. If you recall at the time Gardner was out and Swisher was nursing an injury at the time too. I was in the first row behind the dugout for optimal autographage and when i saw someone go down in CF during BP I instantly yelled…” ANYONE BUT RIVERA OR GRANDERSON!” Finally as they drove the cart 5 feet in front of me and passed with a shocked Rivera in the back I knew what had happened. I thought I had just witnessed, in the 3-4 games a year I get to see the Yankees, the fluke career ending injury of my favorite pitcher of all time and my last image of him in uniform would be in the back of a John Deere cart with his hand on his forehead, head slumped and staring out into nothingness. I then said maybe the only good thing that can come out of this is he’ll come back next year. I look forward to 162 of Jeter/Mo/Andy next year.