What Went Wrong: Mariano Rivera


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.

Categories : Players


  1. Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

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

  2. Rich in NJ says:

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

    • jjyank says:

      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 says:

        How can a two year deal not implicate 2014?

        • jjyank says:

          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) says:

            Mo can stop time.

            The correct answer.

          • Rich in NJ says:

            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.

        • Cris Pengiucci says:

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

  3. Thunder Road Runner says:

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

  4. Robinson Tilapia (endorsing the SF Giants for WS Champs) says:

    Yeah, that really sucked.

    Hard to know what else we could even say here.

  5. Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

    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) says:


    • Mister D says:

      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) says:

        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) says:

          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) says:

            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) says:

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

              David Freese
              Pete Kozma
              Manny Machete

    • jesse says:

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

    • Mister D says:

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

  6. Darren says:

    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.

  7. MannyGeee (Eddard's Big left handed hairy monster) says:

    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)…

  8. gc says:

    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 says:

      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.

  9. Rocky Road Redemption says:

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

  10. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    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.

  11. Jonathan says:

    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.

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