Mariano: “I’m coming back”

Finally, some good news for a change. After tearing his right ACL shagging fly balls prior to last night’s game, Mariano Rivera showed up to the park today and told reporters that he will indeed return to the Yankees in 2013. The circumstances are unfortunate, but this is the best news the team has gotten in quite some time.

The RAB Radio Show: May 4th, 2012

There is plenty to talk about this week, but of course we’re starting off with the loss of Mariano Rivera. Mike and I try to stay as positive as possible.

Then we have the issues of the team, which take up a bit more room. There’s sorting out the bullpen and rotation, and then the lineup. Oh the lineup. The guys are going to come around and hit, but now more than ever the Yankees need timing on their side.

Podcast run time 40:49

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Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Injury might not have altered Mo’s plans

Remember earlier this spring, when Mariano Rivera said he knew what the future held, but wasn’t revealing it? Those sure sounded like the words of a man who planned to retire after the season. But according to Reggie Jackson, that might not have been the case. He told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that Mariano was actually planning to pitch in 2013, reserving his decision only so he could ensure he remained at the top of his game. That is, the greatest of all time might have a few more rounds left in him, injury or not. Obviously he has a few obstacles to clear first — “We have to face this first,” he said last night — but we could see Rivera take the mound in the ninth inning a few more times before he decides to hang ’em up.

Poll: Replacing Mariano Rivera

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I can’t believe this post actually exists, at least at this point in time, but it does. The Yankees lost Mariano Rivera for the season last night, when he tore his ACL shagging fly balls for the umpteenth time in his career. It’s a brutal and devastating injury both on and off the field, but baseball is an unforgiving game. The other 29 teams aren’t going to feel bad for the Yankees and guess what? They still have to play tonight, tomorrow, and the next day. That’s baseball.

There is no replacing Rivera. No one can match his brutal effectiveness or that security blanket feeling, but the Yankees will have to run someone out there in the ninth inning. Fortunately, they have two ready-made replacement closers already on the roster and won’t have to go outside the organization for bullpen help (at least not yet). David Robertson has established himself as one of, if not the best setup reliever in the game over the last year while Rafael Soriano was brought aboard because of his All-Star season as the Rays’ closer in 2010.

Following last night’s game, Joe Girardi said he has yet to decide on a permanent replacement for Rivera but would have used Robertson in a save situation had one arose. While Roberson deserves the job on merit, there are valid reasons to let Soriano assume closing duties. For one, the toughest outs aren’t always recorded in the ninth inning. In fact, they often aren’t. There’s a case to be made that Robertson’s dominance would be best used squashing potential rallies in the seventh and eighth innings while Soriano gets the clean slate to start the ninth inning. There are arguments to made for each side of the coin.

Whoever takes over for Rivera is going to have the toughest job in baseball. The scrutiny will be intense and the standards will be impossible to meet given what we’ve enjoyed for the last 17 years. Someone has to do it however, and although the Yankees have been struggling of late, the team is certainly strong enough to have World Series aspirations. Having a strong closer to shut things down in the ninth is part of that championship formula.

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The end of the world as we Mo it

(AP Photo/YES Network)

I can’t remember the last time baseball made me feel sad. Maybe it was in September 2008, when the old Yankee Stadium closed. I remember walking out of that place with a pit in my stomach knowing I would never get to go back there again. 1995 sucked, 2001 sucked, and 2004 sucked, but I wasn’t sad. I was angry more than anything. Those were games though, the Yankees played and lost. It happens.

This … this was a freak accident. And that’s sad. It’s sad because I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to see Mariano Rivera pitch again. I’m not ready for this. I wasn’t even ready for him to hint at retirement in Spring Training and now you’re telling me his career could be over? That’s not fair. It’s not supposed to end like this. It’s supposed to end with Rivera throwing the final pitch in the World Series for the sixth time, with him pouring champagne on Derek Jeter and riding the last float down Canyon of Heroes. That’s the send off Rivera was supposed to get, not carried off the field following a freak accident.

After last night’s game, Mo said he wouldn’t change a thing. If he had a chance to do it over again, he still would have been out there shagging fly balls before the game. He’s been doing it his entire professional life and it’s part of what makes him so great. Rivera wasn’t just the greatest relief pitcher the game has ever known, he was the best athlete on the team and if they stuck him in center field, he’s run everything down from gap to gap. He was extraordinary at everything he did, including shagging fly balls.

I’ve been stuck in the fourth stage of The Five Stages of Grief since I went to bed last night. I denied it at first. “He’ll be fine, he was smiling as he was being carted off the field,” I said to myself. Then I was mad. “Why the hell is he shagging fly balls anyway? That’s so stupid and dangerous!” Then I bargained and that stage is always the ugliest because it makes you desperate. “I’ll do anything for him to be okay, please! … Ewww, anything?”

Now I’m just depressed. It can’t end like this. Rivera deserves better, but I know he’s a deeply religious man. This could be a sign that it’s time for him to move onto the next phase of his life. Who knows? I don’t and I don’t think Mo does yet. That’s the worst part, the not knowing. Not knowing what the injury was, not knowing how severe it was, not knowing if he’ll ever play again. Maybe I’ll accept it at some point and complete the five stages, but right now that seems impossible. We all know Rivera was going to leave us eventually, but he wasn’t supposed to be ripped away from us like this.

This is a sad day. A sad day for me, a sad day for the Yankees, a sad day for Mariano, and a sad day for baseball. Yankeeland may never be the same.