Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alas, poor Mariano, I knew him well
Is the Yankee closer done?
Rivera coming into the game: Simply not that scary a sight anymore

Generally, I am absolutely loathe to make snap judgements about a player after a short portion of the season has elapsed. It annoys me how people are already putting Matsuzaka, Lugo and Drew down as expensive semi-busts, for example. I hate reactionary opinions where someone says 'Oh God, that's four bad at bats in a row, he's done!! Let's get a new right fielder!!' Or shortstop, or second baseman, or whatever.

There's nothing worse than that 'mob mentality' that takes over when someone hits a mini slump. The Simpsons captures this 'unruly mob', panic mentality perfectly at least once an episode. Lenny, Karl, Moe or someone shouts 'Get 'em!' and the mob descends on the unfortunate victim.
'They aint gonna win the freakin World Series! Get 'em!'
If these guys ran the Red Sox, we'd be in serious trouble


Having said that, I have to ask, is the great Mariano Rivera done? To me, watching him pitch, he just doesn't look the same. Does he? There is no doubt about it, Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest pitchers that ever threw off a Major League mound, and he is a sure fire lock for the hall of fame. It's just, something seems wrong with him in 2007.

It's not like this is a 'one bad night' thing. As a Red Sox fan, even in 2004 and parts of 2005, Mariano scared the bejeezus out of me. When he came in the came it was generally a done deal. However, in 2007, that simply isn't the case. I have caught plenty of Mariano live this season. Marco Scuttaro got the ball rolling with a walk off home run against him early on in the season. Then the Sox spanked him around a couple of times. On April 28th, after watching the Sox thoroughly embarrass the Yanks, I asked;

''First of all, who was that fella your guys brought in to pitch the ninth? I couldn't tell, his number was hidden by the enormous fork sticking out of his back. Seriously though, what's it like watching your hall of fame closer being taken out in the 9th after basically throwing a can of gasoline on the fire? Very strange moment, I thought anyway. I respect Mariano, great pitcher and he has put up some unbelievable statistics. However, watching Joe Torre pat him on the back wistfully as he took him out, you have to wonder, is he done? Cooked? Finito?''

Rivera relived of duty in another blown save situation

Since then he has done nothing to alleviate Yankee fans fears that their great closer might no longer be able to dominate the ninth inning as he was able to previously.

One might have thought this would be a dominant season from the great closer. It is his last year of his current contract, and Mariano was very disappointed the Yankees chose not to extend the contract in the off season. He went as far as not ruling out a move to Boston in free agency, if only to light a fire under Yankee GM Cashman's posterior. Instead, problems, problems and more problems.

Up to Monday night Mariano was 1-3 on the season with 3 saves and his ERA stood at 8.44. Last night he came into the game with against Texas with the Yankees holding a comfortable four run lead. Mariano got out of the inning, however he allowed a ripped, line drive single to start the inning to Sosa. That just isn't the way the old Mariano would have started the inning. He would have come out and dominated and the other team would go down 1-2-3. On top of that, Torre was clearly bringing Mariano into a game with a four run lead to help bolster his wavering confidence. The Red Sox and Tito won't be bringing Papelbon into any four run games any time soon.

Monday night, against Seattle, was an even more glaring example of how Mariano seems to be in trouble in '07. In the ninth Mo entered a tied game and he blew away Richie Sexson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Guillen then bounced one to Jeter for out number two. The Yankee fans clamoured for that final out. A couple of years ago, it would have been a sure thing. Instead, on the first pitch to Adrian Beltre, a Rivera fastball was too far over the plate and Beltre hammered it over the fence in left center to give the Mariners the lead at 3-2.

How are Yankee fans taking this? How about this description from a Mariano Rivera related blog;

''On Friday night with the Yankees losing 7-4, Rivera entered to get work and he started off okay by catching J.D. Drew looking for the first out. After that, it was a disaster! Mike Lowell lined a single to right, Jason Varitek followed with a hard smash up the middle and Coco Crisp singled to make it 8-4. Dustin Pedroia was then walked and after 21 pitches the unthinkable happened and Mo was pulled from the game.''

The unthinkable has become the very-possible in '07. Finally, how is the former great closer taking this himself?

'Hello, Jesus, this is Mariano...'

"I feel I'm being tested right now, my character, my faith, how I conduct myself. It's different. But I love it. If God allows this test to be on me, hey, I'm willing to carry it. We are just starting; we'll see where we finish.''

It's always fun when a professional athlete starts into a religion-heavy monologue when discussing their sporting careers. Mariano might want to check how that worked out for Kurt Warner before his next interview.

One thing is for sure. Mariano may come back and prove he still has his fighters heart, but it is pretty clear the slow, downward slide has begun. What remains to be seen is if he can arrest the slip long enough to give the Yankees one more dominating season.

Or, as recent evidence has shown, is the Yankee closer simply done?







4 comments:

The Omnipotent Q said...

I'm not ready to pull the shroud over Rivera just yet myself. It's too long a season to do it this soon. But he's 37, and maybe he's passed his peak. We'll see.

I don't stop worrying about the Yankees until they are mathematically eliminated, either.

Cormac said...

I know, I know..I am just wondering, out loud..you know..

blacksoxfan said...

How old is Rivera?


BTW since when is having faith bad. I respect Rivera because he is a man of God.

Cormac said...

Mariano, born in '69, is 38 years old. He himself insists age isn't an issue and that his arm feels like it did last year, the whole idea of this piece is, to me, he just doesn't look the same. Something appears off. I could be wrong of course and Mariano could reel off a dominant stretch, however from what I have seen so far, something does not seem right when he takes the mound. He doesn't have the old drive you would see when he finished pitches and batters. What makes it doubly strange, again just to me, is that this is his contract year, so, you would have thought he would be absolutely nailing it down.

Having faith is bad as I am a man of Satan! 666! etc, etc...

Seriously, as for the 'faith' comment, I won't justify that with an answer suffice to say, I respect Mariano for having faith too. That's not what I was saying, and no knee-jerk reactionary comments required.

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