"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky: Less Is Mo?

This week’s briefing begins with a note from WFAN’s Richard Neer. As I drove home from the golf course Sunday, Neer was entertaining a call from a Mets fan, who in typical Mets fan form – actually, he was calm – ranted about Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran and how the Mets’ core players don’t play smart, and they don’t play hard.

Neer poo-pooed the call, saying – and I paraphrase – that Mets fans are looking for things to get upset about while the team is in first place. Mets fans can’t exist unless there’s something to kvetch about. Well, those calls are even more heated now, since the team from Queens changed its logo from “METS” to “BEARS,” and replaced their names with the “Chico’s Bail Bonds” sponsorship patch.

It got me thinking, though, about the legitimacy of the recent Mariano Rivera arguments that have pervaded local and national Yankee telecasts. Are fans and media alike looking for a negative amidst the best positive streak the Yankees have had this season? Or is it valid that due to his age, Rivera 1) should not pitch more than one inning when called upon, and 2) should not pitch on consecutive days?

My answer to both questions is no. I’m actually surprised the Rivera argument is the focus, when he remains the most consistent pitcher on the Yankees’ staff. From a relief pitching standpoint, who is more reliable? Who has been able to consistently throw Strike One? Phil Coke has, sometimes. So has Alfredo Aceves. Jose Veras? Edwar “Leave off the ‘d’ for ‘Don’t you know I’m throwing a changeup with two strikes’ Ramirez? Brett “I gave up Mark McGwire’s 62nd home run in ’98 and now I’m a Yankee” Tomko? Not so much.

Yes, Joe Girardi has to be mindful of Rivera’s age and use him wisely. Take Monday night, for example. Rivera had logged three innings and thrown 44 pitches over the previous two games. He had not pitched three consecutive days all season and was given the night off. A wise move by Girardi, and with a big lead, his decision seemed validated. That was, of course, until the ninth inning, when the ESPN team of Chris Berman and Orel Hershiser strained as Coke struggled to a “save” to complete the series sweep of the Twins. Intermittently, ESPN cameras cut away to Rivera sitting in the bullpen with his jacket on, looking like he wanted to warm up and get in there if necessary. Poor Phil Coke. At least he didn’t have to endure Berman’s incessant references to “Coke Classic,” “New Coke,” and anything other beverage jokes he could come up with. And he did secure the victory, much to the chagrin of the headline writers of the Post and Daily News, who were probably salivating at the chance of plastering “PHIL CHOKE” on the back page.

Wednesday night, Michael Kay lamented Rivera’s eighth-inning entrance both during the game and in the post-game analysis. Kay’s main beef was that someone else should have pitched the ninth inning, especially after the Yankees blew the game open with six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Rivera threw four pitches in the eighth and needed 10 to get three outs in the ninth. He also yielded his fifth home run of the season.

Kay used those last two points to validate his argument, which upon reading over again, still seems weak, and here’s why: Recent history has shown that the guys who were available – Veras, Ramirez, Tomko, and Jonathan Albaladejo – could not be counted on to get three outs and hold an eight-run lead. Kim Jones didn’t ask why Rivera pitched the ninth on Wednesday, and if it was asked later on, Girardi’s answers will be column fodder for Thursday’s rags.

My opinion: Girardi made the right move. As I’ve written in this space before, and reviewed many times when Steven Goldman’s columns passed my edits, sometimes a save occurs in the eighth inning. This game against the Orioles was one of those times. Leaving him in to pitch the ninth: why not? Isn’t that partly why he’s getting paid upwards of $15 million? What about the possibility that Rivera asked to pitch the ninth? Having been his former catcher, isn’t it possible that Girardi believes that Rivera knows his body better than anyone and that maybe he left the decision to the future Hall of Famer?

Looking at Rivera’s profile, his 2009 workload is being carefully planned, primarily based on pitch count. Wednesday was only the third time all season River was asked to get more than three outs in an appearance – it just so happened that it was the second time in his last three games. And he was pitching on two days’ rest, so he was fresh. Rivera averaged 30 pitches in the two four-out or more appearances. He threw just 14 on Wednesday.

If you were the Yankees manager, how would you handle Rivera? I would likely do the same thing Girardi’s doing. Oh, and under no circumstances, ever, would I have Tomko warming when I need to get one batter out in the ninth inning.

“When the misses are in the same spots (up and in to lefties and up and away to righties) and no adjustments are made, you have to wonder if anything’s going on between the ears.”
— Orel Hershiser, during Phil Coke’s ninth-inning struggles Monday

Until next week …


1 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 12:12 pm


Psst .... I think Mo has given up 5 dingers, not 3.

2 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 12:34 pm

Has there been a Rivera argument going on? If so, I've missed it completely.

3 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 12:36 pm

Berman had incessant references to "Captain Morgan" (and Coke). highly annoying.

i think the long layoff from the run-scoring bottom half of the inning was most bothersome in sending Mo back out. he seemed pretty fine though. if that kid hadn't hit a solo shot, there wouldn't be much chatter about it.

let's just hope Joba goes at least 6 strong tonight...

4 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 12:37 pm

As for letting Mo complete last night's game, unless the save was important to Mo (and I guess Girardi would know), he should haven't been sent out there with an 8-run lead.

5 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 12:44 pm

[4] Girardi later said, "Rivera's job is to close out the game." and that he was going out there no matter what. I caught some sound this morning.

6 Mattpat11   ~  May 21, 2009 12:49 pm

The idea of sending Veras Tomko and Albaladejo out there with no safety net terrified me.

7 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 12:54 pm

[5] Of course, that's a ridiculous answer. The only acceptable response would be, "I know it made no sense, but this is my second year and Mo is a legend. He wanted to add a save his career total and I wasn't going to be the one to prevent that".

If Mo wanted to end the game, I guess I can't blame Girardi. Also, while I wish Mo would have eschewed the save, he can pretty much do whatever he wants, in my book.

8 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 12:55 pm

"Recent history has shown that the guys who were available – Veras, Ramirez, Tomko, and Jonathan Albaladejo – could not be counted on to get three outs and hold an eight-run lead."

Please, Will. EIGHT runs? Four guys available?

MattPat if that really terrifies you ... if it REALLY does ... wow.

And Rivera had NO business asking to pitch the 9th and I'd be very surprised (and disappointed) if he did. No one knew or could have known how many pitches that inning would take, after he'd already warmed up and cooled down in the 8th.

His business is to close games? Well yeah, but, like, if the 8 run lead had emerged before Mo appeared would he have closed that game? The very thought is a joke, and underscores why Girardi's line is so stupid. It speaks STRAIGHT to stats. "His job is to get a save recorded if it is available."

I am still really unhappy about that appearance in the 9th. As I said, it feels a bit as if it disrespects the game, that chasing of a save.

9 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 12:55 pm

[6] An 8-run lead for Tomko is a lot less terrifying than another game this weekend with Mo unavailable.

10 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 12:55 pm

[7] crossed posts ... but I do agree. Obviously.

11 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 21, 2009 1:12 pm

[8] Thanks for instructing us on what Mariano Friggin Rivera has "NO business" requesting.

At least this conversation isn't based around the premise that Mariano is "done" after allowing a run last night. It's not much better to suggest that the 9th inning last night posed any significant threat to his health or future status, but I guess this place needs to burn something to keep warm in the midst of a nice winning streak.

12 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 1:13 pm

[5] Then Girardi's strategy is mindless. And Will, come on, you don't think the rest of the bullpen can be trusted to hold an 8 run lead for one inning? That's a bit far-fetched; I assume it was hyperbole.

The only legitimate reason I can think of to leave Rivera in is that under the circumstances it was low cost. He warmed up, he faced a batter, maybe facing three more (four, as it turned out) doesn't add much in the way of wear and tear.

I'm sure Mariano did not ask to be allowed to rack up the save. It's just not the way he thinks.

13 Mattpat11   ~  May 21, 2009 1:14 pm

[9] I've seen these people have seven and eight and nine run innings fairly regularly this year.

14 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 1:18 pm

Raul Ibanez, 14 HR 39 RBI, .385 ... who could have seen this?

15 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 1:20 pm

[13] I can't think of one 7-run inning by any from that group. The bottom line is if you need Rivera to close out an 8 run lead, you're biggest concern is not losing one game.

16 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 1:21 pm

Some of you are hilarious. Mo pitching another inning does nothing to affect his availability going forward, most especially this weekend. I have no idea from which parallel universe this untruth could have escaped. It's conjecture placed atop ignorance.

Given the status of the bullpen, I have exactly zero problem with Mo finishing off the save. Obviously, if they had that lead to begin with, Girardi never would have put him in.

Some of you need something wrong with the team during an eight-game winning streak? How about: Angel Berroa is still on the roster.

17 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 1:22 pm

[14] I wonder if any of the analysts who killed the deal will line up to admit they were wrong. Ibanez is even rating as a very good defender (last time I checked). What makes the signing better is the following:

Pat Burrell: 250 /.349 /.315 - 15 Day DL

18 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 1:24 pm

@ 15

The bottom line is if you need Rivera to criticize Girardi, your biggest concern is not reality.

19 Mattpat11   ~  May 21, 2009 1:24 pm

[15] Opening Day.

20 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 1:26 pm

[19] That was Marte.

21 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 1:35 pm

[17] It may be better to ask them after the season. I find it hard to believe that he learned to play defense at 37 years old. Especially since he is older than Burrell, and didn't hit as well. But time will tell.

22 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 1:49 pm

[21] Right, but considering the head start, it sure seems like the Phillies knew what they were doing (or got very lucky).

23 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 1:52 pm

[14] and the Phitin's are already out to a 6-0 lead today, scoring in each of the first 4 frames. utley just hit his 11th...

i just pray we decimate Myers, wife beating prickfuck.

24 Raf   ~  May 21, 2009 1:52 pm

[22] Given the history of both players, I'd say lucky.

25 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 1:54 pm

[1] Thanks Diane. Let's get someone with edit access to fix that.

[12] RIYank, I do believe that anyone should be able to get three outs. Even one of us. The point is, if you're Girardi, why take the risk with people who have not shown they can get the job done, under any circumstance? Better to lock it down with the sure thing.

26 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 1:57 pm

[8] The impression I got was that the decision was made prior to the 6-run blow-up in the bottom of the 8th. And no, I don't trust any arm in that bullpen as it's currently constituted to protect any lead of any size.

27 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 1:58 pm

[25] Girardi has repeatedly used Veras and Albaledejo in high leverage situations...if he isn't willing to take the "risk" of using them with an 8 run lead, how on earth can he justify using them as he has in the past?

28 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 2:15 pm

Will, again, I think William is right here. It is always possible to point to a disaster inning, for a starter or a bullpen team, but, again EIGHT runs?

Johnny, my point is that I respect and admire (read: love) Rivera too much to believe he would EVER insist/request that he go out for the 9th with an 8 run lead. If ANY closer, repeat ANY closer does that, he is doing the wrong thing for his team and putting his manager in a very bad spot. That last applies even more from a HoF closer, where the manager almost has to listen to him.

I do not believe Rivera did that. Girardi's quote 'his job is to close games' ... tells us all we need to know. THINK about it. Would he have closed that game if it was 11-3 and he hadn't gotten the last out of the 8th? No. The 8 run lead, Will, would have been safely entrusted to some mortal pitcher. We all KNOW it. The bit about not trusting them? Makes no sense.

Mo goes tonight for a save, Mo goes Saturday. Mo is out for Sunday, almost certainly. Will it happen? Stats and odds say it won't ... but it is silly to put it in play.

NO single decision is automatically going to have a bad consequence, judged beforehand. And avoiding the bad consequence doesn't make it smart, looking back. Running a red isn't an okay idea if no one sees it or gets hurt.

Girardi ran a red last night.

It isn't the end of the world, we can go back to talking about a sweep, but he ran it.

29 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 2:20 pm


Mo's HRA total has now been edited.

30 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 2:22 pm

@ 27

Your fingers move but no one can hear what you're saying.

The only one saying there was a "risk" is you. Those weren't Girardi's words. Instead, he said: Mo was in the game. Mo finishes the game.

Somehow you're arguing with that logic in the middle of May?

You're a weird dude.

31 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 2:25 pm

i hope Grienke & the Royales destroy Pavano today. game just started. carla just gave up a 1-out 2-bagger in the bottom of the foist.

32 thelarmis   ~  May 21, 2009 2:28 pm

wild pitch and another double. KC up 1-zip! might be all Grienke and his 0.59 ERA needs...

33 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 2:36 pm

Mo goes tonight for a save, Mo goes Saturday. Mo is out for Sunday, almost certainly. Will it happen? Stats and odds say it won’t … but it is silly to put it in play.

LOGIC FAIL. Stats and odds say it won't... and you don't want the manager using them?

And what the hell does your metaphor even mean? That there was risk in leaving Mo in? And what, there was no risk in taking him out? You're taking about a hypothetical on top of conjecture astride speculation.

Premise 1: The game on Wed was out of reach and so bullpen fodder could have finished the game.
Premise 2: If Mo only throws 4 pitches, he's available for three games this weekend.
Premise 3: By throwing 14 pitches, Mo is unavailable for three games this weekend.
Premise 4: There will be at least three games this weekend where Mo is needed.

How can we judge the truth of any of those statements? Premise 4 has an outcome, in baseball terms, but that's still assuming Mo isn't available for three of the next four games and that the ten extra pitches made it so. The stats and odds you're arguing against/for here are so infinitesimally small I really don't see the point. Really, what's the point fellas? Cause it's not about Mo

34 williamnyy23   ~  May 21, 2009 2:36 pm

[32] The Indian season is getting uglier and uglier.

35 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 2:40 pm


I blame it all on A-Mart(e)

36 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 21, 2009 2:44 pm

Mariano had already warmed up and already appeared in the game. He was already "used." Him tossing 10 no-stress (for a change) pitches in the 9th does nothing to change the status for any upcoming games. His future status was already put into play when he entered the game in the 8th.

You can't put the warm-up and the game effort back in the bottle as if it never happened just because it was only 4 pitches. Coming out after the 8th and pitching the 9th yielded the exact same result: a slightly used Rivera.

37 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 2:57 pm

Guys, I'll leave this, save for two things. Again, Bum, third time in a week, your tone suggests no one can possibly be sane and disagree with you ... you're saying it to william, not to me, but for the record, -I- sure hear him.

And yup, NO risk in any measurable baseball way, in taking him out.

As for misquoting on my part, I took it atraight from Will, Bum: [4] Girardi later said, “Rivera’s job is to close out the game.” and that he was going out there no matter what.

For a whole variety of reasons, mostly emerging in discussion here, I'll stake my command of logic and careful reading against yours.

If there is ANY valid point made here it is Johnny suggesting that 14 pitches = 4, and I have thought about it.

The issue is that entering the 9th, you have no idea how many pitches it'll take AND you know (again, you HAVE to know) the issues with appearing for two innings in a game. What I thought about was this: if Mo does only the 8th for 4 pitches, and then Thursday and Friday, is he as 'burned' for Sunday anyhow? And my honest answer, which I was coming back to post is: maybe he is. But doing the 9th is: absolutely. He may well be burned now for Saturday, depending on tonight.

Johnny I agree, your point is fair, his status was 'in play' as soon as he appeared in the 8th ... but surely you'll agree there are degrees of in play? (Surely!) Why else do we try to avoid two innings of appearance in a game? Why not have him pitch TWO innings in a tie going into extra innings instead of having him do one and hand it off? We don't. We almost never do. So why DO it in an 8 run game?

That's the red light.

38 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 3:11 pm

if Mo does only the 8th for 4 pitches, and then Thursday and Friday, is he as ‘burned’ for Sunday anyhow? And my honest answer, which I was coming back to post is: maybe he is. But doing the 9th is: absolutely. He may well be burned now for Saturday, depending on tonight.

This shows how insane you are. There are no answers in the reality in which we live to either question. You're delusional if you think so. There is no possible answer. None. Zip. Zilch. Nadda. You're just making things up at this point.

39 jonnystrongleg   ~  May 21, 2009 3:13 pm

[37] They never came to the red light since Mariano had no trouble in the 9th. It took him 10 pitches. This debate might have teeth if Mariano threw a lot of pitches, but he didn't. Those who have no faith in Girardi have no trouble imagining him letting Rivera labor, those who do can imagine him yanking him after a pre-set pitch limit. I can buy either, but it didn't happen that way, so there's no practical difference between 4 and 14.

40 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 3:24 pm

Okay, Bum, 'delusional' it is. Yup. Got it. I like to spend my time here making things up. Forgive me. Please. I hang my head in most abject shame. I have been so utterly out-argued. May never have the chutzpah to post again.

41 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 3:39 pm

Great comments everyone. I appreciate the feedback and the discourse. My intent was not to spur a hate match amongst some of you. Keep reading, keep up the feedback on both sides.

42 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 3:43 pm

[29] Thanks Diane. I don't have edit capabilities once a story has been published.

43 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 3:47 pm

[36] johnny s.l., that's approximately what I was saying in [12] is the only legit argument for leaving Mariano in the game. I didn't say I agreed, because I'm not sure the extra stress is so low as to be essentially costless, but it's a reasonable way to look at it. (And I didn't realize he only threw 10 pitches in the ninth -- that helps the case.)

Will [25], it's always better to have Mo finish a game than anyone else... if there's no cost. But generally there is a cost in future availability. So you do have to think about how much benefit there is in letting him finish the game. Last night, the benefit was extremely small. Maybe the cost was also very small, in which case I don't have a problem with it.

44 OsRavan   ~  May 21, 2009 3:51 pm

I've been noticing for a while now that Mo isnt capable of going 2 innings anymore. You see a *noticeable* drop off in the second inning. He is still GREAT for 1 inning. But he CAN NOT GO TWO!!!!!! Even when he manages to get a 2inning save these days he is walking on tightropes. And how many of his 2 inning saves have been blown? More then I can count. Just compare his numbers in the 9th inning when its his second inning versus when its his first. The numbers speak for themselves. 1 inning he is among the best in the game. 2.... mediocre at best.

And here is my problem with the people that argue that you should bring the closer in for the 8th inning if thats when the most pressure is. Let's say you are right. I'm on the fence on whether you are... but lets say you are right and statistically thats the smart thing to do. The problem is... whether it is smart or not... Girardi *cant* not bring mo out for the 9th if mo pitches in the 8th.

This may be stupid. But its also the reality of the situation. There would be a media/fan riot if girardi stopped pitching mo in the 9th inning and made him the 8th inning guy. Because stupid or not, the implication would be a slight to mo because mo wouldnt be the "closer' then.

So the reality of the situation is... if mo comes in for the 8th he is going to stay for the 9th. Regardless of what should happen..thats what *is* going to happen. Because to do otherwise in the modern game is to imply that mo isnt the closer anymore.

So. If mo cant pitch two innings effectively anymore...but is great for one (something I believe.) And if you bring mo in for the 8th he will have to come out to pitch the 9th....

Than logic tells us the smart thing to do is NOT bring mo out in the 8th inning. Even if that is the pressure one.

45 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 21, 2009 3:58 pm

Will, I KNOW you didn't intend to stir things up, and even if you had, discussion is what this place is all about. It is a baseball chat site, and a civilized one. I draw the line, and walk away when people start using language like 'delusional' or 'insane' (!) or 'Your fingers move but no one can hear what you are saying.'

It stops being a discourse right around there. It forces either amping the rhetoric the other way, or ... walking away. I did try, a couple of days ago, to make some pretty mild general points to Bum Rush, but it isn't my job, and they didn't 'take' anyhow. Maybe because it isn't my job.

46 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 4:05 pm

Bottom of the 6th .... Twins 16, ChiSox 0

Colon 2.0 7 8 1 2 1 2 4.23
Broadway 3.1 7 6 5 2 2 0 5.06
Gobble 0.1 1 2 2 0 0 1 10.13

How fast can Peavy get to Chicago?

47 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 4:14 pm

[44] Can you provide some numbers? Because I just looked at Mo's Baseball Cube pitching log for 2008, and I don't see anything like what you're claiming. I looked at every appearance of more than 1.0 inning, and it's, well, it's not just impressive, it's actually Mo-like. His ERA was 0.35, he had .85 K/IP (that may be a bit below his godly norm), and his WHIP was under 0.5.

I think I'd take that.

48 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 4:15 pm


Its now 20-0 Twins (waiting to attempt PAT).

49 Will Weiss   ~  May 21, 2009 4:21 pm

[45] Agreed, HCE. Too often we get caught up in trying to prove each other right and see who has better argumentative skills. I like stirring the pot, as long as well keep it civil. After all, we're a community, right?

50 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 4:22 pm

Here's a log of every Rivera save opportunity in which he pitched more than 1 inning:


51 Diane Firstman   ~  May 21, 2009 4:27 pm

"After all, we’re a community, right?"
Hmmm .... why do I think of THIS scene when reading that? :-)


52 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 4:27 pm

[45] [49] Let's face it, we're all a bit delusional and insane when we put on our fan hats. We act and actually feel as if it was really, really important whether Nick Swisher comes out of a slump, we're crushed when Mo blows a save, we're furious at Girardi's stupid move... you have to be a little delusional, don't you? That's part of the fun.
But yeah, civil, that's a huge part of it. Baiting Mattpat, contradicting williamnyy23, teasing weeping, those are some of my favorite Banter activities, but they wouldn't be fun if we stopped being, I dunno, respectful...? Civil. Something like that.

Toward each other, I mean. Not toward Kyle Farnsworth.

53 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 4:31 pm

I knew there must be a way to do [50] that, thanks Diane. I owe you an anagram.

I'm sure you've noticed that "VERAS" = "SAVER". Irony. I owe you a better one than that.

54 Bum Rush   ~  May 21, 2009 4:34 pm

Now "discussion" may mean different things to you guys, but throwing plain shit against the wall to see what sticks is a waste of time. Worrying about 14 versus 4 pitches, and pretending there's some significance now or in the future, is an utter waste of time.

Sorry, but I believe there are facts and then there's bullshit. I've been reading a lot of bullshit lately in the comment section. Let's argue about facts, not a hypothetical riding an assumption buck naked behind a postulate.

Can't be as simple as: Eight game streak!

If you want to bitch there's a clear target: Angel Berroa.

55 SteveAmerica   ~  May 21, 2009 4:40 pm

Brett Tomko gave up Mac's 62nd homer. Ok. That's relevant to what?

56 SteveAmerica   ~  May 21, 2009 4:42 pm

this really has to be the most inane "conversation' i've ever witnessed. And the outrage around it frickn stupefying.

57 cult of basebaal   ~  May 21, 2009 5:48 pm

Hey HCE, I take back what I wrote after the game a couple of days ago, you can totally show up at the end of games and make reasonable posts, anytime you want, you totally pay your dues in the asylum before 1st pitch ...

58 RIYank   ~  May 21, 2009 5:58 pm

[57] There are dues?
I may be in big financial trouble.

Hey, who's going to drop in to South Side Sox blog and point out that the Twins really aren't very good?

feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver