”You need to use your brain to pitch effectively in the big leagues,” explained the future Hall of Famer. “You can’t go out there and do exactly what you want to do without a brain. As you get older, you mature and put your knowledge to work, It’s like when you go to school for the first time. In first grade, you’re not going to know what you know in the sixth or seventh grade. Pitching is just the same. If you don’t learn, you won’t have the success that you could have. I‘ve learned a lot over the years.”
Larry Rothschild, the Yankees’ pitching coach, agrees.
“Mariano is incredibly smart,” said Rothschild. “He’s also obviously incredibly gifted and has a great knack for trusting his ability. That’s why he attacks the strike zone like he does. He has a pitch that, if he throws it right, is going to get any hitter out, at any time. He knows that, and just as importantly, he knows how to pitch. There is the term, ‘he gets it,’ and Mariano gets it. Totally.”
[Painting by The Lost Collector]
Happy birthday Mr. Rivera.
The last major league player to wear Jackie Robinson’s number turns 42 today.
This is what the great W.C. Heinz wrote once about Sugar Ray Robinson, the one the old-timers all say was the greatest fighter, pound for pound, who ever lived:
“When the young assault me with their atomic miracles and reject my Crosby records and find comical the movies that once moved me, I shall entice them into talking about fighters. (Sugar Ray Robinson) will be a form of social security for me because they will have seen nothing like him, and I am convinced they never will.”
Mo Rivera, who got to 600 saves Tuesday night, who got to his own magic number in the season of Derek Jeter getting to his own magic number on that 5-for-5 day against the Tampa Bay Rays, will be that kind of social security for us someday. Because after everything we have seen from the Yankees in this generation, all the winning they have done since the winning really started with Joe Torre’s Yankees in 1996, Rivera has been the greatest of all of them.
Mariano is three saves away from setting the all-time saves record. I liked this bit from Craig Calcaterra over at Hardball Talk:
I think that Rivera is just showing — again — how true greatness and dominance can get actually get boring after a while, causing us to lose sight of it. I mean, it would be one thing if there was a dramatic arc to Rivera’s career. But really there isn’t. It’s been greatness since he began, followed by greatness, and continuing on through greatness, basically unabated. Sure, you have a season of him as a mediocre starter for spice. A high-profile blown save a decade ago. But really that’s not enough to break the chain.
First Place Yan-Kees
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First Place Yan-Kees
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FIRST PLACE YAN-KEES
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Ivan Nova, stud. Seven strong against a team that can hit. One friggin’ hit after the first inning. ROY? Let’s discuss.
Brett Gardner, come on back to the sunny side of par, baby. We’ve missed you. Two-run bomb to tie it. And the usual sick defense that never takes a day off.
Robinson Cano, DH, game-winning RBI, not bad for your day off. Dude is making the turn around second base on a heckuva career. HOF? Let’s discuss.
Mariano Rivera, the GOAT makes mince meat of MVPs.
Jose Bautista, siddown, sucka.
If that AB didn’t pump blood through your system, you’re following the wrong sport.
It’s September. The Yankees just took two of three up in Fenway. They’re in first place thanks to a brisk 3-2 victory over Toronto. And they control their own destiny from here on in. The weather in New York City was piped in straight from Heaven (or San Diego, depending on your definition of Heaven). The season can go anywhere from here, but man, summer’s ending in a perfect convergence of elements. Step back, drink deep, and smile. The Yankees are back on top. Even if it’s just for one night, it’s my kind of night.
Brian Kenny of ESPN Radio is one of the best sports talk show hosts when it comes to talking baseball. He knows the history of the game, but he also knows how to apply Sabermetric concepts in a meaningful and understandable way. So I was honored to have the opportunity to do a guest spot on the Wednesday night edition of his show. Right off the bat, Brian asked me about Jorge Posada and whether I felt he was worthy of election to the Hall of Fame. In trying to assess his case objectively, I looked at Posada’s career year by year and determined that he has put up about eight Hall of Fame seasons, based on OPS and fulltime playing status. That puts him roughly two to three seasons short of the call to Cooperstown. For those who prefer Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Posada has accumulated 44.7 of WAR for his career. That’s a respectable total, but well short of another contemporary catcher, Pudge Rodriguez, who stands at 67.2 for his career.
During the radio show, I compared Posada to Ted Simmons, another switch-hitting catcher, albeit from the decades of the 1970s and eighties. Simmons posted about ten Hall of Fame seasons, and did so in an era in which conditions were far less favorable for hitters. Simmons also had the advantage in WAR for his career, at 50.4. All things considered, Simmons’ ledger is probably sufficient to deserve entry to the Hall of Fame.
Right from the start, Simmons had a major advantage over Posada in that he arrived in the major leagues at a much earlier age. Simmons was 18 when he made his debut; Posada had to wait until he was 23. More importantly, Simmons established himself as a regular catcher by the age of 21, while Posada did not become the Yankees’ fulltime catcher until he was 27. That’s a six-year difference. So practically from Day One, Posada has had to play catch-up with his career. He did a terrific job right through last year, when he turned 39, before falling off a cliff in 2011. Barring some kind of late hitting surge this summer, Posada will likely be forced into retirement at season’s end, thereby preventing him from building up any further Hall of Fame value.
While I think that Posada is at least close to Cooperstown requirements (I mean, it wouldn’t be like putting Ron Hassey in the Hall of Fame), I suspect that the mainstream media will treat him less kindly in the Hall of Fame elections. Simmons received only three per cent of the vote in his first season on the ballot; in falling below the five per cent threshold, he fell off the ballot immediately, as the Hall of Fame rules dictate. And he hasn’t received much support from the new Veterans Committee either.
So if Simmons received such a small level of backing, Posada will likely struggle when his turn comes up for the first time in 2017. Yes, he’ll receive a boost from playing in New York and being such an important part of four world championship teams. But I don’t see him coming anywhere near the 75 per cent minimum needed for Hall of Fame selection. He’s more likely to fall somewhere in the 20 to 25 per cent range. That’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it won’t allow him to stand on the Hall of Fame stage next to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Of course, none of this is pertinent to the Yankees in 2011. Posada is having his worst season, and has been so thoroughly unproductive that he has been demoted from his job as the primary DH. I believe that Joe Girardi is completely justified in making the move; if anything, Girardi gave him more games and at-bats than he deserved because of his status as one of the Yankee icons.
The demotion leaves Posada as a glorified pinch-hitter and backup first baseman, a pair of roles that will translate into little playing time. Given such insignificance, some have argued that the Yankees should just release Posada and replace him with a more versatile and useful player. Ordinarily, I would agree with such sentiment, but releasing Posada is one of those rare cases where the affect of team morale is potentially more damaging than any gain that comes from replacing him with a better bench player. In spite of his paltry power and inability to hit for average, Posada remains one of the team’s respected veterans. He is regarded highly enough by the majority of his teammates that his mere presence in the dugout and clubhouse can be justified–at least for the remainder of the regular season. Simply put, the Yankees don’t need the disruption that would occur with the unconditional release of their catcher-turned-DH.
I’m not usually one for sentimentality when it comes to the cold, hard facts of constructing the 25-man roster, but for the moment, the Yankees are playing it right with Jorge Posada…
Am I concerned about the recent struggles of Mariano Rivera, another of the Yankee icons? Not in the least. Yes, he had a bad week, but it has only comprised three games. The start of the slump coincided with an appearance against the Red Sox, who have historically had their way with the great closer. Rivera’s velocity remains very good; it’s just the movement of the cutter that has been subpar.
It seems to me that Rivera ran into a similar slump last year, but it ended quickly and was not a factor in the postseason. So let’s give Rivera a few more days before we decide that time has finally caught up with the Baron of the Bullpen.
I still don’t understand why Girardi did not give Rivera an extra inning on Sunday night against the Red Sox. Though he had coughed up a one-run lead, he needed only nine pitches to get through the inning. He could have easily started the tenth. Even a subpar Rivera is a better bet than Phil Hughes making his first relief appearance of the season, pitching in the frying pan of Fenway Park, and having to do so with no margin for error.
Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.
Every year for the past decade there is a period, a game or two, a few weeks, when Mariano Rivera struggles. During those times, the newspapers have articles about the decline and his career. But now, that kind of article has more resonance. Like this one from Tyler Kepner in the Times:
Rivera, who turns 42 in November, has 29 saves. Only one pitcher has had 30 saves at that age: Dennis Eckersley, for St. Louis in 1997. Eckersley played one more season, as a middle reliever with Boston. In the last inning of his career, in a playoff game against Cleveland, he served up a homer to Manny Ramirez that might still be going.
Nobody wants to see Rivera end like that. Or like the great Goose Gossage, bouncing to seven teams in his final seven seasons, picking up a stray save here or there. There is nobility in pitching as long as you can, in making summer last as long as possible. But it would not suit Rivera, a career Yankee who defines athletic grace.
“I don’t think he will hang around,” the Angels’ Torii Hunter said. “He loves the game, but every player wants to be the best. You don’t want to be last known as the guy who’s giving up two home runs in the World Series. He’s not even close to where he’s going to be out of the game, but I’m pretty sure a guy like that would love to go out on top.”
The final mystery in Mo’s career is how it will end. We hope for it to be special, for him to “go out on top,” though we know the reality will be messier than that.
[Painting by Stephen Holland]
I was at Citifield last night. The place was quiet as the top of ninth began, the Mets leading by a run. I was with a friend who was at Opening Day of Shea Stadium in 1964. “It’s quiet because everyone is waiting for something bad to happen,” he said.
Expecting something bad to happen. Which is exactly what happened. An error with the bases loaded turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit.
I thought about Mariano Rivera as my friend and I walked through the parking lot after the game. We won’t have him much longer. Maybe another season or two. But the peaceful, easy feeling he gives us is temporary. It might dry up before retires. If only there was a way to bottle it.
The Yankees led 6-2 going into the eighth inning this afternoon, Bartolo Colon having out-performed Gio Gonzalez. Robertson-Rivera and Say Goodnight Gracie, right? Except it didn’t go down like that. At least it wasn’t smoothness as usual.
David Robertson gave up back-to-back doubles to start the inning and then he walked Josh Willingham. Now, it was 6-3. He rallied to strike out David Dejesus and got Connor Jackson to pop out in foul ground and was ahead of Kurt Suzuki but couldn’t put him away as Suzuki doubled to right. One run scored but Willingham was held at third. And that was the end of Robertson’s afternoon. He walked back to the Yankee dugout and kicked bench in frustration.
Enter Sandman, on the early side. Rivera threw two pitches and got a broken bat ground ball to second. Zip, zip.
The Yanks scored a run in the bottom of the inning and led 7-4. Rivera got a got a ground out to start the ninth but then Jemel Weeks singled up the middle. Coco Crisp followed with a ground ball to Robinson Cano’s left. The Yankee second basemen reached down for it but couldn’t grab it–and even if he had, it would have been a close play at first.
Godzilla Matsui was next and he singled to right and the bases were loaded.
Rivera got ahead of Willingham 1-2 but couldn’t put him away and finally left a cutter out over the plate. Willingham hit a line drive to left that dropped in front of Brett Gardner who was playing deep. A run scored and now it was 7-5. Nail-biting time in the Bronx with Dejesus up. On the 1-1 pitch, he hit a line drive down the first base line. It was right at Mark Teixeira, who made the catch, stepped on first, and then Frank Sinatra started to sing. Mo looked up at the sky.
Final Score: Yanks 7, A’s 5.
“It’s incredible how this game is,” Rivera said to Kim Jones moments later. “You think you have control over it and you don’t.”
Mariano Rivera is sore, according to the New York Post. Nothing that requires an MRI, understand, and Rivera is “not concerned,” but it’s something to be be aware of.
I’m still grumbling over Burnett’s performance in the seventh last night. Didn’t buy the papers on my way to work, just looked at them on-line now. C’mon, Meat, you’ve got to be better than that.
[Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images]
It was all set up. Freddy Garcia pitched a wonderful game and the Yanks led 2-1 going to the bottom of the ninth on a wet afternoon in Queens. Enter Sandman and the Great Mariano retired the first two batters.
That’s a wrap, right? The fans headed for the parking lot. But it’s not always that easy, even for the best. Jason Bay walked, Luke Duda singled and with two strikes Ronny Paulino slapped a cutter that didn’t cut far enough into right field and the game was tied.
Then, a ground ball went through Ramiro Pena’s legs:
Brett Gardner came up firing…
…and nailed Duda at the plate to send the game into extra innings.
But that was it for Mo and it came as no surprise with him gone, Jason Bay drove home the winning run for the home team in the bottom of the 10th. So the Yanks blow a chance for the sweep and the Mets head out to Los Angeles feeling better about themselves.
Final Score: Mets 3, Yanks 2.
As the Dude says, “That’s a bummer, man.” But these things happen, even to Rivera. So let’s not get un-Dude about anything. It was still a good weekend even if the Yanks couldn’t put the cherry on top. Tomorrow is another day.
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
Rivera reaches into his locker now, touches the home uniform he will wear. No. 42 on its back of course. This was Jackie Robinson’s number, one that will be retired permanently when Rivera retires.
“I think about putting on my uniform today,” he says, “and don’t worry about tomorrow. I think about the new day, the new challenge.”
“Let’s try to do it one more time,” he says.
He’s my favorite athlete.
Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were in their conference room, in Rockefeller Center, talking baseball, continuing a conversation that has gone on for about fifty years. The subject was Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ great closer, who owes his success to a single pitch, the cut fastball.
“One pitch,” Wilpon said.
“I don’t get that,” Katz replied.
“What do you mean?” Wilpon answered. “You can’t hit that pitch.”
“But they know it’s coming.”
“Still can’t hit it.”
“I don’t get it.”
Wilpon took out a baseball—there is often one within reach—and demonstrated how Rivera grips the ball. (“I don’t claim to know everything about baseball,” Wilpon said to me at one point. “But I do know pitching.”) Wilpon demonstrated how the ball rolled off Rivera’s fingers. “It can break either way,” he said.
“Still don’t get it,” Katz replied.
The beauty part is that it doesn’t make any practical sense. It’s a beautiful mystery, another reminder that sports are closer to art than science.
Thanks to RI Yank, we were hipped to a piece of analysis by David Pinto the other day:
Mariano uses one pitch, a cut fastball thrown between 90 and 94 miles per hour. There’s nothing soft, no off speed pitch to fool the batters. The cutter does it well all by itself.
Rivera induces swings. Batters swung at 49.4 percent of his pitches, which puts him in the 94th percentile among all pitchers in the majors in that time. Look at what they are swinging at, however. Batters swing at 38% of the pitches that should be called balls. That is the 100th percentile, the best in the majors. Rivera gets batters to see balls as strikes, and swing at them. In general, batters tend to get worse results when they swing at balls.
That’s not the only effect of the cutter, however. Of the pitches batters take, 36.1% of them are strikes. That may not seem like much, but the major league average is 31.8%, and Rivera’s number ranks in the 95th percentile. Not only is Mariano great at getting batters to swing at balls, he’s almost as good at getting them to take strikes.
And he does it all with one pitch.
Rivera’s one pitch is a daydream fantasy about sustained pleasure. There will never be another one like him. Not only because of the results but because how he gets them.
Should Andruw Jones get more playing time in light of Nick Swisher’s poor performance? Kevin Kernan says “Yes” in the Post.
Oh, and here’s more Mo: