The greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball entered last night's game in the top of the 9th. Yankees' manager Joe Girardi called upon Mo in a non-save situation, with the score tied at six. Not making Rivera's job any easier, were the big bats due up in Tampa Bay's order.
The scenario didn't work out well for Mo.
Rivera proceeded to surrender home runs to both Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria, and the Yankees ended up losing 8-6. The homer by Crawford was his first of the season. Granted, the short porch in right field may have helped the speedy left-handed hitter, but that little league fence is there to stay. No excuses.
Right now Rivera is 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA. Now that's not terrible, but we're talking about a surefire Hall of Famer here, a guy that boasted a 1.40 ERA in 2008. So the question has to be asked: is the downside of Mariano Rivera's career underway? Is his career speeding rapidly to its end?
And I pose those questions not because of the stats, but because of the deterioration of Mo's stuff. In his prime, he had the unhittable 95-96 MPH cutter. The past couple of years he's been around 91-94. This season, however, he's at 87-90.
That's not going to "cut" it when you essentially throw one pitch.
Not surprisingly, the news broke today that Rivera's having arm trouble. He supposedly had things taken care of during the offseason, but this stuff happens with older pitchers. Often they have procedures done on their aging arms, and they don't respond well to them. That appears to be the case with Rivera; many of us thought he was invincible, but everyone's decline has to begin at some point.
All this being said, the Yankees are in deep $hit. If I were a Yankee fan, I'd blame Brian Cashman. Cashman has done a horrific job in the past five-to-six years. If he thought he was safe with a bullpen of Rivera, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Jose Veras, Phil Coke, and Jonathan Albaladejo heading into the season, he was sorely mistaken. And we all can see that now.
Rivera's one of the oldest relievers in the game, Bruney's had serious arm trouble in the past, Marte and Veras are inconsistent headcases, and Coke/Albaladejo are overrated organizational arms.
This offseason stud middle relievers like Juan Cruz and Jeremy Affeldt were out there. I wanted the Mets to pick up both of them, but we ended up with J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez -- I can't complain. But the Yankees needed Cruz and/or Affeldt more than any of the legitimate contenders out there. Fittingly enough, Cruz and Affeldt have been excellent for their respective teams this year, the Royals and Giants.
In the end, I could go on forever. The point is, Rivera's old, he's hurt, and the Yankees are in a world of trouble.
(The Red Sox are the new Yankees. How did they make the transition? "JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land."
It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular
general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes
and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores
throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)