When Yankees manager Joe Girardi is preparing for bed at the end of the night, he makes a phone call to one of his employees to prepare a fine bottle of wine. It is always the same bottle; it has one taste and only one taste. Yet this taste is the greatest in history, and it has gotten better with age. As you may have guessed, I am not actually talking about wine. I am bringing up the striking comparison between Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and a fine bottle of wine.
Girardi’s bottle of wine’s unique taste is actually Rivera’s only pitch: his dominating cutter. The bottle of wine’s greatest taste in history refers to the fact that Rivera is the all-time save leader with 624. Rivera has also gotten better with age. After tearing his ACL shagging fly balls in batting practice last season, Rivera is a perfect 16 for 16 in save opportunities this season at the age of 43.
The Yankees are holding down first place in the AL East despite the injuries to Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez. What is holding them afloat is surely Rivera’s dominance and the resurgence of castoffs like Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, and Kevin Youkilis. Unfortunately, Rivera announced in March that he will be retiring after this season. Rivera’s retirement, Jeter’s lengthy disabled list stint and the retirement of longtime catcher Jorge Posada mean we are seeing the end of an era in New York.
This season has become Rivera’s farewell tour, just as last year was Chipper Jones’s. Rivera will certainly be on the American League All-Star team this season, but this year’s game might have a twist. There is a movement circulating the baseball world to make Rivera the starting pitcher of this year’s game. We have seen such honorable gestures at the midsummer classic before. You might remember in the 2001 game, Alex Rodriguez moved over to third base to allow Cal Ripken Jr. to return to short stop. Ripken played short stop for most of his career, and Rodriguez’s gesture was a nice touch in Ripken’s final season.
However, I am against starting Rivera. Pitchers, and especially closers, are creatures of habit. Starting Rivera would most likely affect his performance. It would be a shame to see him struggle on national TV, and it could also affect his mindset when he returns to the Yankees bullpen.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.