Sunday, April 22, 2007

After Mariano

No, no, no. I'm not saying he's done yet. I'd be a fool to say that. Yes, his location was horrendous Friday night, but it's only April. The same way I'm downplaying A-Rod's heroics by saying it's only April, I'm downplaying Rivera's struggles. I'm being consistent. So this is a speculative piece.

What I'm wondering is, who will step into the closer role after Rivera? At 37, it's hard to imagine him pitching for much longer. I'd give him until '09, maybe. Then again, Trevor Hoffman (not to be confused with Travis Hoffman) looks ageless out there. But who will attempt to fill Rivera's shoes?

My pick? Scott Proctor will be the next Yankee closer. Joe Snorre loves hard throwers, and Proctor has proven he can handle New York. He's nowhere nearly as good as Rivera, but he's gotten out of a few big spots over the last year or two.

I don't see the Yankees attempting to get an established lights-out guy like Joe Nathan or K-Rod from the free agent market. First off, with more parity in the game, and in Nathan's case, a new ballpark coming soon for the Twins, more young guns are getting locked up long-term early in their careers.

Also, the closer position is probably the highest-pressure position in the game. Not just in New York, but in any market. Look at what's happened to the once-dominant Byung-Hyun Kim and Brad Lidge. Seeing the way those guys have been traumatized from giving up big hits makes me respect Rivera for surviving Sandy Alomar, Gonzo, and '04. Additionally, the fact that Rivera has stayed cool in the pressure-cooker of New York makes his legacy all the more impressive. So I think the Yanks will have a very hard time finding something they can be sure will be an effective closer in New York, a guy who can face the media and the boos after blowing a 6-3 lead.

But the day will come when Rivera and his abilities will go the way of Bernie Williams. Maybe that day has come. And it'll be very, very interesting to see who Ca$hman and Snorre decide to use instead. And I'd be surprised if that new closer will be a big-name free agent.

- I've got a lot to say about the Yankees-Red Sox series, but I'm going to hold off until after tonight's game. Let's see if Chase Wright can prove John Sterling isn't totally nuts.


Anonymous said...

Back to back to back to back.

Manny Ortiz said...

And belly to belly to belly to belly.