Closer down. This was the most depressing scene surrounding a blown knee since Bob Huggins spooned Da’Sean Butler in the NCAA Tournament a couple of years back. Mariano Rivera, who’s famous for his BP shagging, took a misstep near the warning track in Kansas City last night and tore his ACL. Rivera was chasing a ball off the bat of Jayson Nix, known in these parts as “The Other Nix,” and had to be carted off the field in what quickly became a somber scene. Rivera’s meeting with the press following the announcement of the torn ACL was even more depressing, an emotional Rivera openly wondering whether he’d ever pitch again.
For a player already contemplating retirement in the near future, the prospect of facing a long and rigorous rehab when you’ve been remarkably healthy your whole career has to be a daunting. Part of Rivera’s legend is his apparent invulnerability to age and injury, and disbelief was a popular theme running through many of the reaction interviews. I have a feeling that once the injury sinks in, Rivera will attempt to return to the mound. If not for a full season, at least to dictate his ending on his own terms.
There’s certainly nothing to add to the legacy. I think back to the beginning of Rivera’s career when he was setting up and the universal belief was that we were watching the closer in waiting. I think about how many closers in waiting completely fizzle. The failure rate is high, the average career length for those who succeed is short. Rivera proved to be the ultimate outlier in both cases. His post-season success and consistency proved a challenge to even the most cynical of stat-heads who discount the closer position.
Perhaps we will see Rivera’s true value now that he will miss the remainder of 2012. The Yankees have candidates to replace him, but their readiness could be questioned. David Robertson, whose stats are Rivera-like, sounded like he was talking himself out of the job when interviewed last night. Whether that’s him being overly deferential to Rivera, or if he really would be overwhelmed by replacing a Hall of Famer, we won’t know until he’s given the opportunity. The other option would appear to be Rafael Soriano, who has the closing experience, but has been far less dominant than Robertson.
Closers remind me a bit of running backs sometimes, because I think you can often replace an average one, but at the same time there’s no substitute for the truly elite. It’s not all about getting the last three outs, it’s about the whole team playing with confidence because of the inevitability of the ninth inning. The problem for the Yankees is that the loss of Rivera weakens what was the strength of their staff. The top-7 ERAs on staff belong to relievers. The starting pitching in the 3-5 slots has been shoddy–at best. The Yankees are scoring some runs, but not enough to erase the starting pitching problems–now they need to find a new closer.
The Flyers dropped game three in overtime last night. A bit of a strange affair, and certainly enough to start bringing back some painful feelings from the past. There were times when the Flyers looked good last night, but there were far too many stretches where the Devils carried the play and the sequence of events that led to the game-winner for Jersey simply cannot happen. To me it looks like the Flyers haven’t fully adjusted from playing Pittsburgh. The Pens were willing to run and gun with the Flyers, but the Devils are a far more aggressive team on defense and the penalty kill. The Flyers can’t sit back and wait for the goals to start flooding in, they need to make some adjustments. It’s been a close series, and it’s far from over, but the game Sunday night will be huge and could end up determining how Flyers fans judge this season.
Bit of pitching mismatch down in Washington tonight. Kyle Kendrick, whose ceiling resides in the 6IP, 3ER neighborhood takes on Stephen Strasburg, who throws really, really hard and possesses a microscopic ERA. Strasburg suffered his injury against the Phillies in 2010, so I don’t think they’ve seen much of the phenom aside from that abbreviated outing. Of course, most games involving these teams this season have been pitching dominated. The Nats have scored 15 fewer runs than the Phillies. Did you think such a thing was possible? The Phils are actually 6-3 and averaging over 5 per game in their last nine. It’s drug them to the middle of the NL in runs scored. Rare air. If they can keep that up against Washington’s glitzy starters, it should bode well for them winning the series. Keep in mind, this is also the weekend where the Nationals were trying to keep Philly fans out of their park, so be sure to tune in and see how unsuccessful that was.
Ok, no more fluff and filler. We need a Derby winner. Here’s a complete preview of the Derby Field from someone who has watched a horse race this year–or at least I assume they have. Also includes photos, so you can pick which horse is the prettiest. You can’t underestimate the importance of the horse face test. You might not think I’m qualified to pick a Derby winner, but the 20-horse field is pretty much a lottery. Anything can happen. Some uninformed tips…
1. Never bet the favorite. That eliminates Bodemeister, who is trying to become the first horse since the late 18 hundies to win the Derby without racing as 2-year old. Is he named after Bode Miller? I don’t know. This also applies to the horse that emerged as the favorite last year when people were taking shots in the dark. So, bad news for Union Rags.
2. Beware Wordplay. Horse naming is a tough racket, so puns and other plays on words run rampant. Don’t be lured in by a horse like, “Daddy Nose Best.” That’s awful. But…
3. At least show some effort. Often times the owners will take an adjective and just manipulate that sumbitch. For example, Optimizer. That’s lazy. One step above Beauterrific (not in the field). Also lazy? Random professions, forget about Gemologist.
Ok, who’s going to take this thing? How about Hansen? Look at the albino freight train…
I don’t remember seeing many all white racehorses. I’m taken by the novelty. Plus, this will be the easiest horse in the field to pick out of the pack, and Hansen likes to run from the front, so you should at least have a few moments of hope if he happens to collapse down the stretch. Hansen will be in post-position 14 and is currently sitting at 10:1. Lock city. I’ll take Dullahan and Creative Cause to round out an epic Trifecta box. Nice box.