On Friday the 18th, Joel Sherman of the New York Post published a piece about how irreplaceable Mariano Rivera is. This sort of article is definitely nothing new; everyone knows just how special Mariano Rivera has been over the last sixteen seasons. Sherman ends with this:
For now Rivera will be on his usual low-throw output spring, saving those valuable bullets for the regular season. Obviously, at 41, there are fewer left. Tick. Tick. Tick. It can’t be avoided
The Day After Tomorrow is coming.
As I’ve done before, however reluctantly, I got to thinking about what life post-Mo will be like. My first thought was “The ninth inning may end up being a lot more stressful.” My second thought was “I feel so bad for the poor sap who’s got to be the closer after Mo.” My third thought was “Who the hell is that going to be, anyway?”
There are some in house candidates, like Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson (if they’re still around) and Rafael Soriano (if he sticks around long enough). There are also guys in the minors who may not work out as starters who could do it, but we’re (hopefully) a long way off from seeing if Andrew Brackman or Dellin Betances flame out as starters and are relegated to the bullpen. With the shift we’ve seen in bullpen usage over the last 15-20 years, what I’m suggesting is probably wholly unrealistic, but here goes anyway.
There is going to be an incredible amount of pressure on the next Yankees’ closer, simply because he’s replacing the greatest closer ever, who’s career will probably never be repeated (One man. One pitch. 15+ years? Not going to happen again.). Aside from just the ridiculously high-level consistency that was Rivera’s career, pressure will come from the fact that the roles are exactly the same. So, let’s change the role.
It’s no secret that the current model of reliever usage is inefficient at best. What I’d like to see in the Post-Mo Yankee world is something we haven’t seen in a while: a multi-inning reliever to close out games. Now obviously, this guy wouldn’t be able to close out every game; pitching multiple innings each night just isn’t possible. However, on nights he could pitch, it would give most of the rest of the bullpen the night off. And since he wouldn’t be able to pitch every night, it would help spread out the high-pressure situations, making sure one guy doesn’t get burned out by all the high leverage innings. Of course, like all other things, there are flaws to this plan. It’s also not likely to be implemented. Failing a return to “old school” relievers, I’d like to see the Yankees make more efficient use of their post-Mo bullpen ace–deploy him in high leverage situations, regardless of innings; forget about use of the save rule, that whole package.
Doing one of those two things would help relieve the pressure on the next Yankee relief ace. If he’s not going to be doing the exact same job as Mariano, the pressure may not be as high. We have to accept that there will never be another Mariano Rivera in baseball and make sure we remember that when his successor starts pitching.
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