Have you ever gotten advice from people in your life and disregarded it, only to obtain the same message through music and then grasp it? Sure you have. Music has that effect on people. Now, that's not to say that every song has a profound message to it. I'm pretty sure "Call Me Maybe" isn't going to inspire anybody to go out and do great things in the world. However, the great lyrics can stay with you forever and in this trying time in Yankeeland, one in particular comes to mind.
"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got 'til it's gone."
I heard it first from the Counting Crows but my mom would identify those words within their originator, Joni Mitchell. Either way, they are quite powerful and apply to many situations in life. People take things for granted all the time and as a result, losing these things is made more difficult by not appreciating what you had in the first place. With that being the case, you are going to be seeing a lot of struggling Yankee fans over the next few months.
By now it should come as news to no one that Mariano Rivera tore his ACL while shagging fly balls during warmups. It was the one thing that could never happen. The unflappable, stoic Yankee closer can't get hurt. He's not human so how could anything hurt him?
It turns out that he is in fact human. Who would have thought?
That's the point. Being the greatest ever has led people to believe that this Panamanian man cannot be affected. No matter what, if the Yankees are up by 3 runs or less, he will be on the mound to finish out the game. Since 1997 that has been true and 608 regular season saves later it seemed like Rivera would simply always be there.
The harsh truth was that had this injury not happened, there's a good chance that the 2012 season would have been Rivera's last. I know it is a tough pill to swallow and life without Rivera is not something any Yankee fan wants to think about, but sooner than anyone figured, that is at least a partial reality. With Rivera gone for the rest of this year (and vowing to come back next year), the Yankees and their fans will have a chance to preview life without Rivera before they have to accept it as a permanent reality.
It will be tough, as playoff series were often compared like this:
"The major difference in this series is that the Yankees have Rivera and their opponents do not".
The greatest luxury in baseball history is temporarily unavailable and for the first time since 1996 (when Rivera was merely a shutdown reliever for innings 7 and 8), the Yankees need to figure out who will get the final 3 outs for them. The good news is that there appear to be viable options.
One such option is the current 8th inning guy, David Robertson. Though he has a tendency to make things interesting, he hasn't crumbled. In fact, he's been arguably the best reliever in all of baseball over the past year. With no ERA and 21 strikouts in just 12 innings of work this year, it's safe to say that hitters are beginning to fear this guy almost as much as the famed #42. If he was the only late inning option, the team would be just fine.
While Robertson is probably the frontrunner, he's far from the only quality arm in the bullpen. Also of note is Rafael Soriano. Yes, the guy who was signed after Cliff Lee shunned the Yankees. After a bit of a struggle to start last season, Soriano has turned it on to become a valuable spoke in the Yankee relief wheel. This year, he's already 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA. Expect Soriano to be the new 8th inning guy but if Robertson struggles, Soriano is a capable option to replace him. After all, he is a former closer with 90 career saves, half of which came while playing in the AL East (for Tampa Bay).
Even beyond those two, there's still Boone Logan, Cory Wade, and Clay Rapada rounding out what is the best bullpen in the majors. Even without Rivera, this will be one of the top bullpens in baseball, and there may be an arm out there to make it even better.
When the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, a large piece to that puzzle was Phil Hughes. Though the hope was always for him to develop into a top notch starter, Hughes dominated out of the bullpen that year, eventually becoming the 8th inning guy. That job isn't available this time around, but if Hughes doesn't pick it up in the rotation, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him join the bullpen once again. Provided he brings the same positive attitude to the change that he did 3 years ago, the move could end up being quite beneficial.
Of course, no matter how talented or successful anyone else has been in the bullpen, you will hear this line, "he's not Rivera". So what?
At some point, probably after this year, what you are seeing today was going to be the Yankee reality. All this is now is a sneak preview of life after Rivera. The only difference is that this time around, the great #42 will be working his butt off to get back to the team, not enjoying the spoils of retirement. With his heart still with the team and with the talent already present in Rivera's bullpen, expect very little dropoff in production.
If anything, I believe this injury will motivate the underachieving Yankees. Knowing that Rivera is working his tail off to be back by October (highly unlikely but he's trying), expect this talented team to begin to turn it on and soon. It may have already started as last night CC Sabathia finally looked like the ace he should be in a 6-2 victory over the Royals. Oh, and Robertson pitched the 9th innning, striking out the side.
Even though he's temporarily gone, I'm sure wherever he was watching, Mariano Rivera was smiling. He, like all Yankee fans, should know that despite the injury to the legend, the Yankees are still in good hands and still have a great chance to make a run deep into October.