It's not surprising that everyone and his uncle has a theory about Mariano Rivera and his struggles against the Red Sox, is it? After all, sportswriters get paid for thier opinions, and sports editors must have a story. Tyler Kepner asked Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers what he makes of Boston's success vs. Rivera:
"Every ballplayer has a certain ballpark or a certain team they have a problem with," said Fingers, the first pitcher to save 300 games. "Mine was the Minnesota Twins and Metropolitan Stadium. When I pitched in Boston against the Red Sox, I had good luck against them. Same with the Yankees. That's just the way baseball is sometimes."
..."He gave up five runs [on Wednesday], but four of them were unearned," Fingers said. "If they make the play at third base, he's in the clubhouse with a save. I don't think anybody should have any reason to worry about Mariano Rivera. He's 35 years old - he's in his prime. Just because a guy has a couple of blown games, you can't discount the other 300 or so he's saved."
Nobody has addressed this "issue" more practically than Joe Sheehan, who earlier this week wrote that in April, we've all gots to chill just a little bit, especially those who are "serious about doing baseball analysis from a performance standpoint or a skills standpoint":
You have to absorb, rather than react. Everything that happens has to be considered in the context of a long season. Events that would be washed away in the heat of the dog days shouldn't be considered damning or glorifying because they happened first, or because they'll leave a guy with an ERA like an AM radio station for three weeks.
Sheehan tackled the Rivera story head-on yesterday:
Let's not kid ourselves. This is being blown out of proportion in part because Rivera was facing the Red Sox. Had he blown back-to-back saves against the Devil Rays in June--or to the A's and Rangers in August, as he did back in 2003--there wouldn't be headlines like "Time to panic in the Bronx?" or lines like "Has he lost it?" working their way into coverage. Because Rivera's failures this week came against the Red Sox, six months after he was credited with two blown saves against them in the ALCS, there's a rush to pass some kind of judgment based on a vanishingly small sample of events.
...Rivera may need to be kept out of back-to-back games for a little while, or even be put on the DL for two weeks so he can work through a possible tired-arm phase, or let the bursitis heal completely. He hasn't lost his skills, and the Red Sox don't have any special ability to beat him that goes beyond their having a very good offense. The games last October don't have any relationship to the games this spring, either. Handled well, Rivera will be fine.