Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2005-04-08 05:27
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

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.

Hey Joe: Stop making sense, bro.

2005-04-08 07:15:20
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Good points all, though Fingers clearly has no concept of career archs or how players age.

Over at Off the Facade (the Most Valuable Network's Yankee blog linked on the side bar), Benjamin Kabak suggested, per a comment made during the ESPN News recap of Wednesday's game, that Rivera looked to have altered his follow through, perhaps as a result of an injury he's hiding.

So I asked Will Carroll, injury guru and resident pitching mechanics expert, about this and he said no dice. Rivera's always had a short follow through. That's good news, and also counters Sheehan's point about perhaps needing a DL stay to fully recover from the bursitis he suffered this spring.

I then asked Will about my theory (received from Steve Goldman), that Rivera's taking the winter off has resulted in him taking longer to get into regular-season shape. While he of course couldn't say for sure, he thought that held more water.

Here's hoping Mo gets a couple easy saves over the weekend, or even some smooth innings in a blowout, before the Yanks head up to Beantown.

2005-04-08 13:00:09
2.   Bob B
I'd not let the Red So see him in September if we have a good sized lead. I think that the Red Sox team have just seen too much Mo. It's one thing to throw him three days in a row against Kansas City another against a team that you play 19 times plus 7 in the playoffs.
Just my two cents........

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