Who's up when The Sandman Exits?
There are few certainties in life, and in the game of baseball, nothing is ever certain…right? I mean, we never write who will win the World Series in ink. We can't say for sure if a player coming off a monster year will be able to do it again the following season, and as much as we want to believe that our favorites will always be with the same club, we know that isn't the case either.
There has been a routine that has become as close to certain as we will see in Major League Baseball for close to 15 seasons now. With a lead in the late innings the skipper of the New York Yankees will call the bullpen and awake a force of nature know as Mariano Rivera. At home games at the Stadium, speakers will blare the sounds of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" to the delight of the Bronx Bomber faithful…and to the anguish of the opposing team.
The outfield wall opens and with a jump skip #42 emerges, with a workmanlike jog to the mound. For as long as most of us can recall, that is just what happens. Mo comes in, hurls that filthy cutter, and the Stadium speakers switch to the sounds of "Ole Blue Eyes" and "New York, New York"…oh and John Sterling shouts…I'll spare you that one.
It's tough not to take Rivera for granted and when he does have the off appearance, we melt down and panic. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH MO!!??!"
In short, nothing. He is arguably the greatest closer ever to play the game. And as superhuman as he appears, nothing is certain…not even Mariano.
As we head into the autumn this season, Rivera closes in on the all-time saves lead. He will pass the great Trevor Hoffman and reach the top of the mountain. Mo is also in the autumn of his Hall of Fame career and there will come a time when the only certainty for the Yankees will be that the Sandman is no longer there.
So who will it be? Who can fill the enormous spikes left by Mariano Rivera? It's as if someone asked a group of folks on the street, "Ok, so…Superman can't make it…who wants to save the world? Don't everyone jump up at once!"
The Yanks have some candidates in their pen right now, but are they up to it?
Rafael Soriano - The Bombers went out and got the guy who was no slouch as a closer himself in Tampa Bay. He took the job knowing he would set up Mo and seemed OK with it. This season in the Bronx, he has been injured and inconsistent at best. Maybe it's an adjustment year…it's tough to make the transition to New York for some players. He certainly has the stuff, but can he be the new Rivera?
Joba Chamberlain - He is coming off Tommy John surgery and hasn't seen action since early in the season. Joba is nasty when he is locked in. He has no fear on the mound and wants the ball in big spots. Being shuffled back and forth from starter to the bullpen has hurt #62 a bit, but if he returns healthy and is given the chance to close, Joba could be the one to answer the call in the 9th.
David Robertson - The quiet southern kid has had a season that has made the league stand up and notice. He fastball is in the mid 90's with movement, and he has become as consistent a reliever as we have seen in 2011. D-Rob was an All-Star and deserved the nod as much as any in Arizona. He is not a giant man, nor does he have the flash of a Brian Wilson, but David looks to be the frontrunner to do the impossible…replace Mariano.
No matter who the heir is, the Yankees will miss the soon to be all-time saves leader…all of baseball will.
Who do you think is Mariano's successor? Tweet me @mikeyoh21 .