Our pinch hitter program has a week to go. We’ve had 19 guest bloggers on a variety of subjects and they’ve generated about 1,000 comments. Next up is Brian from Rivera’s Cutter.
Brian started his blog in 2006. He wanted to start writing because he didn’t like how some segments of the mainstream media were against the Yankees. He lives in Hoboken, N.J., and teaches at a private school.
Here’s his post:
The Yankees have acquired numerous relievers over the years who were successful with other teams: Chris Hammond, Paul Quantrill, Steve Karsay, Tom Gordon, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Myers and Alan Embree, to name a few. Of them, only Gordon was effective for the Yankees, though his meltdowns probably cost them the 2004 ALCS. While Joba Chamberlain was amazing for two months last season, the Yankees shouldn’t be forced to use a potential No. 1 starter in a setup role.
But to me, it became clear that under Joe Torre, the failing of the middle relief was a fait accompli. He had no faith in anyone who wasn’t named Mariano Rivera and the rest of the bullpen had little faith in themselves as well. We as fans learned to only trust Mariano. It was a vicious cycle.
Looking back as recently as last year, one walk issued by Farnsworth, Brian Bruney, or whoever else was often enough for Torre to come take the ball from them as the opening chords of Enter Sandman would reinforce to everyone that the Yankees had only one reliable reliever. They would leave the mound frustrated and angry, their confidence hurt. Their body language didn’t say, “Here comes Mo to help.” It said, “Everyone loves Mo and thinks I’m terrible.”
Rivera always was Torre’s security blanket, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player. But during the dynasty years, Torre also had an underrated weapon in Ramiro Mendoza. Mendoza and his rubber arm and power sinker handled intense workloads under Torre, twice exceeding 130 innings pitched (there were no “Ramiro Rules,” unfortunately). In 2003, Mendoza finally broke down and his career never recovered.
Torre found lesser versions of Mendoza in Karsay (’02), Gordon (’04), and Proctor (’06), but it was never quite the same.
One of Torre’s greatest assets as a manager was his ability to shield his players from criticism. On the field also, he never wanted them to get embarrassed. He was quick to pull both starters and relievers. However, this mentality backfired. It was common for him to use five relievers in a victory â€“ but why would you pull a reliever who is pitching well unless they have thrown too many pitches?
Struggles by the starting pitching only exacerbated bullpen problems. But again, everyone brought to Torre’s Yankees from the outside (Randy Johnson, Javy Vazquez, Jeff Weaver, Kevin Brown, etc) would struggle. Seemingly any pitcher, starter or reliever, would underachieve. So who was at fault? The pressures of New York or Torre?
This in many ways is up to Joe Girardi to decide. How will Girardi handle his pitchers? He will have a staggering number of quality arms at his disposal. In Florida, Girardi used primarily six young starters and an unknown bullpen and got them all to perform well. However, the following year several of the pitchers ended up on the disabled list. So was Girardi getting the most out of them or simply overusing them?
And perhaps most importantly: Can Girardi teach us to love Farnsworth?