Last night, the good people over at MLBTradeRumors — and for those who read other Yankees blogs, you’ll recognize the byline — broke down the free agency of Mariano Rivera. They examined three things: The good (Rivera’s track record), the bad (his age) and where he’s likely to end up (back in New York).
Here are three other things to consider about Rivera: Three reasons he’s not getting nearly the publicity of Derek Jeter.
Rivera is also a sure Hall of Famer, with no obvious replacement, who’s stuck in free agency limbo. But front office types aren’t going on the record about him every other day. Salary predictions aren’t floated in every publication. There is no sense of trepidation, uncertainly or confrontation. It’s simply not as big of a story for three reasons.
What have you done for me lately?
One season. That might be the biggest difference between Jeter’s offseason and Rivera’s. Had Jeter hit the open market in 2009, after his near MVP season, there would be a lot less hesitation about his next contract. Rivera is about to turn 41 years old, and at some point he won’t be able to do what he does, but there’s still a lot of comfort in that 1.80 ERA. His velocity is diminishing, and he has some aches and pains, but Rivera was still able to get it done in 2010. He might be older, but it’s easier to feel confident about Rivera in 2011 than it is to feel confident about Jeter.
It’s the years, not the money
This season, $21 million was a lot to pay for a 36-year-old shortstop, but $15 million was a fortune for a 40-year-old closer. This winter, Rivera seems likely to get less money than Jeter, but both are going to be paid a lot. The money difference isn’t the issue. To me, it’s the fact Rivera is reportedly looking for a two-year deal. That’s what makes his contract so much easier to deal with. Even if the Yankees can’t go year-to-year with Rivera, a two-year commitment seems significantly smaller than three or four years for Jeter. That’s true even though Rivera is a full four and a half years older.
Let’s face it, there’s only one Derek Jeter
Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher of all time. He’s a singular player in the history of the sport, but he’s not Jeter. He’s just not. He’s not on TV every day. He’s not on every magazine cover. He hasn’t been the face of the franchise for more than a decade. As great as Rivera has been — and despite the fact statistics say he should be lumped with Jeter — he just doesn’t create the same fascination. Can you imagine if, at the GM Meetings, Randy Levine had said he wasn’t sure what was going on with Jeter? Impossible. But when Levine said it about Rivera, everyone moved on. He might not be a lesser player, but Rivera is a lesser celebrity.