Good postseason observation from Joel Sherman, who writes that the bullpens in Boston, Detroit, St. Louis and Los Angeles should give the Yankees some hope — and perhaps some perspective — when it comes to replacing Mariano Rivera. From Sherman’s column:
The ongoing League Championship Series should be encouraging the Yanks that closers — by far more than any other position on the field — can be discovered. The four teams standing have someone in the role other than the pitcher who began the season. In some cases, it is a third or fourth pick. Yet, here they are.
In other words, the process is occasionally messy, but closers can emerge. And teams can go through ninth-inning uncertainty, and emerge clean and confident on the other side.
For a team like the Yankees, the trick might be looking for a reliable ninth-inning pitcher, not looking for another Hall of Famer. Unless someone is lights out from the very beginning, keeping Rivera’s career in perspective is going to be a necessary part of the process.
The situation makes me think of late 2012, when I got several emails asking — in the wake of early success from Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and eventually Manny Machado — why the Yankees didn’t give hot-hitting Tyler Austin a similarly aggressive promotion. At the time, Austin had been a world-beater in Class-A, and there seemed to be a sense that he could be — or should be — just as productive as the elite young hitters on other teams.
It struck me less as a condemnation of the Yankees development and more of a lack of appreciation for the raw talent of Harper, Trout and Machado.
Already, in discussing the Yankees closer opening, some have questioned Dave Robertson’s high pitch counts and minor health problems. Those things might be an indication that he’s not the second coming of Rivera, but it’s hard to see how those concerns suggest he’s not a viable candidate for a ninth-inning job.
Whoever replaces Rivera next season — Robertson, or whoever else — will not be compared to other closers. He’ll be compared to the greatest closer of all time. That’s the standard, just like the rise of Mike Trout somehow became the standard for the Yankees treatment of Tyler Austin.
Closers can emerge out of uncertainty, and that’s what the Yankees are looking for.
They can’t go looking for a Hall of Famer.
Associated Press photo