Kallas: Is A-Rod Done? Part II And The Worthlessness (Sometimes) Of A Closer
By Steve Kallas
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IS A-ROD DONE?
We went into this in some detail just a few days ago (see Kallas Remarks, 10/4/11) and A-Rod did nothing in the Game 5 defeat to the Tigers last night to change the perception. Again, not that A-Rod can’t or won’t be a productive player in the future; it’s just that his days as A-ROD, THE ALL-TIME GREAT (you know, 50 homers, 140 RBIs, .325) are over.
His post-season futility (for the most part) continued last night against Detroit. It wasn’t just that he was fooled badly on a change-up from Joaquin Benoit to strike out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. It was the fact that Jose Valverde blew a 94 mph fastball by him in the bottom of the ninth to end the season.
Plus, there was that interesting play in the bottom of the fourth when, with A-Rod on second and one out, Jorge Posada (boy, is he going out with a bang) lined a hard single to center. A-Rod, rounding third, was held up by third-base coach Robbie Thomson. The Yankees wound up not scoring in the inning.
Bobby Valentine, on ESPN, roundly criticized A-Rod for taking a poor (wide) turn at third, stating that, had he cut it sharp, he could have scored easily. But nobody who really knows the game believes that Thomson would have sent A-Rod home with a better turn. Thomson, way down the third base line from the coaching box, probably decided to hold A-Rod before he took his turn.
The reason is simple: with one out and a hard single up the middle, and with Russell Martin and Brett Gardner coming up, you don’t want to take the chance of having A-Rod thrown out at the plate. In fact, the fascinating thing is, had there been two out, Thomson would have been much more likely to send A-Rod and, based on the throw, A-Rod would have had a good chance to make it.
Different game, then? Well, we’ll never know.
After the game, A-Rod took the questions and, essentially, stated that he has to get his health back.
But, make no mistake, the A-Rod you are watching today is not the A-Rod of yesterday. Whatever the reason, whether it be no steroids or too many injuries or age or whatever, is irrelevant. The reality is that the new 10-year contract he signed after opting out (which, by the way, was opposed by GM Brian Cashman) will be an albatross around the neck of the New York Yankees for years to come.
WHERE’S MARIANO AND THE VALUE (OR LACK THEREOF SOMETIMES) OF A CLOSER
We’ve just witnessed the reason why it’s very hard to put a great closer up there with the great players of all time. Is it true that Mariano Rivera has been a key factor, maybe THE key factor, in this unbelievable Yankee run? Absolutely.
But, frankly, the reality is that the closer, and his greatness, are a direct result of things he has no control over and no input into. That is, without a (small) lead, the great closer is virtually worthless (except in a rare circumstance) to a baseball team.
If you didn’t realize it before, you just saw it happen during Yankees-Tigers. Mariano Rivera, the greatest ninth inning closer of all-time (with a tip of the hat and some recognition to Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and other great 2-3 inning closers), had virtually no impact in a five-game playoff series. A scoreless third-of-an-inning in a 9-3 Game 1 win and a scoreless ninth inning in a 3-2 Game 5 loss were Rivera’s only two appearances.
It’s not his fault, of course. But the point is that, for a closer to be really valuable, he has to be given a lead.
And Mariano Rivera, and every other modern-day closer, has absolutely nothing to do with that.
Hopefully, you get the point. And that’s why, at least in this writer’s opinion, you can’t put Mariano Rivera up there in the Yankee pantheon with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle.