Kallas: Is A-Rod Done? Part II And The Worthlessness (Sometimes) Of A Closer

By Steve Kallas
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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.


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.

  • dabooch

    After reviewing the play where Valentine said a rod cut the base wrong what i saw was a bullet to center, a rod got a good jump BUT Austin Jackson must of been playing shallow and got a great jump because he had the ball as a hit third and his momentum was like the charge of the light brigade. A Rod would of been out…a rod is usually a great base runner, he’s got instincts.

  • Pete

    Just to frame the comments, I’m a 62 year old Yankee fan since 1956. ARod hasn’t been the same since the steroid thing, and no one can convice me they didn’t play a part. Just look at his body, compare a picture of him in 1998 and 2008.There’s more than age going on.
    As for Rivera, let’s call him the greatest closer (with deference, as you said, to Gossage and the rest of the pre-1 inning closers) of all time. If you want me to pick between Mantle or Jeter or DiMaggio or Berra or even Ford or Guidry or Pettite, Mariano finishes second in every one of those for me. But he is the greatest closer ever to lace them up and he deserves that. He also has had the good fortune of being a Yankee for 16 seasons and being part of a team that won over 1000 games in that time. But he’s still the best and more than that, he’s the kind of guy you want to be your hero. .

  • Batting coach

    Give A-Rod a pass this year due to injuries. Swisher and Teischera have bombed in three post seasons because they don’t know how to adjust to great pitchers. If the Yankees bats continue the same apporach next year–guess what will happen, Kevin Long? Either bring in a new batting coach, a hitter who is expert at small ball and break up the middle line up, or face thee same fate next year!

  • Yankeedogma

    all year long the yankees had problems with true #1 and some #2’s. they do not know how to manufacture a run, when needed. Girardi may be getting praised for his managing of the pitching staff but the truth is when did we see a truly well executed squeeze or safety squeeze or a hit and run or stolen base between gardner and jeter.

  • Paul D

    It takes a man with great vision, great insight to pair the words “Mariano Rivera” and “worthless” in the same sentence. It isn’t the most inane notion I’ve ever heard at all. Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage would never get the ball before Rivera in any post season save situation. The manager would have to be a moron to do so. If some pundits and writers can’t or won’t fully grasp the total dominance that Mr. Rivera has displayed in the post season, they should keep that little bit of obstinance to themselves. To print such nonsense only diminishes their credibility with sane and clear thinking sports fans.

    • Steve Kallas

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. I don’t think you quite understand what I wrote. Mariano Rivera is, by far, the greatest ninth-inning closer ever. If the situation were tie game. bases loaded, seventh inning, one out, Yankees up a run, Mariano Rivera would never get the ball before Gossage, Sutter or others because he never did it. And they did. If you put Rivera in their era or Gossage or Sutter in this era, I don’t know what would have happened, And neither do you. My only point about Mariano and every present-day closer is they are of virtually no value in a series where their team never gets a one,two or three-run lead late in the game. If you don’t understand that comment after the Tigers series, it can’t be explained to you. Thanks for writing. Steve Kallas.

      • Armo

        I think what Paul is trying to say is that you don’t understand Mariano Rivera, or closing pitchers in general. I don’t think any other player in any sport has dominated his respective position as well as Mo has succeeded at being a closer. There’s a reason why the number 42 is retired for all of MLB. He’s the great closing pitcher of all time, perhaps even the greatest Yankee of all time. A closing pitcher’s importance is just as great as any other position’s. If you don’t understand that concept, I advice you to quit writing as a sports columnist.

  • george39

    I give AROD a pass because of all the injuries this year. Tex and Swish were AWFUL and they were the reason we didn’t win.
    Even Cano besides game 1 wasn’t very good.

  • arizona today

    A-Rod should be fighting Tex and Swishless for the No. 6 spot in the batting order next season.

  • arizona today

    Playoffs are won or lost in the close games, and Leyland beat Girardi like a drum in the 3 close games.

    Funny how 3B coach held A-Rod last night, but last week he let Nunez and Jorge get tagged on at third on ground balls to the Boston and Tampa Bay third baseman. Thompson was probably oversensitive to the criticism he got then from allowing 2 runners get retired on mistakes high school runners would have avoided.

    • Scott Laux

      For $32 million a year one should not be capable of being injured. Yankee management are fools to pay a 50% premium (above what anyone else would pay for most members on their roster.

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