Yankees

Hartnett: Exit Sandman, Enter David Robertson

Robertson Doesn't Need To Emulate Rivera
David Robertson. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

David Robertson. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

Mariano Rivera’s season wasn’t supposed to end through the cruelest of fate. His glorious career is hanging in the balance through a freak ACL tear.

We all expected Mariano’s final chapter to be a glorious moment where he waived a final farewell to the fans at Yankee Stadium with tears of pride flowing down his face.

That probably won’t be the case.  The possibility of retirement Rivera that hinted in spring training is a more likely outcome than ever.

Mariano’s misfortune creates opportunity for David Robertson to be thrust into a role that many relievers wouldn’t envy. Nobody wants to be the man who steps into Rivera’s shoes.

Then again, Aaron Rodgers filled the impossible legacy of Brett Favre in Green Bay by winning Super Bowl XLV and restoring the Packers’ glory. Tim Duncan accepted the torch passed down from David Robinson and led the San Antonio Spurs to two more championships following ‘The Admiral’s’ retirement.

Replacing Rivera will put Robertson under the greatest of microscopes but he has the coolness to thrive under the pressure of following a legend’s footsteps. Robertson will not attempt to emulate Rivera’s greatness but will accept the closer’s role and do it his way.

No one could ever possibly match the effortless 1-2-3 saves of Rivera or master his cut-fastball. A young Rivera’s cutter was a buzz-saw, constantly shaving off the bats of left-handed hitters. Robertson has his own pitch that ‘hops’ and deceives opposing batters. His unusually long stride creates an illusion that he’s throwing 95 MPH when his average velocity is around 93 MPH.

His teammates call him ‘Houdini’ because of his ability to escaped unscathed from bases-loaded jams. You could also refer to Robertson’s ‘hop fastball’ as Houdini-like in the way that it fools batters.

When Buck Showalter was managing the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS, he had no idea what the Yankees possessed in Rivera. The Yankees’ playoff fate was sealed as Jack McDowell gave up the series-ending walk-off hit to Edgar Martinez. Showalter removed Rivera in the bottom of the 9th and inserted McDowell, unaware of what Rivera would go on to become.

Now in 2012, the Yankees have a ready-made heir apparent to Rivera’s throne just as Rivera assumed the closer’s role from the popular John Wetteland in 1997.

Robertson was simply phenomenal in 2011. Through 66.2 innings, Robertson logged a 1.08 ERA with 100 strikeouts and WHIP of 1.125. Robertson was named a first-time All-Star and despite being a setup man, he finished 11th in Cy Young voting.

That success has continued into 2012 as he’s yet to surrender an earned or unearned run through 11 innings pitched. He’s struck out 18 batters, while only walking three and his WHIP is a remarkable 0.909.

Fate has passed the torch from Rivera’s hands to Robertson. Now it’s his turn to hold it high.

Is Robertson ready to take the torch from Rivera and write his own closer’s legacy? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.