There was a legendary quality about Mariano Rivera during his long heyday.
He was so good, so helpless, so capable of finding calm and grandeur in the happiest of moments that, over time, his presence was felt in games before he even entered.
Yankees running back: What do we need to do eight runs to get the ball to Rivera with a lead?
He gave the whole team confidence, upset opponents who played as if they had 24 wins to win.
So, when Rivera collapsed on the Kaufman Stadium caution track chasing a fly ball during batting practice on May 3, 2012, it felt as if the Yankees had lost more than a close relative for the rest of the season.
It felt like they had lost a style and a material that was hard to quantify and impossible to replace.
The first time since then that I felt the reliever who brought these elements, as well as personal distinction, was last year’s Edwin Diaz.
Not only was his stuff swept away, but he got off the canvas in New York – V.I.T New York – To turn in Citi Field from the ninth floor outcast to the finished Christ.
You can feel other teams desperate to avoid a bigger ninth-inning deficit than usual. And if the opening chords of “Enter the Sandman” produced a certain kind of trance and energy in The Bronx, the tunes of Timmy Trumpet’s “Narco” did the same in Queens.
So when Diaz broke down in celebration Wednesday on loan Depot Park in Miami after striking out the team to eliminate the Dominican Republic and save a 5-2 win over Puerto Rico’s Baseball Classic, it felt as if the Mets had lost a lot. More than just a draw for the rest of the season.
Like Rivera, Diaz has a devastating right knee injury – a torn patellar tendon. And it’s as if the Mets have lost a style and substance that’s hard to quantify and impossible to replace.
Except the 2023 Mets have to understand losing this player better than most clubs.
In 2012, the assistant general manager for the Yankees was Billy Epler, who is now the general manager of the Mets. The player who hit the flyball Rivera was chasing when he was injured was Jason Nix, who had just been called up to replace the injured Eric Chavez and is now the Mets’ bench coach.
David Robertson was Rivera’s starting man in 2012 and Diaz was slated to be in 2023.
And Buck Showalter managed the Orioles, who finished second in the AL and lost to the first-rank Yankees in the ALDS, in part because Rivera’s sluggish bowling—notably Robertson and Rafael Soriano—allowed only one run in 11 runs/innings.
Rivera missed the rest of the season with a torn ACL, however the Yankees went to the ALCS.
“One of the things the experience of 2012 taught me, is that when you have depth and you have strong areas of the club – whether that’s starting throwing, relief play, attacking or defensive – if you’re strong or above average… Then you can totally beat it.”
Rivera was 42 and contemplating retirement after that season (he came back in 2013 because he didn’t want his career to end with an injury).
Diaz will turn 29 on Wednesday. But there are similarities in the season leading up to their injuries.
In 2011, Rivera allowed three homers in 61 ⁄ innings, accumulating 2.9 wins above replacement (baseball reference).
Last year, Diaz allowed three homers in 62 innings, accumulating a 3.2 home run.
Both removed the end-game questions and anxiety at the highest level.
How do you overcome such an injury? The 2012 Yankees were in a heavyweight AL East in which they, the Orioles and Rays, have all won 90 or more games – similar to the 2023 NL East, with the Mets, Braves and Phillies expected to excel.
These Yankees had the highest payouts in MLB and were beaten by the rest of the sport for overkill when — despite owning Rivera and Robertson — they gave the elite cash closer (three years worth of $35 million) to Soriano (incidentally, that was done via ownership over Protest from GM Brian Cashman).
Apparently, Steve Cohen has heard the outcry about cashing in his paychecks to the tune of $370 million, in part, by awarding Diaz the largest relief contract ever (five years, $102 million).
Those Yankees and those Mets had well-rounded teams, but these Yankees had much longer winning percentages and, therefore, a strong internal leadership texture. Do these Mets prove they have it?
“One of the things I really liked about going there was how professional it was – whether it was a five-game winning streak or a five-game losing streak,” Chavez said of his only season with the Yankees.
“Just go to work and know that no one is going to feel sorry for you. … I was thinking this: If you’re a good team and you remove one player and it makes you vulnerable, you weren’t a good team. That’s what those Yankees felt, And I think that’s what we feel very deeply here. It was very painful with Mo. It is very painful with [Diaz]. But you pick up the pieces and move on.”
They understand,” said Joe Girardi, who managed the 2012 Yankees [what has happened]They’ve got guys in the area, this isn’t a group of first or second year players.
“I’m sure Buck will talk one-on-one with the guys and say, ‘Hey, we’ll be fine. Yeah, we’ll really miss him, but I believe in the other guys at the club and we’ll be fine. And I’m sure he’ll do a really good job of doing that. And I really believe That those first few balls [during the regular season] become really important.”
Soriano eventually stepped up on Robertson heading into 2012, and he only erupted once in the first 11 weeks after Rivera’s injury.
“They have time to absorb this [because the injury occurred in spring training]Girardi said. “But then those saved April alarms become important, because you want to take the worry out of losing the MVP in baseball.”
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