Monday, June 8, 2009

Was Mariano Rivera too sick to pitch on Saturday?

There apparently is an explanation for why Mariano Rivera pitched so poorly on Saturday, and it has nothing to do with the Rays knowing how to hit him. Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown reports (hat tip to that Rivera was ill:

For several hours before Rivera took the ball Saturday afternoon in that tie game, he’d suffered with a stomach ailment that brought aches and repeated vomiting, according to one Yankee. Rivera had rolled off the trainer’s table, where he’d hoped to sleep it off, and into the bullpen in the eighth inning, when he began to warm up.

So, no, he didn’t have his best command. And, no, he didn’t have his best fastball.

But, he didn’t sprinkle the Yankee Stadium mound with breakfast, which, in itself, was a small victory, even in defeat.

“He was so upset afterward,” the teammate said.

Brown, who writes that Girardi "clearly insulted" Rivera by having him intentionally walk Evan Longoria Saturday (hmmm, did Joe Torre insult Mo when he had him intentionally walk 30 other players over the years?) seems to blame Girardi for having Rivera pitch in the first place.

I disagree. First off, we don't know if Girardi even knew that Rivera was sick. Second, when does it become Mariano's responsibility to say that he can't pitch? If he's throwing up as badly as the article implies, then why the heck isn't he at home resting? And why wouldn't he suggest that Girardi pitch CC Sabathia another inning, given that CC had only thrown 101 pitches?

Besides, we know that any ailment affecting the dynasty players is a minefield for Girardi. Remember when Joe got into trouble with reporters last year for minimizing Mo's shoulder injury, even though he did that on Rivera's request?

Not to mention how Jorge Posada insisted on being the catcher last year, even when he literally couldn't throw anyody out. Or how Derek Jeter kept on playing after getting hit by a pitch last year, with his numbers taking a dive, even though some time off probably would have made more sense.

While it's admirable for these players to always want to be in the game (they're the anti-Carl Pavanos!), it's not always good for the team if they play through the pain.

And I'm sorry, but if Rivera was in a state where he could have vomited on the mound, he had no business even trying to pitch. He's not a Scott Proctor trying to hang on to his job, after all. Nobody's going to give him grief for admitting that he was sick.

Here's the thing - if Girardi had benched Rivera for Saturday's game, and if either CC or somebody in the Yankee bullpen had blown the game, we would undoubbtedly hear from reporters wondering why Rivera didn't pitch. And if Joe had said Rivera was unavailable, and Mo had said he was fine, it would have been a whole to-do.

Talk about a no-win situation for Girardi. So no, I'm not going to give Joe grief for this.

But your mileage may vary. What do you think? Leave us a comment!

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