Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Say it ain't so, Mo: Why Mariano Rivera would have been better off being "The Closer" of his mouth

Mariano Rivera, arguably the most respected player in MLB in recent years, with the most saintly reputation (he's like Tim Tebow but with Hall of Fame talent), is one of the few things Squawker Jon and I agree on. Not only is Mo my favorite player of the 1990s dynasty years, but I have gone to see him speak on Staten Island, and Jon and I went to eat at his restaurant in New Rochelle a few years ago. Squawker Jon also gave him a standing ovation when he saw him pitch at CitiField and at Yankee Stadium in Mo's last season. Rivera is the rare -- make that pretty much the only -- Yankee that Jon can stand.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, in addition for rooting for different teams, Squawker Jon and I have very different personalities. Where I am brash and impulsive, Jon is quiet and methodical. But one of the things we do do for each other is try to bring out the best, and stop the worst. When I have an opinion or impulse or idea that Jon thinks is too much, he will simply say, "What does that get you?" -- meaning, is it really worth the aggravation in saying or doing what I want to? Sometimes Jon is right, and sometimes he is wrong in asking that, but it is a good question to ponder before saying or writing something controversial.

All this is to say that I wonder why apparently nobody asked Mariano Rivera "What does that get you?" when it comes to his new book, The Closer. Because it seems bizarre to me that he would tarnish his saintly image with some of the things he said in his book, written with Wayne Coffey.

For example, there is this, courtesy of the News' article on the tome, on how he throws Robinson Cano under the bus:
In his new autobiography, “The Closer,” Rivera writes about how much affection he has for his former teammate, but adds, “This guy has so much talent I don’t know where to start... There is no doubt that he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber (player). It’s just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don’t think Robby burns to be the best... You don’t see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.”
As for his favorite second baseman, Rivera says Red Sox Dustin Pedroia is “at the top of the list” of players he admires, adding: “Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for twenty-seven outs. It’s a special thing to see.” He later writes, “If I have to win one game, I’d have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman.”
Ask yourself this: would Mo have written that if Cano hadn't gone to the Mariners? The answer is that he wouldn't have. And what does writing this get Mo, anyway? It seems more than a little unseemly for him to question somebody else's drive this way, especially when Rivera himself never showed any "red-hot passion" on the field himself. How would he have liked it if people had said the same about him?

And since when did Cano become some underachieving schlub, anyway? He not only was the best player on the Yankees for the last half-decade, but he played nearly every game and showed up to the park early nearly every day to work on his game. But the moment he leaves the Yankees, he becomes some bum?

To top it off, comparing Cano to Red Sox Pedroia, and finding Cano wanting, is a bit much. Sorry, folks, but Cano IS better than Pedroia. C'mon, Mo, you're better than this.

The other thing that really bothered me from the article about the book is this:
Rivera writes that neither the 2003 team nor the one that lost four straight to the Red Sox in the ALCS a year later was close to having the same championship-quality fiber as the Yankees’ previous championship teams.
“Those teams of ours that won four World Series in five years would’ve hammered (the Marlins),” Rivera writes. “They would’ve found a way and will their way through as a team.”
He isn't the first Yankee to raise that whole "it's not the same team" argument, but it makes me wonder: if the heart of the dynasty team were the players who were no longer on it in the next decade, then what does that say about Rivera and the so-called Core Four? That they weren't really so core?

At any rate, I will still be a fan of Mo, but I am very disappointed that he chose to make such comments. In answer to the question "What does that get you?", I guess it will get him some book sales, but at a cost to his pristine reputation. Not an even trade.


Uncle Mike said...

While it's fair to say that Mo wouldn't have said what he said about Robbie if Robbie had stayed with the Yankees, look again at what he said:

“This guy has so much talent I don’t know where to start... There is no doubt that he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber (player). It’s just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don’t think Robby burns to be the best... You don’t see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players.”

That's hardly "throwing him under the bus" or "calling him a bum." It's criticism, but it's not insult. It's not worth a headline. If the Yankees win the Series (hard to imagine at the moment, even though we're technically still tied for first place), I can't imagine Rivera, Jeter or any other Yankee saying what Shaq said to Kobe: "Hey, Robbie, tell me how my ass taste."

The comparison with Pedroia is considerably more interesting, but, again, Mo didn't insult Robbie in the process. It's more interesting, but it shouldn't be a big deal.

Lisa Swan said...

Did you know Robinson Cano never made it onto Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list? Most every player is on that list at some time or another. Cano is literally the biggest name never to be on the list. He was unknown as a rookie, and little was expected of him. On the other hand, Pedroia was a college baseball star and a second-round draft pick who made the list.

In fact, one could argue that Cano has overachieved more than Pedroia has, and indeed showed some of that "drive" that he supposedly lacked. You don't get to the level Cano has without drive and determination. It is an insult for Rivera to suggest otherwise.

And yes, this is all connected with Cano spurning the Yankees. You don't see Rivera talking about whether Schilling or Pettitte is better, do you? I thought Mo would be above all of that nonsense.

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