Mariano Rivera: Are the Yankees Doomed to Fail This Season?

Kevin H. MacLeanCorrespondent IMay 4, 2012

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With Mariano Rivera out for the season, as it stands today, the Yankees will not win the World Series.  They can't.  They simply do not have the pieces a championship caliber team requires to win it all.

Losing Mariano Rivera is a devastating loss for the team as well as all of baseball and its fans. 

If George Steinbrenner were alive today, you can bet he would have released one of his trademark eccentric, over-the-top dramatic, press statements declaring that the Yankees reflect on the loss of an all-time great from their roster, and that they are bent but not yet broken. 

And he would be right.

He would be right because Rivera wasn't the key to this season.  You can never fully make up for the loss of a player like Rivera. 

"Somebody else can do his job, but you can't really replace him," Derek Jeter told reporters (h/t CBS Sports) after the news broke.

But the one place the Yankees could afford to take a hit like this was their bullpen.  It was the strongest in all of baseball before Rivera went down and now that he's gone, it's still pretty good. 

No, the reason the Yankees won't be able to win the World Series with the team they have today is the same reason they couldn't win last week: starting pitching.

Outside of CC Sabathia, the Yankees starters have been, at best, inconsistent.  Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda seem to have the stuff to be able to have productive years, but the last two spots in the rotation have been a mess since opening day. 

Anything less than a prolific display of power by the Yankees hitters has equated to a loss when either Phil Hughes or Freddie Garcia have taken the mound.

Garcia has been so bad, he's already been relegated to middle relief duties, and although Hughes did manage to look passable as a back-end starter his last time out, he only had one effective pitch and the Yankees still the Orioles.


Last night, the Yankees lost to another awful team (this time, the Kansas City Royals).  Most of the blame of last night's loss lies with the Yankees batters, but the strategy of plugging the fifth starter spot with rookie middle relievers is something akin to putting a band-aid on a gun shot wound.

Andy Pettitte will be coming back soon, and the Yankees need him to be effective and help right the ship. But Pettitte alone will not be enough.  The Yankees aren't a strong enough team to be able to forfeit a game once every five days. 

They need to find another starter.

Roy Oswalt has been sitting at home so far this season fielding calls from various teams. 

New York hasn't indicated any real interest in acquiring the popular pitcher.  Maybe the loss of Rivera will make Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers panic just enough to do something right.

Whether it is Oswalt or someone else—anyone else—the fact remains the same: The Yankees need to find another starter to fill the void in the back of their rotation.  There is no other option.

If they can, the Yankees will be free to move Phil Hughes back to the bullpen (the only place he's ever seemed really, truly comfortable for a full season) and place David Robertson into the role of closer (a season early). 

Some speculate the Yankees may try out Raphael Soriano in the closer role based on his experience, but based on Yankee fans' experience with Soriano, it's unlikely that will happen, unless the Yankee front office wants to see a dramatic increase in the number of heart attacks in their stands during the ninth inning.

Losing Rivera hurts; it hurts the Yankees bad.  But it doesn't kill them.  Add Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt to the starting rotation, move Phil Hughes to the bullpen and suddenly, the Yankees chances of winning the World Series grow exponentially. 

Yes, the Yankees can win the World Series, even without "The Hammer of God" closing out games for them.