Mariano Rivera Blood Clot: Yankees Lack Late-Game Invincibility Without Closer

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees in action against the Baltimore Orioles during their game on April 30, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The news has gotten worse for Mariano Rivera, when it was discovered that, along with a torn ACL, he had a blood clot in his calf.

That discovery has apparently made Rivera contemplative, and he has re-opened the possibility that he could retire after previously remaining adamant that he would return.

And that's certainly troubling for the New York Yankees, who have lost the air of late-inning invincibility they've had for the past 16 years with Rivera as the closer.

From Bill Madden of the New York Daily News:

Wednesday night was not so good, and watching as Robertson, called upon to preserve a one-run lead in the ninth, immediately loaded the bases, had to be excruciating for Rivera. When Robertson subsequently coughed it up on a sac fly by B.J. Upton and a three-run homer by Matt Joyce for a 4-1 Yankee loss, Rays manager Joe Maddon's response to a question about Rivera rang prophetic.

"The different mind-set comes from them," Maddon said, "coming into the game for the ninth unprotected. There's no safety net . . . and I'll just leave it at that. From our standpoint there's a different vibe in that they can't shorten the game they way they could."

It's an inevitable loss when you lose the greatest closer in baseball history, a man so good he's relied heavily on just one pitch—his legendary cutter—over the course of his career.

Suddenly, teams don't feel like they have to win the game in the first eight innings. And despite the fact that David Robertson is still a very good ninth-inning option, teams can be more relaxed late in the game knowing they'll at least have a chance in the ninth.

Rivera wasn't just a ninth-inning stopper, a preserver of victories for the Yankees. He was also a looming presence in the preceding innings, an ultimatum to score early or face certain defeat late.

He was a destroyer of hope.

Well, hope lives once more, and the Yankees know it. It may be small, but it's often the little mental advantages or disadvantages that can be the difference when the chips are down.

And it's a reality that the Yankees will have to live with if this new-found blood clot does lead Rivera to the conclusion that it's time to hang it up.


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