Playing The "What If" Game: No Mo, No Go

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Playing The
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

With the Yankees flying high and in first place in the AL East there aren't many things they can't do.

They are listed in the top three in the leage in runs, hits, home runs, batting avg. and RBIs. Clearly, the offense is not the problem, and with the Yankees it really never is.

So, most sports fans point the problem to the Yankee's pitching, which is most likely stacked with notable pitchers who are, unfortunately, passed their prime.

This year, the Yankees starting rotation is stirring up conversation that includes having too much talent and not knowing what to do with it.

This year the hottest Yankee topic is something that has rarely plagued the Yankees in recent history.

Since moving Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen and into a starting slot, Yankees and sports fans alike have been clamouring about the current late-game-pitching situation.

Talks, as of late, have concerned Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Chien-Ming Wang placed on a revolving door of opinions, in and out of the bullpen.

With all the speculation of a 2009 run to the playoffs and even the AL Division Crown, the Yankees need to address the situation in the bullpen.

With Wang still shaky moving back into his starting slot, the Yankees can not afford to send starting pitcher talent like Chamberlain down to the bullpen to address this problem.

Phil Hughes, already in the bullpen, is another promising starter, but may not be ready to handle the eigth and ninth inning, in a tied or one run ball game, late in the season.

Luckily for the Yankees, they have 39 year old legend, Mariano Rivera in the bullpen to secure the late game wins. 

The Yankees, with hopes for the post season, desperately need him to close out games.

I'm about to play the "What If" game, just to see where the Yankees could go to address a problem like this, if it were to happen.

Who is the one player the Yankees can not afford to lose right now?

The answer has to be Mariano Rivera.

If Rivera somehow is not able to go late in the season, and the Yankees have not made the right moves to ensure a better bullpen, the result could be disastrous.

Let's remeber Rivera has been injured before and has had shoulder surgery in 2008.

Although it is still relatively early in the season, Rivera has 12 saves in 13 opportunities with an ERA under two.

The next closest: Phil Coke, one out of three.

Coke's ERA is sitting high for his amount of innings pitched, currently at 4.50.

The other pitchers in the Yankee bullpen have shown signs of use for middle relief and are working in the two to four inning range, mostly coming in when starters are unable to get the job done.

The missing piece is the guy who can keep that one run victory in the bag.

Joe Girardi is still interested in the depth and range of Alfredo Aceves's pitching abilities and doesn't seem like he will limit Aceves to one or two innings.

Jose Veras' numbers have not come around enough to be placed into an eigth or ninth inning role, with an important game on the line. Veras' ERA is still over 6. 

Other than Rivera, there is not one pitcher in the Yankee bullpen who can dominate in the ninth inning in close games, a pitcher that is extremely important when making a run to the playoffs, and even more important in the postseason.

This is one of the biggest problems that the Yankees have still not addressed this season.

Playoff bound teams put themselves in the position where they have dealt with every visible weakness.

If for some reason Rivera is unable to pitch in late August and into September, the Yankees better hope they have dealt for a notable set up guy who can close or clinched something by then.

I'm sure most Yankee fans are longing for the time when the game was close and the one-two punch of Mike Stanton and Rivera would rarely give it away.

The offensive and defensive stats do show that this Yankee team could make a lot of noise this season, but the Yankees need to go out and get that guy for the bullpen who can make this team complete.

Until they get that pitcher, Yankee fans and players better have their fingers crossed that they can ride a healthy Mo all the way to their 27th World Championship.

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