This post was originally supposed to just be about Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but in light of the news about Mariano Rivera's season-ending injury, it's only appropriate that I include him too. This kind of post is definitely not my specialty, so I'm not sure how enlightening any of this will be, but I suppose you can't predict baseball or the stories baseball will make you write.
You'll have to forgive me if this isn't the most eloquent post you've ever read. As I'm writing this, I just found out about Mo about an hour ago, and an hour is just not long enough for the news to sink in that we may have seen the greatest closer of them all pitch for the last time. I know we'd all like to think that's not true, but it's at least a decent possibility considering 2012 was likely the last year for Rivera. Until we find out what all this means for the future, I'll continue to hold out a shred of hope for Mo in 2013.
Things have not gone so well for the Yankees recently. It's almost like they are cursed, if one believes in that sort of thing. The pitching that was once considered a strength has been decimated by a season-ending injury to Michael Pineda and the overall terribleness of Freddy Garcia. Phil Hughes has struggled, and Andy Pettitte may need to perform better than we ever thought when he gets to New York this month. The offense, save for Derek Jeter, has also stumbled of late. That may have
something everything to do with the fact that the Yankees have recently lost Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher to injuries; replacing them with the likes of Jayson Nix, Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, and Eduardo Nunez as full time players.
If you never took the proper time to appreciate how amazing Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher are, their absence should have made their impact on this team abundantly clear. It's easy to take for granted that Gardner catches anything hit to within six zip codes of left field, and Nick Swisher's ridiculous patience at the plate could have really been used while the offense struggles to push across runs. I have already written that I think that the Yankees should re-sign Nick Swisher this offseason, and I continue to stand behind that. There is just no one who can replace him right now, and he's certainly been making it difficult to argue against him with his play at the plate prior to injuring his hamstring.
Then, of course, there's Mo. Seeing him fall down on the warning track while shagging fly balls was every Yankee fans worst nightmare and that nightmare was being played on repeat on both YES and MLBN. The preliminary word of "twisted knee" didn't sound so bad, but it was almost impossible to put the idea that it could be much worse than that out of your mind for long. The game ended with a failed rally and moments later we find out that we've lost Rivera for the entire year, and possibly forever, if he decides that this is it. That is a lot to deal with at once. Rivera has been just as much of a symbol of the Yankees for me as Derek Jeter has over the years, and it's difficult to imagine that we may have seen the last of him coming into games with his Enter Sandman music to throw one pitch that continues to fool everyone. If this is really it for him, and I hope with everything in me that it's not, we have been so fortunate to watch both Mariano Rivera the baseball player and Mariano Rivera the man represent the Yankees for as long as he has.
Injuries so far this season have been devastating, especially in the outfield where there is little in the way of adequate replacements. I don't think it's too soon to think about bubble wrap and calcium supplements being mandatory for all Yankee players. A long term injury to any outfielder would spell disaster, unless you're into the whole Ibanez gif machine thing. With older players, injuries are always at the forefront of your worries, but the depth is just weak enough that an injury to anyone could have tremendous implications. The Empire State Yankees roster is not one you want to pick out new every day players from.
I suppose not everything is doom and gloom, though. There is an overwhelming chance that the Yankees will be just fine. This is a great team that has not yet performed like we know that they can, which should provide a lot of hope for the rest of the season. David Phelps did not look lost in his first major league start, hopefully signifying that he is more than capable of taking Freddy Garcia's spot permanently. He definitely has Andy Pettitte to worry about, but then again, so does Phil Hughes. We also will (likely) get to see what David Robertson, who many people already supposed would take over the closer role when Rivera decided to retire, can do in the 9th inning on a consistent basis. So far in 2012, he has kept everyone's blood pressure at more manageable levels, and not put on as much of a Houdini show as he has in the past. Here's to more of that, and a whole lot fewer injuries going forward.