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Mariano Rivera on the Yankees’ early postseason exit, Aaron Boone, and more

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The former Yankees closer held a wide-ranging discussion last week, touching on the Yankees playoff loss, manager Aaron Boone, and more.

World Series - Cleveland Indians v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Last week, I had the good fortune of catching up with legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera was speaking at FDNY Engine 59/Ladder 30 in Harlem on behalf of The Hartford. He spoke to a group of elementary school children about the importance of fire safety and prevention.

Rivera then fielded questions from the media on a variety of topics. He was candid and generous with his time, and delivered some interesting thoughts on the Yankees, Aaron Boone, and baseball in general. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of the interview:

On the Yankees’ playoff run:

“(I was) disappointed, because I believe that they have the team to go all the way, to win it, but you’re always disappointed when you don’t win. There’s no one to point to, no one to point fingers at, that’s just the game. As a player, as a Yankee family member, it’s hard. Unfortunately, they didn’t get that hit at the right time.”

On what the team needs to work on in the offseason to get better:

“Pitching, you never go wrong with pitching. That’s something I’m sure the Yankees will try to work with, and hopefully they do it, because the name of the game is pitching.”

On whether the current Yankees have the players that fit the “Core Four” mold:

“You have the catcher Gary (Sanchez), Severino, Gardner, C, guys that have been there, there’s no lack of leadership, I think they have tremendous leadership... but they just weren’t able to get the hit at the right time. Last year they came out and whenever they needed a hit, they got it. This year, they didn’t have it.”

On whether the Yankees have the players to start dynasty as they did in the 1990’s:

“No doubt they have the players, like I said before we need a little help with the pitching staff, in the starting rotation we need a few more guys that can go and shut down teams. At the same time, they have all the players, the qualities, the abilities, that they need to win. They have it.”

On the job Aaron Boone did in 2018:

“I think Aaron Boone did a tremendous job, keeping everybody healthy, motivated, to continue pushing and pushing and pushing, to me, he did an outstanding job with those guys. Hopefully, again, they give him the help he needs to go to the next level.”

On the trouble the Yankees had executing at clutch moments in the playoffs:

“I mean the bullpen did a tremendous job, they were executing their pitches they were doing what they need to do to keep the other team from scoring. But at the front end, it wasn’t what it was supposed to be... I know they tried, but they needed someone to step up in a situation like that and do the job.”

On the advice he would give to the players who are bearing the brunt of the playoff exit:

“The advice is that you need to just shrug it off! Just shrug it off and get ready for next year, and hope that you have that bitter taste in your mouth.”

On whether he’s given any thought in getting back in the game in a managing/coaching role:

“No, no, I don’t want to. If I do something it would be something in the minor leagues, or something in a special adviser role, something where I can be home. But at the same time, I do always love baseball, and obviously the family of the New York Yankees, but managing, pitching coach, none of that stuff is on my radar.”

On the influence of analytics and the evolution of reliever usage in baseball:

“Well if it works, why not? I wasn't playing like that in the time that I played, you hoped that your starter goes nine, but now it’s different, your starter goes five that’s good. The organizations building these teams, they’re investing in the bullpen; you know you got five strong innings from your starter, and the bullpen takes it from there. If the game is moving like that and you’re winning, I mean you do whatever it takes.”

On Aaron Boone’s management in the ALDS:

“I can’t say anything bad about Boone, he did a great job. Like I said, if they had got another hit or two in the later innings, we wouldn’t be talking about this, you know, but that’s the game. You can’t change the game, that’s the way it is. It’s a game of failures.”