As all Yankee fans, if not all baseball fans, know that legends Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are free agents. And even losing one of them could hurt the morale of the club. Both have been key cogs into guiding the Yankees to five World Series championships, seven American League Championships, and making the playoffs in all but one season since 1996. Now, there is a very slim chance, if not a zero percent chance, that one of these players departs. But I am wondering, which loss would be more devastating to the franchise?
Derek Jeter has been the starting shortstop since opening day in 1996. He has also been captain of the team since 2003. Jeter has been the face of the greatest franchise in sports for some time now and his loss would be huge. Not to mention, he has the most hits in the history of the organization with 2926. That’s more then legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson ever had in a Yankee uniform.
He has made so many clutch plays on the field including the “Mr. November” homerun against the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. Also he made “The Flip Play” against Jeremy Giambi and the Oakland A’s the same year. Another that comes to mind is where he dove into the stands to catch a popup against the Red Sox in 2004, one of the most dramatic regular season games in the history of the Yankees. There are so many other spectacular things Jeter has done for this organization the past 15 years that can’t be topped.
But say he was to leave. The Yankees could replace him with either current backup infielders Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez, both sparkling with the glove, but weak with the bat. They could go in the free agent market and sign veteran Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera has been on a number of winning teams, but it obviously wouldn’t feel the same. Or maybe they could make a blockbuster trade with the Marlins and land Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez did have some hustling issues last year in the middle of the year, but he cleaned it up as the season went along. That would be something the Yankees would have to monitor. But remember, Robinson Cano had issues similar to Ramirez in 2008, and he’s been more than exceptional since then.
Jeter has also been huge for the Yankees in the postseason, batting .309, including .321 in the World Series, belting 20 homers, 57 RBI and stealing 17 bases against the best pitching in the game. But I think two statistics that are completely overlooked is his runs scored and on base percentage. Jeter has scored 107 runs, while having an on base percentage of .377 in 147 games, 15 less games then the regular season, in which you face far inferior pitching. Those two stats are very important because he bats either first or second in the order and his job is to get on base and score runs to help the team. Jeter would be a monumental loss if he left. But, would it be even a more of a gut wrenching loss then if Mariano Rivera left?
Like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera has been an icon for this franchise since ’96. Now, Rivera wasn’t a closer when they won the World Series in 1996, but he was a key member. He setup John Wetteland, who left the team after the ’96 campaign thus Rivera’s reign as closer began.
Since 1997 Mariano Rivera has saved 554 games, and he has saved 559 games total. That’s an American League record and second all time behind Trevor Hoffman, who looks like he’ll hang up the cleats. Hoffman has 601 saves so it will take two more productive years until Rivera captures the crown, and who wouldn’t want to see it be accomplished in a Yankee uniform?
Mariano Rivera is pretty much undoubtedly the greatest closer ever. Yes Hoffman has more saves, but he is nowhere near what Rivera has accomplished in the postseason. Also, nearly all of Hoffman’s saves have been converted as a San Diego Padre, which means he’s playing in the inferior National League. Rivera, on the other hand, has done it in the grueling AL East against the toughest opponents. For example, Rivera has a career 2.23 ERA. But, he has had an ERA less than two in 10 of his 14 full seasons, absolutely remarkable.
The main reason why Mariano Rivera is so great is because of his postseason numbers. He has a career 0.71 ERA in 94 postseason appearances. He has also compiled the same amount of saves as the number on the back of his jersey, 42, with just a small handful of blown saves. Another remarkable stat is his 0.766 WHIP. (Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched; essentially it’s a stat that determines how many base runners a pitcher allows per inning.) Plus, in 1999 Rivera won the World Series MVP against the Atlanta Braves and the 2003 ALCS MVP against the hated Boston Red Sox. He’s been his best in the biggest games.
If the Yankees were to somehow let Mariano Rivera leave via free agency, or him simply just calling it quits, he turns 41 on November 29th, it would be a monumental loss. He has arguably been the most valuable player during his tenure. Now the Yankees have an abundance of options to turn to if Rivera and/or the Yankees were to do the unthinkable. They could easily turn to Joba Chamberlain or David Robertson to close games, even though they have had shaky careers in a lesser role. The Yankees could resign Kerry Wood as closer. Although that may sound like a good backup plan it really isn’t. Remember when Wood was the closer for the Cleveland Indians? Well he struggled a lot. Or they could do what the typical Yankees do by signing the best guy available. That would be Rafael Soriano. Yes Soriano has dominated as a closer with the Braves and most recently, the Rays. But, it’s a whole new ballgame when closing out games in the biggest city, with the toughest media, and with the most storied franchise in sports. Even a blip on the radar in his first appearance in Yankee Stadium could be followed by a showering of boos throughout the big ball park in the Bronx. It would defiantly be very big shoes to fill.Well, we’ve gone through the importance of the two biggest names on the Yankees. And I think we have our answer. At least I do. Although most Yankee fans may not agree with me, but I think Mariano Rivera would be a bigger loss then Jeter. Now, I’m not saying it’s a landslide when comparing the players, I’m just saying it’s a bigger hole to fill. Everyone always says the hardest outs to get are the final three, and that’s what Mariano Rivera specializes in. No one does it better. Yes Rafael Soriano is a great closer. But I’d sure trust an aging Mariano Rivera then anyone else in their prime. With Jeter, it would be a huge loss, not only for the fans but in the locker-room. He’s been the captain of the team. But, times have changed. I think Robinson Cano is slowly gaining the so called “face of the franchise.” status. If either player were to leave it would be a crushing blow either way, but Rivera’s would be worse.