So I realize it’s been awhile since I wrote one of these up & this is also only the second one of these I’m going to be writing about happenings in the realm of professional “real” sports, not professional wrestling.
So with that said, obviously the big thing on everyone’s minds in the NY metro area sports-wise is of course, the retirement of long-time Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera. “Mo” as we all fondly refer to him as for his nickname, is a God among mortals when it comes to being a closing pitcher in Major League Baseball. I can still remember when he first came on with the Yankees, late in the year back in 1995, when Don Mattingly was still a Yankee and Rivera was brought up when rosters go from the standard 25-man to 40-man with the September call ups.
Looking back now, it’s really cool to see the footage of players who would become cornerstones for the impending dynasty years interacting with an all-time favorite of mine, Donnie Baseball, part of the “old guard” of the Yankees as I see it. Seeing that footage of Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada & Derek Jeter interacting with Don Mattingly is just awesome.
Now, here we are 18 years later & Mo has gone from September call up to World Series setup man to John Wetteland, to full-time closer & 5-time World Series champion closer with a resume a mile long of achievements that I’m not even going to go into here. I’ll just say this…he’s the greatest closer that Major League Baseball, not just my beloved Yankees has ever known & if you ask me, we will never see anyone come along with the skills or the dominance for the duration that he has been able to keep it together for ever. Mo never really changed what he did. You always knew what he was coming at you with from the batter’s standpoint & even with that advanced knowledge of his pitches, his locations & his speed, there was still nothing you could do about it. He almost always managed to get the job done in the most stressful situations. And for opposing teams, coming into Yankee Stadium and being down by a run or two going into the top of the ninth, when you heard Metallica’s Enter Sandman song start, and #42 started jogging in from the bullpen in left center field, you just knew your night was over. It really reminds me of the stories my Dad always told me about how my Grandfather would tell him about how prolific of a hitter Mickey Mantle was that all you needed to hear was the crack of the bat and you just knew it was gone.
So to Mariano Rivera & also Andy Pettitte, who combined so many times as a 1-2 punch, I say thank you gentlemen, for inspiring a generation of Yankees fans & wowing us night in & night out. You both have places waiting for you — both in Cooperstown & also in Monument Park.
Also while I’m talking about the Yankees here, let’s move on to the skipper…Joe Girardi, who in my opinion deserves a manager of the year award for being able to keep this team competitive all season long with a lineup that has been held together with duct tape & string. At no time during this entire season has the entire group of Derek Jeter, Mark Texiera, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, Kevin Youkilis & Alex Rodriguez. In fact for most of the season, he didn’t have most of those key players. Brian Cashman has done the best he could to bring in replacements like Lyle Overbay & Vernon Wells.
Also when Derek Jeter WAS on the lineup card, he was obviously not playing at 100% as he was still battling issues with various leg injuries. The facts are out there, Derek Jeter probably doesn’t have many years left in him as he’s 39 years old & 40+ year old shortstops aren’t known for their durability. Also with the impending suspension of Alex Rodriguez, and a slew of other players who are just aging & are still tied up in contracts, now that Joe Girardi is becoming a free agent manager this year, it might not be such a bad idea if you’re Joe to look elsewhere for a chance to win yourself another championship. Especially since Yankees ownership seems determined to get the payroll down under that $189M mark so as to avoid the luxury tax for the first time. So in Yankee country, there are a lot of question marks as to what this team can be expected to do in the coming years.
Meanwhile the Cubs have just let their manager go, which would seem like an open door for Girardi to head to the Second City. But if I’m Girardi, I’m staying the hell away from the curse of the billy goat. Also, I’m eyeing up Washington. They’ve got a nice ballclub down there with a number of young talent who are ready to make a big splash with players like Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Ryan Zimmerman & Adam LaRoche. Also, Stephen Strasburg has proven to be a stud of an ace for them. Add to that, a pretty competent closer in Raphael Soriano & they’re a team on the brink that looks real inviting to me if I’m Joe G.
Moving on, I also wanted to comment on the Jets season thus far. And for a team that wasn’t supposed to win any games this year, we’re looking not so bad at 2-2. Geno Smith is still obviously learning what it is to be a quarterback in the NFL. The one thing I’ve really noticed is the amount of time he’s been allowed to find an open receiver. The Jets have a very good offensive line which I’m sure Mark Sanchez wishes he had last season. They’re controlling the line of scrimmage extremely well unlike their previous offensive lines. Now if only Geno had a decent running back or some good wide receivers to throw to. The defensive line is pretty good as well & Antonio Cromarte has really stepped up since Darrelle Revis went down last year and rookie Dee Milliner is doing just fine stepping in. At 2-2, I’m a very happy Jets fan considering what we were expecting. Now that’s not to say that the team won’t go & lose out the rest of the season, but I’ve seen glimmers of hope for the future of this team.
And finally on to the New Jersey Devils, who are looking quite good in preseason thus far, posting a 4-2 preseason record this year. So going back to what I had said in this earlier post, I’m really excited to see what this season brings for the Devils. They seem to have a lot of upside this year with solid goal tending all around, plus they seem to be having no problems in scoring goals either. Now that’s not to say that the season is the same as preseason, but at least in hockey, it’s not like football where your starters only play for the first set of downs, quarter or half. So while the Yankees & Jets seem to be going through or needing to start a rebuilding process, I think the Devils are primed to do some big things this year.
It’s a very interesting time to be a sports fan in New York!