FIRE JOE MORGAN: Mike Celizic: full of sound and fury; signifying nothing


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Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Mike Celizic: full of sound and fury; signifying nothing

Another day, another hyperbolic article from Mike Celizic. Frankly, I'm quite bored of him, but as long as he remains un-fired, he deserves a good talking to.

[Mariano] Rivera is today more than just the most valuable Yankee, the only utterly reliable performer on a pitching staff that has more holes than a two-acre putting green. He is the leading candidate for his first Cy Young Award and, if the Yankees somehow make the playoffs, as good a candidate as there is for the AL MVP award.

No, sort of, no, and no. Out of 1033.0 innings pitched by Yankees this year, Mariano Rivera has thrown 55.1 of them. And he's been really damn good. But it's still only 55.1 innings. Maybe you could argue he would be the MVP of his team if he were on, say, the Devil Rays, or maybe the Tigers. But you know who else is on his team? Alex Rodriguez. You know who else? Gary Sheffield. These guys are two of the best players in baseball, and they play every day. The Yankees only "utterly reliable" pitcher? Well, Tom Gordon has been pretty good. Rivera has an outstanding DERA of 2.15, but Gordon's is a very solid 2.88. Rivera is certainly a candidate for the Cy Young, but as has been discussed on FJM before, the leading candidates have to be Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle. And finally, if the Yankees make the playoffs, their best candidate by far for the MVP would be A-Rod, who probably should win regardless of where they finish.

So to recap: two sentences, three claims that are totally wrong.

Sports are full of stories like Rivera’s, stories about people who were sold short and played long. Johnny Unitas was picked up off a sandlot. The Dodgers took Mike Piazza last in the draft, not because they thought he’d amount to anything but as a favor to Tommy LaSorda. The list is a long one.

He's still not the Yankees' MVP. Also, why did you capitalize the "s" in Lasorda? You're weird.

And this year, no one has pitched better and no one has been more valuable to his team.

Roger Clemens has a 0.37 ERA on the road. In 73 innings, he's allowed 3 earned runs. And he's been decent at home, too.

To fully appreciate what Rivera has meant to the Yankees, though, you have to look at what other teams have run through their bullpens during Mo’s nine seasons of dominance.

Okay, shoot.

Since 1997, the Braves have used Mark Wohlers, Kerry Lightenberg (sic), John Rocker, Mike Remlinger, John Smoltz, who held the job for three full years, and now Chris Reitsma and Dan Kolb.


Wohlers' ERA+ as closer (1997): 120
Ligtenberg's ERA+ as closer (1997, 1998): 156
Rocker's ERA+ as closer (1999, 2000): 174, 161
Remlinger's ERA+ as closer (2000): 134
John Smoltz's ERA+ as closer (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004): 131, 127, 371, 157

Kolb was a disaster, and Reitsma has been fine, with an ERA of 3.56.

The point is: yes, Rivera has been the greatest closer of this era, and almost definitely of all time. But just rattling off the names of other teams' closers doesn't mean they were bad. The Braves' closers, in fact, have been uniformly good, if not great, in the case of Smoltz.

But I'll grant that it's a significant advantage for the Yankees to be able to plug Rivera in every year. It's not like Celizic's saying he's the only reason the Yankees are always good, right? Right?

But for the Yankees, there’s been just Mo. Year in and year out, he’s been there to save the day and make all those other guys with all those bloated salaries look good. He’s the reason they’ve made the playoffs every year, the reason they won the World Series in three straight seasons, 1998-2000, the reason they got to the Series two other times, the reason there’s still hope in this season.

He's the reason? What about Jorge Posada, David Cone, and Roger Clemens? What about Andy Pettitte and (circa 1999) Bernie Williams? What about Captain The Face of Baseball?

Right. You're just making things up at this point.

Also, since you brought up bloated salaries:

Mariano Rivera WXRL (Expected wins added over a replacement level pitcher): 3.626
Chad Cordero WXRL: 5.005

Mariano Rivera 2005 salary: $10,500,000
Chad Cordero 2005 salary: $346,500

The body is still skinny, but the shoes get bigger by the day. The Yankees can survive losing five starting pitchers. They could get along if Derek Jeter or A-Rod or Gary Sheffield or any one player went down.

But they can’t live without Rivera. There’s no longer any question, if there ever was. When you talk about the most valuable Yankee, the discussion starts and ends with number 42.

The Yankees would plug Tom Gordon into the closer role and use Tanyon Sturtze as their setup man if Rivera got hurt. If A-Rod went down, they would have to replace him with a minor leaguer.

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posted by Junior  # 8:10 PM
Impeccable timing by Celizic. Tonight Rivera blew his second save in his last three opportunities.
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