The Yankees were beaten by the Kansas City Royals tonight, but the real loss occurred before the game, when Mariano Rivera slipped shagging balls during BP and had to be carted off the field. Addressing the media after the game, Joe Girardi confirmed the worst – Rivera has a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the 2012 season.
Little needs to be said about Rivera. He’s the best reliever of all time, and even at an age where most pitchers are long retired, he remains one of the dominant relief aces in the sport. Perhaps just as amazing as his consistent excellence has been his durability, as he’s thrown 60+ innings in every season of his career save one. He has appeared in 1,041 games, seventh most all time, and ranks 14th all time in innings pitched by a reliever. Among relievers with at least 500 career innings, Rivera’s 2.05 ERA is easily the best ever.
For baseball’s sake, let’s hope Rivera’s career does not end this way. At 42-years-old, he’s hinted at retirement as a possibility after this season, but you can’t imagine that this is how he wants to go out. This shouldn’t be how one of the truly great careers of all time ends.
For the Yankees, they have options – David Robertson is very good, Rafael Soriano has been an excellent closer before, and the tandem of Cory Wade and Boone Logan can be effective middle relievers. But, there’s no replacing Rivera. Even if they go out on the trade market to bring in another arm, they’re not going to get a guy in Rivera’s league. While relievers in general are often overrated, Mariano Rivera is not. He’s the best at what he does, and now the Yankees will have to find someone else to protect 9th inning leads.
The Yankees can survive this, but losing Rivera is a significant blow.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.