Exit Sandman: Who Will be Tasked with Replacing a Legend?

Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison

Yankee Stadium is a common venue for entertainment for students of Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, as New York Yankees games can be both affordable and enjoyable for students looking for something different to do. However, games for the 2014 season will have a different feel to them. It doesn’t take the most knowledgeable of fans to know that the team recently said goodbye to a legend a few weeks ago.

Mariano Rivera, the last player in Major League Baseball history to wear number 42, retired officially from baseball following the team’s final game of the season on September 29 against the Houston Astros. Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of the sport, will be missed greatly by the Yankees’ brass.

General manager Brian Cashman will have his job cut out for him this offseason. Replacing Rivera will be high on the team’s list of priorities, though replacing him will be a process filled with much deliberation over several different candidates.

“I hope Cashman makes the right decision,” said Austin Ruiz, FCRH 2015. “We need a closer that will be consistent. He can’t be Rivera, but he can be something close.”

It’s not as if there is a shortage of quality late-inning relief on the free agent market. There are plenty of established veterans available, but the Yankees can’t just go after anybody to replace Rivera. There’s a reason he was an icon, and the man replacing him needs to hold the same principles both on and off the field.

In-house candidate David Robertson will more than likely have the first crack at the job. Robertson has been pitching behind Rivera in high-pressure situations for the Yankees since 2008, but really proved himself as a quality arm during the 2011 season. He finished with a minuscule 1.08 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 66.2 innings. His utter dominance and ability to pitch out of jams earned him the nickname Houdini.

Robertson has his issues, though. He has just eight career saves and failed in his brief stint as closer in 2012. When Rivera went down with a devastating knee injury in Kansas City early on that year, Robertson was tasked with filling in. The brevity of the situation got to him, and he posted disappointing numbers.

Should the Yankees choose to look at the free agent market, names like Grant Balfour, Joe Nathan and Brian Wilson may be linked to the club. All three are on the wrong side of 30, but the Yankees could look to go year-to-year with the position until a young player proves himself to be a long-term option.

Photo Courtesy of Niall Kennedy

Nathan and Balfour were dominant for the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, respectively, this season. Both recorded at least 38 saves and both of their respective teams were quality contenders this season (Oakland even won the American League West over Texas).

Wilson represents more of a question mark given his injury history. He pitched in a late-inning role with the National League West champion Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, but his personality and injury history could hurt his chances of pitching in the Bronx.

“Brian Wilson may not fit with the Yankees. He’d have to shave that incredible beard of his,” said Tim Derocher, FCRH 2015.

Yankee Stadium simply won’t be the same without Rivera in pinstripes. Those students who went to his final home game on September 26 (like myself) were lucky enough to witness the end of an era. Many would not have had the opportunity to witness such a moment without being a student at Fordham.

The proximity to the stadium is just one small benefit of attending Fordham. This proximity will surely give students the opportunity to witness even more Yankees history within the coming years. It’ll be difficult to top the departure of Rivera, though.

“It’s going to be tough, but I think us Yankee fans will survive,” Ruiz opined.

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