It was a scene that no Yankee fan ever wanted to see. Mariano Rivera was lying in the outfield, grimacing after tearing his ACL shagging fly balls in Kansas City last week. It was gut-wrenching to see one of the best players to ever wear the pinstripes writhing in pain. While the Yankees are loaded with talent and it’s tough to choose the most important player to their success, the future Hall-Of-Famer is irreplaceable and everyone, including his former manager, Joe Torre, knows it. As soon as the baseball world learned about the extent of the injury, the questions began about whether he had pitched for the last time; whether the last sight of Rivera on a baseball diamond was him being helped off the field. Yankees fans were dealt a huge blow last week but Rivera did his best to soften it saying that he would return in 2013 to add another chapter to his Hall-Of-Fame story that is still being written.
Joe Torre joined ESPN Radio in New York on the Michael Kay Show to talk about whether he is surprised that Mariano Rivera says that he is going to pitch again, what he was thinking about when he heard the news about Rivera, whether he thought Rivera would be as good as he is, if he thinks Rivera was in the head of the opponent and whether Rivera was the most important player to the Yankees success in the postseason.
Whether he is surprised that Mariano Rivera says that he is going to pitch again:
“I was in the stadium last week and I said ‘well what are you going to do? Play longer or whatever.’ He keeps lamenting how he’s 42-years-old and who really cares but it really doesn’t surprise me. He’s got that in his belly and you certainly know that he certainly doesn’t want this to be the last memory for the fans.”
What he was thinking about when he heard the news about Rivera’s injury:
“I was just flying in. I was in Florida and I just flew in and I landed and I heard about it right away. It’s a blow, there’s no question but understanding how it happened I can visualize it. I always said if there was one chance to put ‘em in a position to play a game other than closing you put him in center field. He knows what he’s doing, he goes out there, he doesn’t mess around, it’s not like he’s clowning around, it’s just part of what he does on a regular basis. It was a shock but I’m just glad he feels the way he feels about this.”
If he thought Rivera was going to be as good as he is now:
“Of course I had no knowledge of Mo at all but knowing that he had surgery on his arm and believe it or not, I think you may have heard it Michael, there was some talk about possibly trading him in the spring of ’96. We had Bob Wickman at the time so you didn’t really know about this young guy although you do remember him in that game against Seattle for sure but I didn’t know a whole lot about him. It didn’t take me long to learn about him because just the way he goes about his business and the ball jumps out of his hand. He’s remarkable. You can talk about the greatest of all-time but the thing that makes him stand out head and shoulders above anybody else is the success he has had in the postseason.”
Whether he thinks Rivera was in the head of the opponent:
“Oh yeah. It was interesting, they thought they had him for a time Michael because they say all he does is throw a cut fastball and I think it was really enjoyable to watch when he started to play with the ball and all of the sudden the ball wouldn’t cut and you watch those reactions from the hitters when they were waiting for the ball to cut and there it was strike three on a four seamer. I think for sure and I will give you one more story. There was an All-Star game in Atlanta and I’m trying to get everybody in the game and we have a one run lead and I’m going to use my last player, I had another pitcher left, and I’m going to use my last player and I said ‘I just hope I don’t get caught’ and (Darin) Erstad heard me say that and he said ‘who is coming into pitch.’ I said ‘Mariano.’ He said ‘you don’t need another run.’ That was the way the opposition thought of him so yes, I guess he was in the other guys’ heads.”
If it is fair to say Rivera was the most important player to the Yankees postseason success during his time as manager:
“Yeah I think you do. During the course of the season your players that play every day are probably more valuable but when you get into the postseason, that last inning is so valuable, those last three outs, I laugh because I have been listening to the radio today and I’ve laughed at some people when it’s suggested that he may be not only one of the best relievers but maybe one of the best pitchers and they say ‘well you only pitch one inning so how can you be that?’ Those last three outs unless you sit in the dugout or you’ve watched it for years Michael, those last three outs are like gold. I don’t think there’s any question of how valuable he was and in the postseason I don’t think there was anyone more important.”