Rivera’s and Pettitte’s Day: A Celebration and a Wake
Much like the celebrations of these four players was part of a team concept that was once held in the Canyon of Heroes in lower New York City following a World Series win, it’s now becoming abundantly clear that the glory days of 1996 to the present are over. I don't mean "over" like Michael Kay declaring the 2010 ALCS over after a Yankees game one comeback victory. I mean actually over.
In spite of Yankees fans’ delusions that they’re still contenders for a playoff spot this season, they’re not. Even if they win today and sweep the Rays in their series this week, all they’ll succeed in doing is helping the Rangers who are playing the historically awful Astros. They’re not making the playoffs. There would be a launching point sense to the day’s events if they or anyone involved with the organization thought they were going to be playing into October. Robinson Cano’s silly statement earlier this week that it was “God’s will” that Rivera and the Yankees have one last playoff run was the combination of Cano saying what he thought people wanted to hear and a self-deluding desperation that they still had a legitimate shot in the face of all math and reality.
Rivera deserves his moment. Pettitte, reluctant to intrude on Rivera’s day, announced his retirement on Friday after Rivera encouraged him to do so, has also earned a goodbye from Yankees fans. They’ve been great Yankees and contributed mightily to a historic run of success. The idea, however, that the success the Yankees enjoyed over the tenures of Rivera, Pettitte and Jeter is guaranteed to continue simply because of Yankees history is ignoring how these players came to be who they were.
Jeter was a first round draft pick, selected sixth overall in 1992. A player drafted that highly is expected to become a significant contributor in the Major Leagues. There can be a retrospective look at the players drafted before Jeter and the teams that made the “mistake” of not selecting him can be criticized, but it’s not on the level of the quarterbacks drafted before Tom Brady in 2000. It’s a totally different dynamic between the NFL draft and a sixth round afterthought like Brady and Jeter, who was a tall, skinny high school kid with a Kid-‘N-Play eraserhead fade haircut.
As for Pettitte, Rivera and Posada, their acquisition and development was in large part due to luck. Pettitte was a 1990 22nd round draft pick who arrived during a time when there weren’t the self-destructive and onerous pitch counts to hinder his development.