Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer to ever play the game, did the unthinkable on Sunday; he gave up a grand slam. So for the 40 year-old Mo, is this the beginning of the end? The larger question that many Yankee fans do not want to ask, but think about more than any of them will admit, is if this is the beginning of the end of another Yankee dynasty.
Rivera is part of the nucleus that since 1996 have led the Yankees to five, World Series Championships. But the Gang of Four is getting older. The Sandman gave up a walk that brought in a run. He then gave up a grand slam that sealed the game. The problem with players like Rivera , and more importantly what they have accomplished, is that we expect them to be perfect all the time. I’m not saying I do not have high expectations for millionaire ball players. But, they are after all, just human. Rivera is bound to make a mistake.
I do think we are witnessing the beginning of a transitional stage, an ice age if you will, within the Yankees. All teams go through this. The Yankees went through a period of stagnation during the 1980s and early 1990s. Rivera, Pettite, Posada, and Jeter will all eventually retire. Yes, I said it, Derek Jeter will actually retire one day. However, what makes dominant teams, whether it is the Yankees, the Lakers, Celtics, Patriots, or Red Wings, dominant is their ability to attract top talent. Of course exuberantly high salaries also help.
The Yankees continuously seem to fill the gaps with key additions. Gardner has filled in wonderfully. Prior to injury, Curtis Granderson filled the void created by the loss of Matsui. The Yankees added and lost key players since the 1990s but maintained their winning ways. The business of baseball is fluid. There will always be change and there will always be turnover in rotations and rosters. Players like Jeter and Pettite will never be fully replaced, but neither were Domaggio and Ruth. Yet the Yankees are the winningest team globally in professional sports. So while I hope we continue to see the likes of Rivera and Posada, Yankee fans should rest easy knowing that change is coming, and will continue to come. It is the ability of the franchise to maintain the tradition and continue to attract the top talent in baseball for generations to come.