Friday, May 4, 2012

Panic in the Bronx: Now the Yankees have an injury epidemic

It's one thing when a key position player goes down with a significant injury and misses a large chunk of time. The Mets know about that all too well. However, it's their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, the supposedly indestructible Bronx Bombers, who are suffering from a damaging injury plague, and at the wrong time, too.

One week after Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey had his season end due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, performed earlier this week by Dr. James Andrews, the Yankees saw star closer Mariano Rivera  go to the ground during warmups prior to Thursday's game at Kansas City, a game the Royals would win to send the Bombers to their 3rd straight loss and 4th in their last 6. It was later revealed that Rivera had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was likely lost for the season, pending a second opinion. The Yankees are already missing outfielders Brett Gardner & Nick Swisher, the latter of whom could be back as soon as next week, for all we know.

Prior to the start of the season, Rivera had hinted that 2012 would be his final season. Then again, Atlanta's Chipper Jones had dropped similar hints a couple of years ago, but also had to deal with injuries that shortened his season. Jones has made it clear that this is his final season, regardless of injury or how much the Braves might need him in 2013 to make a transition to the next generation. We're barely a month into the season, and Rivera, the anchor of the Yankees' bullpen corps, if not also their pitching staff, is gone.

Luckily, the Yankees have Rafael Soriano, whom they acquired prior to the 2011 season. He had a shaky first year in New York, but now, he has to fill Rivera's role as the closer, a role he had in previous stops in Atlanta, Tampa Bay, & Seattle. It's better than having to force an untested rookie into the role, something neither the Mets nor Yankees would even want to do, not with the media in New York micro-scrutinizing their every move. That said, the Yankees will be fine for now, but toward the end of the season, they may need some insurance in case something were to happen to Soriano.

The headlines in the tabloids this morning fanned the flames of panic and fear, but because of deadlines, they didn't have the latest information in hand. The way analysts on MLB Network carried on last night, you'd think Chicken Little was forecasting that the sky was falling. I imagine it was the same on YES & ESPN and elsewhere. Please, give me a break. It's been years since Rivera was on the disabled list, and this only proves that he is human after all.

The Yankees simply have to adjust, regroup, and rededicate themselves to the mission at hand. You know, of course, that's how the late George Steinbrenner would've wanted it, and he---and Rivera---wouldn't want it any other way.

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