Imagining if there were no Rafael Soriano in the Yankee bullpen. Imagine that Mariano Rivera was lost for the season in May and then imagine that nearly immediately after that devastation, David Robertson was bequeathed the interim closer’s job only to go on the disabled list for a number of weeks. Imagine what the New York Yankees season would have potentially looked like had Joe Girardi been forced into a “closer by committee” situation. Imagine the ransom notes GM Brian Cashman would have received in response to his inquiries about available, top-notch firemen. And while, I am 99.99 percent more likely to quote Joe Strummer than John Lennon, right about now Rafael Soriano feels heaven-sent.
When Goose Gossage broke his thumb wrestling with teammate Cliff Johnson in 1979, our goose was cooked; there was no Sparky Lyle waiting in the wings; he had already been excommunicated, banished to Texas Rangers in a trade that did net us closer-to-be Dave Righetti. Mind you, that ’79 season was already wrecked by the tragic death of Thurman Munson, but I think a lot of Yankee fans were feeling that without Mo our 2012 season may not have lived up to expectations.
Enter Rafi. Thing is: Cashman didn’t want him in the first place; overruled by the Brothers Steinbrenner after losing out in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes spending $35m for three seasons of a set-up man seemed steep. Right about now as Soriano has rounded out into one of the finest, surest closers in the game today (despite blowing his second save against Oakland on Sunday) and maybe even something of a bargain.
Look: he’s a different guy when he gets to be the man. The guy’s got attitude; it’s called a closer’s mentality and maybe that’s where the sullenness and the surliness come from. Here’s a guy who knows he can get the closer’s job done, but had to dial it down to be a set-up guy – even for the mighty Mo. And speaking of him, even Mariano Rivera isn’t the same pitcher when he’s just getting some work in, when he’s not closing; most closers are not the same pitcher in those situations.
Admittedly he hasn’t been lights out – three broken bats, end of story like some closers we know – but his career WHIPs indicate that he has that in him. When he saved forty-five games in 2010 for Tampa Bay, his WHIP was a miniscule 0.80. The previous season with the Braves it was thirty-one saves and a 1.06 WHIP which really are Mo-type numbers. Soriano now has more saves than any other Yankee pitcher without number forty-two on his back.
Personally, I don’t care what he’s looking at in his Yankee hat before throwing a pitch, I don’t care what he scribbles in the dirt; did we need to know what made Al Hrabosky “mad?” What matters is getting the job done and Rafael Soriano has been doing that very thing. And when the work’s done? Yanking out his uniform top doesn’t feel like taunting and it doesn’t look like stupid histrionics, such as performing a somersault or two on the mound. What it indicates to me is that Soriano knows he’s done his job and another Yankee game has been etched in the win column. Yeah, we gave him some Bronx cheers when he blew one in the Stadium, but I would hate to imagine where the Yankees would be without him entering in the ninth even if it’s not that song.