With Mariano Rivera retiring at the end of last season the torch has been passed to first year New York Yankee closer, David Robertson. Many Yankee fans are asking the same questions. Is he the right guy? Should we sign a free agent? Why Can't Mariano pitch forever? The time of transition is definitely one of doubt and second guessing, but Yankee history proves that Robertson will be successful.
When Mariano announced that last year would be his final season in a Yankee uniform, many people wondered who would become the new closer. Now the answer is known, David Robertson. There are many doubts about Robertson. The most obvious of them is that he has never shown the capacity to close. With 8 career saves, many wonder if he is the right guy for the job. Of course a failed stint in 1992, doesn't build any confidence among the Yankee faithful. When Rivera was injured in May of 2012, the Yankees anointed Robertson co-closer with Rafael Soriano. Robertson never settled into the role and was injured himself on May 15th of that same year. By the time he came off the DL, Soriano had solidified himself as the closer and Robertson settled back into a set-up role. So the concern is real.
The Yankees have a long lineage of great catchers and hitters, to name a few. They also have had many great closers. In fact the Yankees have been down this road several times and have always been successful. Let's start with Mariano. In 1995 Rivera was called up to the majors as a starter. With very little success he was sent down to AAA Columbus. He was a September call up that year and made one more start before settling in the bullpen. In 1996 Rivera was the setup man for John Wetteland. Wetteland finished the season with 43 saves and a World Series MVP. In that off-season the Yanks decided to let Wetteland walk and handed the reigns over to an inexperienced Rivera, and the rest is history.
In 1972 Sparky Lyle was traded to the Yankees and quickly became the first dominant reliever in Yankee History. Saves became an official MLB statistic in 1969 and Lyle was one of the games early stars. He was a three time All Star, two time saves leader and the 1977 Cy Young Award winner. In 1978 the Yankees signed free agent Goose Gossage. Gossage had been a reliever and starter with the Chicago White Sox and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1977. The Yankees once again made a bold closing move, signing Gossage to a lucrative free agent deal. With Sparky Lyle winning the Cy Young a season earlier, many questioned the Yankees decision. Gossage took over the closer role that season and never looked back, becoming a nine time All Star and winning a World Series in that '78 season.
In 1984 the Yankees were at it again. With Gossage moving on to San Diego they named starting pitcher, Dave Righetti as the new closer. At the time many people questioned the move. Righetti had never closed before and he was primarily given the job because the Yanks had an excess of starting pitching. Righetti went on to record 252 career saves. On October 4, 1986, Dave Righetti recorded both saves of a double header to set the Major League record for saves in a season at 46.
The Yankees have had great success in transitioning relievers into the closer role throughout the years. In a relatively short period of time the Yanks have had many legendary closers. David Robertson is facing the same adversity of those who have proceeded him. History is on his side and 2014 should prove to be the beginning of another Yankee closer legacy.
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