Monday, January 28, 2013
Posted by el duque at 6:04 PM
The fulcrum point to this Yankiverse is balanced on an event nine years ago: Dec. 16, 2003. On the day before, Rivera is a highly regarded OF prospect - once ranked No. 1 in the organization by Baseball America - who missed much of the previous season after getting hurt while catching fungos in practice, a la Mariano. He is 24, and he hit 7 HRs in 174 ABs for the Yankees.
On the day after, Cashman trades him to Montreal for Javier Vazquez.
Allow me to speak freely here: UGH.
We traded Rivera, Randy Choate and Nick Johnson for Vazquez. UGHHHH.
It was one of Cashman's signature fantasy deals: Give up position prospects and a spare part for that stud pitcher entering his prime, the future superstar who will surely flourish in New York. The Jeff Weaver! The Denny Neagle! The Michael Pineda!
Vazquez goes down as the two-time Yankee disappointment, the pariah who surrendered the grand slam to Johnny Damon, which ended the so-called Curse of the Bambino and basically made the Yankees and Redsocks equals over the entire last decade. For the Yankees, there is a "Before 2004" and an "After 2004" image. Since losing to Boston, we have never had our Yankee pride fully restored. We probably never will. And it starts with the trade of Juan Rivera.
Rivera goes down in the books as a lifetime .274 hitter with a string of decent seasons between 2004 and 2009. Damn, he could have helped us. In the 2005 AL post-season, he lead the Angels in crushing us, hitting .353. Of course, by then, Vazquez was gone.
Choate is still in baseball. Here's a trivia question: Name all the bullpen lefty specialists we have auditioned over the years? He could have solved that problem. And Nick Johnson still has a career on base percentage of nearly .400.
Well, we're in the wrong Yankiverse. We're in the one where Rivera got dealt, and there's nothing we can do about it. Or maybe there is. Today, the Yankees signed him as a free agent, another RH possibility in the outfield. To be honest, he's probably got the RH DH job no matter what happens in spring training, because - for better or worse - that's generally how the Yankees work. Hey, Ronnier Mustelier, start looking for a home in Scranton.
Juan Rivera has come home. He's 34. Jeez. On this team, that's young.