They say that history repeats itself. The Yankees sure hope that’s the case right now.
As Dellin Betances burst onto the scene in 2014, many comparisons were drawn to Mariano Rivera‘s season in 1996, when he set the franchise record for most strikeouts by a reliever (130) in his first full year in the major leagues. Fast forward 18 years, and Betances now holds the record (135), in what was his first full season.
If you look at their respective seasons, Betances actually had the better year – which is scary. Both guys were failed starters who were turned into relievers and ultimately setup-men. But the comparisons don’t stop there.
Rivera, 26 in ’96, set-up for 29 year old John Wetteland, who was in his walk year at the time. Wetteland sometimes made you sweat the ninth; walking a guy here, giving up a hit there, before he eventually nailed it down. Even though he saved a combined 50 games with the Yanks in ’96 between the regular and postseason, his relationship ended abruptly with New York when he signed a 4 year, $23M deal to close for the Texas Rangers. Wetteland was put-off by the Yankees approach to him after he requested a 4 year contract:
Wetteland had told teammates he wanted to stay with the Yankees after the World Series, but his request for a four-year, $24 million contract did not please the team. And then the closer grew annoyed as New York took what he thought was a cavalier approach to negotiations with him while it pursued the starters Roger Clemens, David Wells and others. (Jack Curry, NY Times. December 16, 1996)
Rivera became the closer in 1997 and, well, the rest is history.
Betances, 26 in ’14, set-up for 29 year old David Robertson, who was in his walk year at the time. Robertson sometimes made you sweat the ninth; walking a guy here, giving up a hit there, before he eventually nailed it down. Starting to sound familiar?
Earlier today, it was reported that Robertson agreed to a 4 year deal worth $46M to close for the Chicago White Sox. There have been no reports that the Yankees made an offer to retain Robertson, who asked for “Papelbon money” when free agency began. The Yankees instead focused their attention elsewhere, trading for shortstop Didi Gregorius and signing lefty-reliever hybrid setup man Andrew Miller.
It seemed as if the Yankees were perfectly fine with letting Robertson walk. If he left, they have options to fill the void. If he stays, well then that just bolsters their pen even more. Regardless, their silence on Robertson from the beginning signaled the end of his time in the Bronx.
What the team does with the closer role going forward is still unknown. The fans are calling for Betances, the dominant flame thrower, but GM Brian Cashman hasn’t committed to him yet with closers still available on the open market.
Will the Yankees hand over the reigns to the soon-to-be 27 year old phenom? It worked out last time.