After finishing his first full season as the closer, Jeurys Familia had to be living the dream. His fans sure were. We saw lots of comments about him being "the next Mariano Rivera". Personally, I don't have it in for him or his fans, but I had to bite my lip when I read that. See, I got to watch him pitch from his rookie year to his retirement, and I know how special his accomplishments were. Comparing a 26-year old who just completed his first complete season to a Hall of Famer seems presumptuous, but I understand the enthusiasm. Still ....
Over the course of 16 seasons, Rivera appeared in 32 postseason series. Fifteen of those 32 resulted in a World Series win. A career postseason ERA of 0.70 and a World Series ERA of 0.99. I could quote a million stats which prove what we all know about Rivera. Even Mets fans who compared Familia to him acknowledge it when they use Rivera as the standard of greatness. Comparing a kid who had one successful regular season and two postseason series to that kind of legacy is just illogical. But again, I understand the irrational exuberance.
In the aftermath of the Mets' World Series collapse, you have to look at how important the role fo the closer is. If Familia had been able to do the job his first two times out, the Mets could have been up 3-1 instead of down 3-1. Let that sink in. This was what Rivera meant to the Yankees. If we had the lead going into the 8th inning, it was over. If he entered a tied game, he held the line. Eighty-five times he came in with a tie or a lead and eighty times the Yankees got the win they earned. It wasn't absolutely perfect, but it was better than almost anyone else.
Rivera built a kind of trust you just don't see all that often. Goose Gossage said it best - "This guy walks into the game, and they are done." That was the thinking of Joe Torre, who was accused of overusing him. Could you blame him? Rivera was the ninth inning guy. Unless, of course, the tying run got on base or came to the plate in the eighth. Since becoming the closer, he was brought in in the eighth inning of a postseason game 45 times out of 83 appearances. That speaks to a level of trust that you don't often see. Look at what happened in Game 5 of the Series. Going into the top of the 9th, Matt Harvey had already tallied 102 pitches. Yes, he was throwing a scoreless ballgame and maybe pitch counts are overrated. Nevertheless, that's the exact situation where you bring in your closer. Yet Familia was in the bullpen. I cannot read minds, but that doesn't scream confidence from Terry Collins. By the time Familia came in, the tying run was on second with no one out. Even then, he should have been the perfect man for the job. The closer who had a 9.9 K/9 during the regular season, whose team desperately needed a strikeout, couldn't get a single swinging strike. Two soft grounders and the tying run crossed the plate.
Honestly, I feel bad for the kid. Maybe the "Rivera" talk got in his head, and he started to feel the pressure. Maybe the 26-yeaar old in his first World Series, feeling monumental expectations and pressure, cracked. I really hope he puts this in the past and he doesn't turn into Byung-Hyun Kim. At least he'll have a chance to redeem himself. The Mets open next season in Kansas City. You can't make this up.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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