With Mariano Rivera being first time Hall of Fame eligible, and his being the first ever player unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame, it is a reminder to all of just how great he was in the postseason. While those Yankee teams had players like Derek Jeter, the Yankees do not win nearly as much without Rivera in the ninth.
Rivera was a big part of a Yankees bullpen upon which a dynasty was built. Still, with how great Rivera was, there were other significant parts which made that Yankees bullpen as strong as there was in the history of baseball.
Rivera’s prime set-up man was Mike Stanton. The former Braves closer signed a deal with the Yankees thereby giving the team two closers at the end of games. Stanton was used by Joe Torre in conjunction with Jeff Nelson.
Nelson was the proverbial forgotten man in the Tino Martinez trade. Nelson came into games and truly neutralized batters with his throwing slider after slider after slider. His pairing with Stanton and Rivera made the postseason games a six or even five inning affair for Yankee starters.
Now, with the Yankees facing their first decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s, the team is rebuilding that dynastic bullpen.
Taking the place of Stanton is Zach Britton. The former Orioles closer has found a home in the Yankees bullpen as a set-up man. In 25 games with the Yankees, he had a 2.88 ERA, and he would have a 2.25 ERA in the ALDS. He will now play the role of Stanton for the Yankees for at least two more seasons.
Joining him is slider specialist Adam Ottavino. According to Brooks Baseball, Ottavino used his slider more than any other pitch last season. His coming in throwing slider after slider after slider is reminiscent of what the Yankees once had with Nelson. In fact, the combination of Britton and Ottavino is very similar to what the Yankees had with Stanton and Nelson. You could even argue Britton and Ottavino are better.
The obvious issue is the current Yankees team doesn’t have a Rivera. That’s understandable considering there is only one Rivera. Their best bet could be for Aroldis Chapman to be that man. Maybe, you could see Chapman being replaced by Dellin Betances much in the same fashion Rivera took over for John Wetteland after the 1996 season.
However the bullpen looks at then end of the day is going to be up to Aaron Boone. His goal for 2019 is to use the bullpen as deftly as Torre had 20 years ago. Boone will have two very similar pieces at his disposal. We will see how things pan out with him not having the biggest piece of all.