Mariano Rivera came to the defense of the beleaguered Aaron Boone on Thursday afternoon, saying the Yankees’ manager did a “tremendous” job despite the early ouster in the postseason, and added that this team could be one quality front-line pitcher away from building a dynasty of its own.
“I can’t say nothing bad about Boone. He did a great job. An amazing job,” the former closer said at a firehouse in Harlem. (Rivera was there to visit with elementary school children and teach them about the importance of fire safety as part of the Hartford Junior Fire Marshall program during fire prevention month.)
Boone, he said, kept his players “motivated — pushing and pushing and pushing. To me, he did an outstanding job, absolutely great job with those guys, and hopefully next year, you give him the help that he needs to get to the next level.”
Major League Baseball’s career saves leader added that a lot of the Yankees’ woes came down to tough breaks. “If we would’ve had a hit or two in the later innings, we wouldn’t be talking about this,” he said. “I’m disappointed.”
Still, starting pitching is a glaring deficiency, and one Rivera thinks the front office should and will prioritize in the offseason.
Asked if this team could have the makeup to pull together another Yankees dynasty, Rivera — part of the Core Four that won four World Series in five years — didn’t hesitate for a moment.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “We need a little help with the pitching staff in the starting rotation. We need a guy that can go down there and shut down teams. But at the same time, they have all the players — all the qualities, all the abilities. Everything that they need to win, they have it. They have to execute.”
He lauded the bullpen’s efforts in the playoffs but said the rotation “didn’t do what it was supposed to do.
We need someone to step up. Especially in a situation like that, you have to step up and do the job.”
Now five years into retirement and on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in January, Rivera, 48, has no immediate plans to rejoin the world of baseball. He wouldn’t want to manage or be a pitching coach, he said, because it would take him away from his family. Rivera did say he’d be open to joining the Yankees in a special advisory role, maybe working with the farm system.
For now, though, he prefers to watch from afar. That means hoping the Yankees make a splash on the free-agent market, just like any other fan, and even getting a chuckle out of the way baseball is changing.
He thinks bullpenning is a fine idea, by the way. After all, it makes relievers more valuable.
“If it works for baseball, why not?” he said. “I wasn’t playing like that in the time that I play. You hope your starter goes nine innings. Now it’s different. Your starter goes five innings, that’s good . . . If the game is going like that and you’re winning — hey, you do whatever it takes to win.”