David Robertson may be under more pressure than any other Yankee in 2014. On any other team the focus would be on the new additions that have cost the Yankees roughly half a billion dollars, but none of them are coming in to replace Mariano Rivera. That challenge will be given to Robertson, the question that lingers, is he up for it?
Nobody wants to be the guy to replace a legend, they all want to be the guy who replaces that guy, when the pressure has been turned down a notch. Robertson has been groomed for this transition for the last few years. The speculation that he may one day become a closer started in 2011, when he posted a 1.08 era and struck out 100 in only 66.2 innings pitched, while serving as the primary set-up man to Rivera.
Although his 2011 season was for the most part spectacular, there was one area where he struggled. Robertson struggled to attack the strike zone at times and walked 35 batters. That is an unacceptable amount, you simply cannot be putting yourself in those sort of situations and expect to routinely get out of them. He has improved drastically the past two seasons, walking 19 in 2012 and 18 in 2013, giving the Yankees hope that those issues are behind him. Getting those last 3 outs are hard enough, a closer can’t be handing out base runners consistently with the game on the line. Besides that, it is difficult to find any other fault in his resume.
All that remains now are the aggravating arguments and debates on whether a pitcher has “the closer mentality” or “is he ready to be the closer?” – How are we supposed to know the answer to these questions until you actually give someone the job? One thing you have to keep in mind is that Robertson is 28-years-old and will turn 29 right around opening day. This will be his seventh season in the majors, he knows what it takes to pitch at the highest level and has been in plenty of high pressure situations. The great Mariano Rivera served as a set-up man for 1 season before taking over the closer role, that’s right, 1 season! The only reason they were able to uncover his full potential was because the Yankees gave him that opportunity.
Think Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle, Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers or David Robinson to Tim Duncan, those are the transitions the Yankees hope to follow. Will Mariano Rivera to David Robertson be put into that same conversation? Maybe, maybe not, only time will tell. Replacing a legend is no easy task, but Robertson appears up to the challenge. He might not be Mariano Rivera, but will anyone?