Yankees closer David Robertson, Mariano Rivera's heir, was placed on the disabled list on Monday with a grade-1 groin strain. Forgive the seemingly irrelevant insertion of Mariano Rivera there -- Rivera belongs to the ages, and for all we know Robertson's groin belongs to the ages as well. There really is no need to invoke the future Hall of Famer in this context except that there is a kind of tacit understanding among all of us, sportswriters and readers alike, that Robertson has a massive shadow looming over him, or perhaps just over his groin, and we must remind you of that condition every chance we get to heighten the drama inherent in what is, to be honest, a not terribly dramatic situation: Rivera was an all-time great closer, but now that's over, and Robertson will or won't pitch well and eventually the Yankees will find someone to fill that role. Regardless, Rivera will have nothing to do with it, and bringing him up is inherently unfair.
We solemnly pledge to keep doing it, however, just as someone someplace is still shaking his head and saying that George Selkirk was no Babe Ruth. And he wasn't, but he was just fine when he was healthy, which was rarely. Like David Robertson's groin. Mariano Rivera was twice disabled by groin strains, but so flawless was he that many claim he didn't even have a groin -- kind of like a Barbie or Ken doll -- and are certain that the records are in error.
Joe Girardi admits that he is uncertain who will close in the absence of Robertson, who by at least one measure has been the seventh-most valuable reliever in baseball over the course of his career, in the same ballpark as the more heralded Craig Kimbrel and Grant Balfour, each of who have save totals that dwarf Robertson's own. That's the clue as to why this isn't a panic-in-the-streets moment for the Yankees -- the most valuable role in the bullpen isn't always that of the closer, depending on how and when the closer is used by his Mensa-member manager. The Yankees can plug someone else into the role and chances are that he/she/it will be largely successful because the conversion rates of the best and worst closers are not terribly far apart.
Robertson injured himself closing out Sunday's game. On Monday, the Yankees got 2⅔ hitless, run-free innings from their bullpen, with Shawn Kelley picking up the first save of his six-year major league career in the process. Some are born to greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them. Either way, Yankees fans probably shouldn't worry about it until they have to -- one of those Mariano groin pulls came in 1998, a season in which they won roughly 179 games.
In other Yankees news, the club successfully traded Eduardo Nunez -- the subject of a 270-game conspiracy pretending that he was a major league player -- to the Twins for a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher named Miguel Sulbaran, who has lately been seen haunting the environs of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sulbaran hasn't impressed as a prospect, but given that Nunez is a career .267/.313/.379 hitter with a .940 fielding percentage at shortstop -- tied with Jeff Kunkel (1984-1992) for the most butterfingered infielding since the 1970s -- Sulbaran doesn't need to have much more than a good sense of humor to justify the trade.
Hank Aaron's 715th Homer
Rule of baseball: A utility infielder needs to be able to field, particularly at shortstop. If he cannot do that, he'd better be enough of a hitter to play second base, third base or even left field. If he can do none of these things, as Nunez could do none of these things, you are truly stretching the definition of "utility" and should trade said player -- if not fir a Sulbaran, a dictionary -- and stop defrauding your customers.