Mariano Rivera will be an all-star in his 19th and final season. That's a foregone conclusion, regardless of performance or what statistical analysis might suggest.
By the way, through the first six weeks the numbers strongly suggest he belongs. He's a perfect 16 for 16 in save chances through the Yankees first 39 games, which is quickest he's reached that number of saves throughout his Hall of Fame career. He also owns a sparkling 1.56 ERA and opposing batters are hitting just .219 against him.
He's every bit as good now as he was before his ACL tear suffered last season, if not better. The only thing standing in his way of appearing at Citi Field on July 16 is injury, but if complete knee reconstruction can't slow him down, what can?
He'll be there, but now we're starting to hear some debate over what exactly his role should be at the Midsummer Classic.
Naturally, the first thought is "Mo" belongs in the ninth inning, but there's no guarantee the National League will hit in the ninth inning. let alone that there will be a save opportunity. If you hold him back waiting for that situation to develop, there's a chance Rivera's true impact on the game is minimal. So what would be the next most logical spot for Rivera to appear to guarantee maximum impact and presence?
According to Billy Chuck over at Billy-Ball, it's a pretty simple solution. He believes Rivera should start the game, and he offered his nine reasons why in a piece written on Wednesday.
There are no players who receive more attention in the days leading up to the game than the leagues’ starting pitchers. In this season, in which Mariano is retiring and awaiting his Hall of Fame induction, the attention should go to Rivera.
Rivera would be the center of attention regardless of his role, so I'm not buying that as much as I'd buy Rivera simply getting a stand alone introduction when the game has the most eyes on it.
Rivera starting would pit him against the best the NL has to offer. From the 6th inning on the game is filled with substitutes and often the mandatory one player from each team representative.
Let's be honest, sometimes the substitutes are the better players (or are at least having better seasons) than those voted in by the fans. As far as appealing matchups for the fans, then yes, maybe this works. But there's no guarantee he faces better competition in the first inning.
For those of you purists, I ask you: Does it really matter which inning in this exhibition game that the great Mariano actually pitches, or does it matter that we get to see him pitch?
That's a question that is sure to elicit many passionate responses, and I assume the good majority of them would say ninth inning or else.
Personally, I don't hate Chuck's idea. I think it guarantees Rivera gets a proper introduction in his final all-star appearance and protects it from being an anti-climatic appearance in, say, the eighth inning, if the National League were holding a large lead. That said, if the perfect scenario did present itself in the ninth and Rivera wasn't available to lock it down, it would leave quite an empty feeling.
It's an interesting debate that I had not really considered before Chuck brought it up. I'm sure it will pick up some steam as July 16 nears. But as we stand now, we'd love to hear what your opinion is of Bill Chuck's idea and how you'd like to see Rivera honored at the all-star game.