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Joe Girardi reflects on 19 years of "The Sandman"

09/22/2013 10:11 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
Of course, the Yankees had a very important game to play on Sunday, but the majority of manager Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference (and a little bit of the postgame one, too) centered on the pending festivities for Mariano Rivera’s farewell ceremony.

Before (and after) Rivera had his number retired in Monument Park, he came out to a live rendition of “Enter Sandman” and was surrounded by past and present teammates as he received a slew of gifts from the Giants, Yankees and even Metallica, Girardi waxed poetic on the 19-year career of the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball.

Below, in its entirety, is the transcript of Girardi’s pregame briefing -- which you can also see in video form here on YESNetwork.com -- as well as what he had to say about Rivera after the game.

Girardi on what he thought the ceremony would be like: “I think it will be first class. I think it will be great for everyone involved. The chance to be a part of this, I’m really looking forward to it.”

Postgame follow-up on how the ceremony went: “Just a special day. Just really a wonderful event in reality, all the things that happened. His family being here, Rachel and Sharon Robinson being here, Metallica being here, all the players coming back that were part of who Mo was…I just thought it was wonderful.”

On what he thought the day meant to Rivera: “I think it means a lot, and I think as time goes on it will mean even more; as he has a chance to digest everything that’s happened this year and what the Yankees have meant to him and what he’s meant to them, he’ll be able to reflect as it gets away from this.”

On how he thought the ceremony and delayed start might affect Rivera and starter Andy Pettitte: “The good thing is that Mo will have a couple hours, but Andy gets so locked in once he starts his day that I don’t think it will be an issue for either one of them. Andy will start his routine and it will be just like any other day for him.”

On if he thought the above would affect the team: “No, I don’t, not at all. Our guys understand what we need to do, and if anything, I think it might provide a little bit more excitement.”

On what he’s learned from Rivera: “When I think about Mo, the numbers speak for themselves, but the way he’s went about his business is something you wish everyone could do. I would tell my kids this is an example of how you’re supposed to go about your work. I’ve always said about Mo that he’s extremely focused on that day, that week, that month, that year, and never shortchanged himself. He’s always prepared and gives everything he has on a daily basis, and he doesn’t let what happens in a game determine who he is as a person. The game is obviously very important to us, but it’s not who you are, it’s what you do, and I think Mo reflects that better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

On if the day had any extra meaning for him: “Yeah it does, and probably a little more sadness too in a sense. I’m extremely happy for them and that they’re going out the way they want, but you’re going to miss them around here every day, there’s no doubt about it. Being able to play alongside them and know what they meant, getting to manage them and know what they’ve meant – not only on the field but also inside that clubhouse – those are two guys that aren’t easily replaced, and I will miss them. I had a chance to play alongside them when there were a lot of World Series victories here, and for me, that was really enjoyable.”

On if it was a “sure bet” that Rivera would pitch: “I don’t necessarily feel pressure right now to put him in the game because of what lies in front of us. We might need him five of six days next week, and you’d hate to make it six of eight just because. So, I don’t necessarily feel the pressure now. Will that change as the day goes on? Maybe, but right now, I think you have to focus on what the ultimate goal is.”

On if, as a catcher, he ever sensed a batter felt they were “already out” when stepping into the box against Rivera: “I don’t think necessarily already out, but they knew they were in for a difficult at-bat. The cut is late and it’s hard to pick up; you think you’re on it and you’re not on it and the bat is shattered in half. But, I don’t think a player ever let on that he was out before he got in the box. You don’t get to his point in your career, with the competitive nature that you have, and feel that way. I think some guys may have even taken it on as a bigger challenge, thinking I want to be the one to take down Mo…and most of the time, they weren’t.”

On how Rivera has been so successful: “I think he was extremely blessed with a gift, number one, and number two, I think he used that gift to the best of his ability and kept it simple. His mechanics were impeccable, he was an outstanding fielder, and an outstanding athlete that didn’t try to trick people; he just went right at them, and didn’t waste pitches. This is a guy who’d close a game in eight or 10 pitches, and you could use him on a regular basis because of that. He mastered his craft as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”

On who could step up to replace Rivera as a leader: “It will come from within that clubhouse. Guys will step up; that’s what happens – life changes, guys move on and others will step up. I think we’re too far away from that right now to wonder who that will be, because with faces leaving there’s always new faces coming, but I have no doubt that someone will step up.”

On how adding the cutter changed Rivera’s career: “I don’t remember him not having the cutter, to be honest. The biggest difference between Mo now and when I caught him is twofold. First, he didn’t have the sinker, so that was something he developed along the way as he decided he had to keep righties more honest, and that’s been very effective. The other thing he did a lot more when I caught him, because of his power, is that he elevated a lot more in the zone. That’s not something he does as much anymore, because he doesn’t have the 96 or 97 (miles per hour) he used to have. But it was a real treat to catch him, and I’ve said over and over: he was the greatest pitcher I ever caught, and the easiest pitcher I ever caught.”

On if Rivera has brought him peace as a manager: “He brought comfort to me as a player, and he brought comfort to me as a manager. As a player, when he started to really make his mark, I used to think that I only had to get the starter through five in big games, because Mo could probably give us three innings – and if it’s not three, you know it’s two so you only have to get the starter through six, and that’s a comfort. I’ve said even this last month, you start backing up and see how many innings a starter has to give you, and you feel that when Mo comes in a game, it’s over. That’s an advantage for your club, because there’s a peace in your players too and there’s a concern on the other side.”

On if he’s ever seen Rivera carry a bad outing with him mentally: “I can’t remember one, I really can’t. In 1997 when we lost that game in Cleveland, the question was how would Mo respond the next year. There were no concerns from us, because we had seen him turn the page, but I’ve never seen it affect him from a personality standpoint the next day at all. And, it’s really hard to see it affect him from a personality standpoint that day because he’s the same all the time, and I think that’s extremely important as a closer because it allows him to bounce back and have the confidence the next day that the game is over. It’s extremely rare; you could talk about any player, a lot of times guys have a hard time (putting things behind them), but that’s not Mo.”

On the advice he’d give to Rivera and Andy Pettitte upon retirement: “Well, the first piece of advice is that I don’t think men are called to be idolized, we’re called to work in life. Whatever you choose to do is your choice, but for me, I went to work right away because I knew that when Spring Training rolled around that it would be strange not to do something. I would say be with your family more because you don’t want to be gone 225 straight days, but I still think you have to do something to give back to your family and society.”

On if he’d advise either retiree to go into managing: “If they wanted.”

On if he’ll feel less gratified or connected to his team without Rivera and Pettitte: “It won’t be less gratifying, but I think it will take time to get to know the new players. I had to get to know a lot of new players this year, probably about 30 of them over the course of the season. It doesn’t become less gratifying, it’s just part of the job and you understand that there’s changeover, and you just deal with it.”

On where 2013 ranks on Rivera’s scale: “I just think it tells you who he is. He does everything he possibly can to be successful and help a team. He prepares himself physically and mentally, and to be able to do that at 43 is mind-boggling to me. I really believe that in our lifetime, I don’t know if we’ll be able to say that about another pitcher, that he can do what Mo has done at the age of 43. We have watched something that is truly special, and what he’s done for us this year has been special as well.”

On what makes Rivera so special: “As I said, I think you can throw out the statistics, it’s the way he does his job. Baseball isn’t who Mo is, it’s what he does, and I think there’s a lot to be learned from that. As much as it’s a game and a passion of ours and we love it, Mo has life in perspective; I think that’s we all marvel at and look up to him about – how he goes about his business, and how important his teammates and family are to him and what a great example of a man he is.”

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