WHAT IF ... Mariano Rivera hadn't injured his knee in 2012?

12/20/2013 1:04 PM ET
By Doug Williams

Life could have been much different for the 2013 Yankees if this didn't happen in 2012.(YES Network/AP)
Over the past week, the staff has debated a series of What If? scenarios for the Yankees, ranging from the very old (Derek Jeter and the 1992 Draft) to the kind of old (Robinson Cano and the A-Rod trade) to the very new (the 2013 seasons of Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson).

So, to round out the series, Lou DiPietro and I decided to both give our take on a scenario that is a combo of both old and new, a little less recent than Granderson and Hughes but on the scope of Cano and Jeter: What If Mariano Rivera HADN’T hurt his knee in 2012? What would have happened then?

To say the least, 2013 was an interesting year to be a Yankee fan. It was such a disappointment in terms of the team’s final result, but such a jewel in another way: We were able to say a proper farewell to the greatest closer of all time. It was a slight shock that Rivera even pitched in 2013, as he was 43 years old and coming off of a torn ACL. But Rivera did what so many competitive players would do…he worked hard to retire on top.

So what if he didn’t have to do that?

First of all, I think 2012 would have been his last year. He had already appeared in nine games before the injury and he looked as good as ever. He probably would have announced as the season went on that 2012 would be his last, and that would have been that. No season long farewell tour and possibly no standing ovation at the All-Star Game…but his ceremony at Yankee Stadium would have been equally emotional and meaningful.

And by the way, I don’t think Rivera’s “farewell” tour was ever his intention. He announced his plan to retire at the beginning of the season as a courtesy to his team and the fans. As happy as he was to be able to speak to the employees of each opposing team, I think he would have been equally happy with less attention on him. That’s just the kind of guy he is.

Second of all, Rafael Soriano wouldn’t have opted out of his contract. He had been signed by the Yankees in 2011 to be the setup man and the heir to Rivera’s throne…so it didn’t take long for the Yankees to find Mo’s replacement during his injury. Soriano took advantage, saved 42 games, and kept the Yankees afloat. The only reason he opted out after his great season was because Rivera had announced his plan to return.

Instead, Soriano would have soldiered through one more season of being a setup man and then pounced on the closer job. And today, instead of talking about David Robertson as the obvious choice for the closing job, we’d be arguing about whether the Yankees should re-sign Soriano or give Robertson a shot.

Really, that would be the same situation as the Yankees are in now with only a slight twist, but it sure would have been a completely different path to that spot.

As for Lou DiPietro’s take, you can click here to read it.

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