OK, it is possible to overhype Mariano Rivera

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OK, I lied. It is possible to overstate the Mariano Rivera love. Here’s Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, filling out his Top Five Yankees of All Time ballot.  Note that he’s also filling out his column inches by needlessly including nicknames and descriptors of the most famous baseball players in history as if we didn’t know who they were, but that’s more of a print media criticism than a baseball analysis one.

Anyway, you may be surprised to see who he thinks Mariano Rivera is better than:

You have to start with Babe Ruth; forever he will be No. 1. The Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, who called himself the “luckiest man on the face of the Earth,” is next. No. 3 is Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Then comes Derek Jeter, Mr. 3,000. Rounding out the Fantastic Five is the incomparable Mariano Rivera …It hurts deeply for a kid who grew up a Mickey Mantle fan to move The Mick out of the top five, but this is the new Yankees reality. Time marches on, and Mantle, for all his greatness, does not make my final-five cut. If he had stayed healthy, it would have been a different story. Go cry to Billy Crystal.

Look, Rivera may be better at his job than most other ballplayers have been better at their jobs, but let’s be clear about something: Mariano Rivera’s job was nowhere near as important to the wins and losses of the Yankees as Mickey Mantle’s was.  You don’t need to go into advanced metrics to see this, and if you dispute it you simply don’t know what it takes to win baseball games.

If you’re not interested in the wins and losses and are looking for more of a zeitgeist thing — who meant more; who was greater in that oh-gee-whiz kind of way — well, you still have to go with Mantle. I mean, c’mon! He was the single most important Yankee to the entire Baby Boom’s worth of Yankees fans and has continued to be well past his retirement and death.  Rivera has been one of a couple of key guys in the narrative for the past 15 years or so.

This is just an exercise in “that thing that just happened is the best thing that ever happened.”  It’s also a reminder that you can overhype even the greatest stuff ever.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.