August 28, 2012

Can Rafael Soriano handle postseason pressure?

The uniform number that will be enshrined twice at Yankee Stadium is also the number of saves Mariano Rivera has recorded in 16 years of pitching in the postseason. That number, of course, is 42, which is 41 more than his successor has.

Rafael Soriano, who will forever be linked to Mo whether it's fair or not, may not be able to hold up to the pressure of the postseason. It's too early to tell; he's only pitched in six games. But the Yankees should proceed with caution, especially after what he did last night.

Soriano can pitch. He's doing about as good as we'd expect of Rivera this season. Sure, watching him allow last night's three-run homer was a big blow. But I'm more concerned with how he handled it, and what that means about his mental toughness, which is needed to record the biggest of saves.

Soriano abandoned the media after blowing a save. The Daily News' John Harper might look bad for complaining about a player not talking to him, but that's not his point. His real point, though, is a good one.

He was gone before the Yankees’ PR people could even find him to ask if he would answer questions from the media.

And don’t get this wrong: it’s not a media issue, it’s an accountability issue. It’s about being a professional in a clubhouse that has oozed professionalism since the day Derek Jeter showed up some 16 years ago.

From a media standpoint, the Yankees may be terribly boring, to the point where the clubhouse can feel more like a corporate boardroom. But they are always pros, understanding there is a responsibility to show up at their lockers on the bad days as well as the good.

The responsibility is to the fans, but also to themselves. Players hate nothing more than having to answer for a player who ducks out on the tough questions. They may not say it publicly, but they see it as a lack of respect for the rest of the guys in the room.

As in: don’t make me clean up your mess.
Harper is right, and I'll be watching Soriano more closely off the field than on down the stretch and eventually in the postseason.

Do you think Soriano can handle the pressure of closing a postseason game?

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