Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Run Mickey, Run: '79 and the End of an Era

The first thing you'll find upon googling Mickey Rivers is that he has superfans. Crazy, huh? Anyway, it's a testament to the guy's speed, captured on the 1979 Topps.
It reminds me a bit of CC's 2009, only the step back from the player gives the action a bit more of a frenetic feel. The bat dropping, the player's eyes tracking the ball into the gap...the Yankis' bench not even moving. Which makes this card significant for this reason: although the Yanks would win the WS in '78, when this shot was taken, and even get back there in '81, the team wouldn't win another until 1996, and not even sniff the playoffs from '82-'94. Rivers just doubled (tripled?) into the gap, so why aren't those guys on their feet? It's a team in decadence, a team that expects to show up and win, a team about to hit an extended drought. Munson passed away in '79, and although there would be some good Yankee teams over the next few years, none would attain the prize.

And as an aside let's be honest: all the talk about Jeter being a "winner" implies a certain critique of other Yankee greats (Mattingly, Winfield) who never "won" with the team, as well other other players whose teams never even got to the big one (Banks). This isn't to take anything away from Captain Intangibles but rather to point out that, no matter how great the player, a lot in baseball is beyond an individual player's control. Individual greatness is never enough, you have to be on a great team. Jeter has been very fortunate in that regard.

Have a good one everybody and goodnight Pumpsie Green, wherever you are!

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