In his new autobiography, "The Closer," Rivera writes about how much affection he has for his former teammate, but adds, "This guy has so much talent I don't know where to start… There is no doubt that he is a Hall-of-Fame caliber (player). It's just a question of whether he finds the drive you need to get there. I don't think Robby burns to be the best… You don't see that red-hot passion in him that you see in most elite players."
As for his favorite second baseman, Rivera says Red Sox Dustin Pedroia is "at the top of the list" of players he admires, adding: "Nobody plays harder, gives more, wants to win more. He comes at you hard for twenty-seven outs. It's a special thing to see."
He later writes, "If I have to win one game, I'd have a hard time taking anybody over Dustin Pedroia as my second baseman."
"I don't think Robby burns to be the best."
Reminds me of something Joe Morgan wrote in his autobiography about Jimmy Wynn. Morgan and Wynn were teammates in Houston for nine years. They both first appeared in 1963, when Morgan was 19 and Wynn was just 21. Wynn was probably the more talented of the two. He was a five-tool player. Struck out a lot but walked often. Hit for power, stole bases, had a great arm.
They were the best of friends. Later, Morgan wrote about Wynn:
He was Willie Mays at the same age, but he just had a different agenda, and because of that he never progressed [into a truly great player].
It used to bother me a lot that Jimmy wouldn't work to nuture his talent. I'd talk to him about it but it never mattered and I never pushed it because I liked him too much and who as I, anyway, to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't be do with their careers. It may be that Jimmy had the right idea and I had the wrong one about what a life in baseball was all about.
Jimmy, in so many ways, epitomized the old ballplayer, the guy who came along before the portfolios, the agents, and the business managers. When he said he was going to put aside most other things and concentrate on home runs, he was really saying he didn't want to work at those other things. The home run, he knew, would keep him in the majors…
I am sure Jimmy could have made it to the Hall of Fame if he had wanted to, just as I know there are other players who might have if they had cultivated the superior talent they had. But Jimmy's choice was clear. Maybe there should be a Hall of Fame for all those guys, too, the ones who decided that life at the top was about enjoying yourself to the fullest while you had the chance. I went another way. And I can measure that way not only by the numbers I put up, by the awards I got, but also by all those hours sitting alone in hotel rooms, watching TV, not enjoying myself very much, but doing what I wanted to do nevertheless.
Wynn was a monster talent who had a very good career, but wasn't willing to do what it took to have a Hall of Fame career. Interesting how Morgan wonders if Wynn had the right idea all along.
[Photo Credit: Greg Johns]