Mariano Rivera’s career-threatening knee injury has Las Vegas sports books reassessing both his value to the New York Yankees and the public’s perception of the team’s championship chances.
Rivera, Major League Baseball’s saves leader who’s contributed to five World Series titles in New York, tore a ligament in his right knee last night while catching a fly ball near the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City during batting practice prior to a game between the Royals and Yankees. Rivera was driven from the field on a cart and went to a hospital for a scan, which revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Two Las Vegas sports books are taking different approaches to the absence of the 42-year-old right-hander.
The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino moved the Yankees’ World Series odds to 8-1 from 13-2 because it “thought that the public perception was that he was a key part of the end-of-the-game situations and it was definitely worth something,” according to Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker at the casino’s sports book.
“He’s been so reliable over the years that, even if he didn’t have his effectiveness, just the thought of Rivera coming in had some type of effect on teams,” Sherman said in a telephone interview. “That’s going to be a different situation now.”
At 8-1, a winning $100 bet on the Yankees to take their 28th World Series title this season would net $800. At 13-2, the same bet would get $650.
New York remained the third favorite at the casino to win the championship. The Texas Rangers are 5-1 favorites, followed by the Detroit Tigers at 6-1.
Rivera’s absence wasn’t enough to merit a change in odds at the MGM Mirage, where the Yankees are 6-1.
“It’s not going to move the needle because the Yankees are such a public team,” Jeff Stoneback, a sports book manager at the Mirage, said in a telephone interview.
The Yankees have too many All-Star players such as shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez to have one injury make a difference on the odds, Stoneback said.
“If they lost a combination of players like those three, then the line would be adjusted, but with just one of them out, public perception is that, ‘Hey, they’re the Yankees,’” he said.
The Yankees, whose $198 million opening day payroll is the highest in baseball, according to USA Today, also have the ability to overcome player injuries because of their deep pockets, Stoneback said.
“One thing with the Yankees is that they’ve got enough money to pick up another closer at any time,” Stoneback said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has yet to announce who will fill Rivera’s spot in the bullpen, with 27-year-old David Robertson and 32-year-old Rafael Soriano the likely candidates.
Robertson, who’s pitched in the eighth inning this season, has a 0.00 earned run average in 11 innings, allowing seven hits, striking out 18 and walking three. Soriano is 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in nine innings, giving up 11 hits with eight strikeouts and six walks.
The Yankees lost 4-3 last night, dropping their record to 13-12 this season, fourth in the American League East and 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays.
Rivera hinted to reporters during spring training that he might retire when his $30 million, two-year contract expires at the end of the season. He declined to say last night if the injury might force his retirement.
“At this point I don’t know,” the 12-time All-Star said. “It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we’ll see.”
Rivera, who broke Trevor Hoffman’s saves record in September, now has 608 to go along with a 76-58 record and a 2.21 ERA. In nine appearances this year, he posted a 2.16 ERA, with five saves and a 1-1 record in 8 1/3 innings pitched.