Mariano Rivera: 60-game MLB season not enough for real champion

Mariano Rivera won four World Series rings that came after grueling 162-game regular seasons and a fifth after 161 regular-season games in 2000.

With MLB now in an unprecedented time, with coronavirus pushing back Opening Day indefinitely, the former Yankees closer said he isn’t sure a championship would mean the same after a potentially heavily abbreviated season.

“I don’t think you can play a 60-game season and you call yourself a champion,” Rivera said Friday on ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show,” where he was urging people to follow coronavirus precautions. “Anything can happen in 60 games. I don’t think it’s enough. People don’t play on all cylinders, the whole teams are different. I don’t know. It’s a great question, because I don’t know what’s going to happen if the season is starting in June or July.”

The earliest regular-season games could be played this year is May, after the CDC’s recommendation to bar crowds of 50 or more people for eight weeks last Sunday, but even that might be too hopeful. Spring training will need to be restarted, meaning Opening Day could get pushed back to June or later, depending on how the virus spreads in the coming weeks.

Pitchers were getting closer to regular-season form when spring training was suspended March 12. Most teams have dispersed with players now forced to work out at home, but Rivera believes the layoff will hurt pitchers more than hitters.

“The hitters will be OK. You can hit in a room [by] yourself and start hitting on a tee in a cage,” Rivera said. “But pitchers will need the space. If this keeps happening like this, the pitchers are going to have a lot of problems with this.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal was revealed, Rivera said what they did was “wrong” and that harsher penalties could have been handed out.

“If it was me, I’d be doing a lot of other things than taking only the championship away,” Rivera said. “Someone allowed that to happen. Those that allowed that to happen, what’s the difference between Pete Rose and that?”

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