November 14 – Happy Birthday Ruben Rivera
In 1995, you’re the number 2 rated Minor League prospect in all of America, you’re in the farm system of the Yankees who are about to win the next four of five World Series and you’re the cousin of a guy named Mariano Rivera who is on the threshold of becoming MLB’s greatest closer. The sky certainly seemed to be the limit for twenty-one-year-old Ruben Rivera at the time, but that sky turned gray and cloudy for the young Panamanian very quickly. At first he did OK in the big leagues, hitting .284 in a 48-game stint during New York’s 1996 World Championship season. He even made the Yankee’s postseason roster that year.
But New York’s front office was looking for starting pitching and at the time there was an All Star hurler from Japan named Hideki Irabu refusing to sign with the San Diego Padres who had purchased his signing rights from his team in Japan. The Yankees packaged Rivera with one of their top Minor League pitching prospects named Rafael Medina and $3 million dollars and bought Irabu’s signing rights at the beginning of the 1997 regular season. By 1999, Ruben was starting in the Padres outfield and although he showed signs of good big league power, he struggled to get his average above .200. His finest moment was hitting .800 against his former Yankee teammates in the 2000 World Series but after the Padres lost to New York in four straight, San Diego released Rivera. He then played for the Reds in 2001 before rejoining the Yankee organization and his famous closing cousin in 2002. That’s when a bizarre spring training incident took place. Rivera allegedly stole and sold Derek Jeter’s baseball glove to a nostalgia dealer for $2,500 and his Yankee teammates actually voted him off the team. He then played a bit for the Rangers and Giants before ending up in the Mexican League for several more years.
Also born on this same date is another former Yankee outfielder who was supposed to take the place of the departing free agent, Bobby Abreu, when the Yankees got him from Pittsburgh during the 2008 season.