On the afternoon of Aug. 1, the MLB trade deadline, the Yankees were 52-52. The team had just shipped off three of its most valuable pieces, Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, along with formidable starting pitcher Ivan Nova. It was the franchise's biggest commitment to rebuilding in roughly three decades. Alex Rodriguez played his final game on Aug. 12.
The Yankees dug into their farm system to get youngsters some work before the season's end. Instead of rolling over, the new-look Yankees won and won and won. From Aug. 1 to Sept. 11, the Yankees went 24-14, putting the team right back in the playoff race. Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez led the way, winning both AL Rookie and AL Player of the Month for August.
When ThePostGame talked with Rivera on the afternoon of Sept. 12, the Yankees were two games out of the second American League wild-card spot.
"As a Yankee, you never give up," Rivera said. "I played there for my whole career. Never give up. I mean, it didn't matter how bad it looked. You always continue fighting until the end. They find a way to get it done, and now they're right there."
The Yankees hit a slide in the last week, losing six of seven and dropping to four games back of the final wild-card spot. But the Yankees still have four games with the Blue Jays, the second wild card team, and three against the Orioles, the first wild card team (five games ahead of the Yankees).
Maybe Rivera, using his words from a week ago, can inspire the Yankees to dig deep in the final 13 games.
"These youngsters came up with a mentality that is amazing," he said. "When you see they got rid of all those guys in the bullpen, the hope and the expectation are kind of a little low. But at the same time, these boys…see, that's one thing you can’t measure…it's heart. You can't measure the heart, you can't measure what you are capable [of doing]. And these boys have done something. A lot of people had them giving up. But they never give up, especially when you have a manager like Joe [Girardi]. Joe is a tremendous person and manager and a player [and] friend. So, when you have a group of guys [with a] coaching staff like the New York Yankees have, a lot of good things can happen."
A lot has changed in a week. The Yankees are coming off a four-game sweep at the hands of the rival Red Sox, losing three games by one run and a fourth on a walk-off home run. But if Rivera's words means anything, the Yankees are still in it.
Rivera spoke to ThePostGame at the 31st Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner, which benefits The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The fund was founded in 1985 by Barth A. Green, M.D. and Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti after Nick's son, Marc, sustained a spinal-cord injury playing college football for The Citadel.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.