Update: It looks like Rivera is determined to come back.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the Mariano Rivera news.
This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had as a Yankees fan. Worse than playoff losses, frustrating front-office decisions – yeah, this is about the worst thing that’s ever happened to me as a fan.
As a Yankee fan, I’ve been lucky. And spoiled. When bad things happen, I can usually deal with them because a) it’s out of my control, b) it usually has no direct impact on my life, and c) I’ve seen some amazingly successful Yankee teams.
But this news transcends the sports world. For me, Mariano Rivera’s torn ACL (which is likely career-ending) is personal. It goes beyond the direct impact on the field.
If you know me, then you know that baseball has played an important part in my life. I really believe that it has shaped me as a person. And Mariano Rivera played a huge role in that. His grace under pressure, quiet intensity, respect for the game, humility – these all rubbed off on me. He was poetry on the mound. He is the greatest closer of all time, but you’ll never see him yell or stomp or boast after a win. For him, a win is to be expected. And in baseball today, far too many closers don’t see it that way.
If this really is the end for Mariano Rivera, he’ll retire with some of the best numbers of all time. Perhaps I’ll do a post later that goes into how dominant he really was. Inning for inning, he was probably the best pitcher of all time. But for now, this isn’t about the stats.
When I was first learning about baseball, and first becoming a die-hard Yankee fan, Mariano Rivera was one of the players I enjoyed learning about. Here was this guy who grew up in Panama using a milk carton as a glove – and then he turned into the most lights-out, dominant closer the game has ever seen. Oh, and he only threw one pitch.
I remember in 2001 how surprising it was when he gave up the winning run in game 7 of the World Series. His literally was ‘Mr. Automatic.’ Yankee games can build up a lot of pressure, but when Mariano enters a game, he alleviates all of it. And eleven years later, at the age of 42, he is still the same way. In fact, he probably got better as he got older.
When I think of Rivera, I think of consistency – after 1995, he never had a bad year. And, of course, I’ll think of that devastating cutter. Inside on lefties, away to righties. And the occasional two-seamer on the outside corner that left hitters befuddled. A strikeout, a broken bat, a win – just business as usual.
For now, all I can say is that this is truly heartbreaking.