Nothing But Love For a Legend
Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle…Mariano Rivera. Today is an extremely tough day emotionally for all Yankee fans. Mariano Rivera, over the past 16 years, has shown the legendary characteristics which allow him to be placed in the iconic list mentioned above. For a 27 years old Yankee fan, Mariano Rivera has been a staple for my favorite team for the majority of my life. That might be an understatement. It is safe to say that Mariano Rivera has been the glue that has held the Yankees together. While Derek Jeter gets more publicity and is looked at as the face of the franchise, Mariano was always our rock.
If you don’t know already, Mariano injured his right knee while shagging fly balls during batting practice yesterday. For anyone who thinks this is irresponsible behavior by any means, you couldn’t be more wrong. Mariano has done just that throughout his entire career. When he was drafted by the Yankees, he was drafted as a position player, not a pitcher. He is a great baseball player, extremely athletic, and catching fly balls was something he loved to do. Wouldn’t we all be fortunate enough to end our careers doing something that we love?
Mariano’s legacy is built by both his on the field performance and the way he carried himself away from baseball. He is the all-time leader in saves with 608 in the regular season and a ridiculous 42 in the playoffs. He has a career ERA of 2.16 in the regular season and an ungodly 0.70 ERA in the playoffs. He has won 5 World Series titles,12 All-Star teams, and has 5 Rolaid’s Relief Pitcher awards for best reliever in any given season. Most debates have two sides, but if you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball who the best closer of all time is, the answer has to be Mariano Rivera.
As good as he was on the mound, Mariano was just as professional off the field. In 16 seasons, playing in the biggest spot light, Mariano never said or did the wrong thing. While other athletes were out having affairs, shooting themselves or others, fighting, taking illegal substances, etc. etc…Mariano was a class citizen throughout. He was always a team first individual, and someone who gave back to his native country of Panama and his new home in the Bronx and Tri-state area. When I was a growing up in 1995, Mariano came to my camp to speak to all of the campers. He was a brand-new pitcher, fairly unknown, but he carried such a confidence that it was easy to see that he would be successful. He played catch, took questions, signed autographs and was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. 16 seasons later, with more success then anyone can imagine having, Mariano has not changed at all.
“Mo is a vital part of this team on the field, off the field. He’s going to be missed,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “There’s no other way to put it. You don’t replace him. Someone else can do his job, but you can’t really replace him.” Derek Jeter was said to be in tears after the game when he found out Mo had torn the ACL and was done for the year, speculated to be his last. “It’s hard to even talk about it tonight,” Alex Rodriguez said in a hushed clubhouse. “Mo means so much to all of us on a personal level. Obviously there’s a significance on the field, on the mound with his presence. The bottom line is we’re the New York Yankees. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us.” Rodriguez, who has a tendency of saying the wrong things was very accurate on that point. Red Sox nation was celebrating the news already. However, I can’t even get to the place where I dissect this injury in a baseball perspective, because Mo means so much to all of us on a personal level, something the Yankee backed up in their comments late last night.
I am praying that Mariano recovers and thinks about coming back. I don’t necessarily expect him to pitch another full season, because he clearly wants to hang it up after this year, and with his resume, who could blame him? However, he needs to put on the pinstripes one more time, jog out to the mound, record a final out, and enter the handshake line he has started for so many years The Yankee fans need to see him off one last time, not a few Royal fans who caught batting practice yesterday. We know how hard he works, how great of shape he has stayed in for his entire life, and I believe we will see him again on the Yankee Stadium bump. If not, all I can say is THANK YOU MARIANO. You have showed all your fans the right way to be a professional baseball player throughout your entire career and you will obviously be missed dearly. You will not ever be replaced and your legacy will live on forever.
You can check out this heart-breaking video with Mariano discussing his future after the injury: