If we have seen the last of Mariano Rivera, as it appears with a season ending torn ACL, this is a sad way to go out. Because the injury occurred on a warning track at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, and not on a pitching mound, the implications of this season ending injury will linger beyond the legacy of Rivera’s stellar career.
It was not supposed to happen this way for the 42-year old all time leader in saves Rivera, as has been speculated , was going to make a decision regarding his retirement at some point this season, with all indications this would be his last.
However, a freak injury has apparently made the decision a quicker but more difficult way to say goodbye. There are injuries in sports that can be overcome, but a torn ACL, even for the great Mariano Rivera is more difficult to understand.
Rivera said Thursday night, “Going to have to face this first. It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen.” That is the question. Yankees medical personnel, the organization, manager Joe Girardi, fans, the game of baseball, most of all Rivera don’t know.
Going out this way was not supposed to be the plan. Rivera and the month of October were a team. Another save during the post season, and he would go out the way he always did the past 17- years. The cutter made Rivera the best post season pitcher in the game and nobody did it better.
Rivera said he let his team down. Yes, a freak accident like this has an impact on any team, even if it does not happen to the great Mariano Rivera. And we can question what he was doing in the outfield flagging fly balls by the warning track, instead of tossing a ball off a mound in the pen?
That can’t be answered. It was a routine for Rivera to be the teammate and being a part of joining them in the outfield. As the captain Derek Jeter said, “He works hard. And he’s going to work hard at his recovery but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back here this year.”
In all probability, Rivera won’t be back this year. As much as Jeter and the Yankees know the significance, how valuable Rivera is to getting another championship, it is that more difficult for a 42-year old pitcher to recover fully from an injury of this magnitude.
The Yankees were preparing for the departure of Rivera. David Robertson is the heir apparent out of the pen, their closer of the future, except not with the greatness of “Sandman” trotting from the outfield to the mound with the tying or winning run on base in the ninth inning.
The legacy of Mariano Rivera is that closer and getting it done. Five championship rings as a New York Yankee, as a part of their illustrious team history, more valuable, maybe, than Ruth, Maris, Mantle, Berra, DiMaggio, and in the Derek Jeter era.
Because in this era of the closer, when a starter rarely goes nine innings, having a Mariano Rivera coming out of the pen is rare.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]