October 1996, do you remember what you were doing? I do. I was watching Mariano Rivera embark on an epic career. It’s May 2012 and although he says he’s coming back, I’m wondering if I just saw the end of that same historic career.
For me, as a fan, the true beauty of baseball is the passion and loyalty fans have for teams and players over years. Every generation has players they grow up with. DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, and for many of us Mariano Rivera. I grew up with Rivera. Along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, Rivera formed the quartet of players that led the Yankees to dominate the late 1990s and 2000s. Rivera did even more. He elevated himself to simply be the best closer, ever.
Rivera is, and will be, the benchmark that all closers are compared to. Except there is no comparison. Reasonably speaking, Rivera’s 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings will never be surpassed. I would speculate DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak will fall before anyone comes close to Rivera’s postseason ERA. Of course, Rivera benefitted because he was on those dominant Yankee teams. Except the closer’s job is the most important. The team got you the lead, now you have to keep it and put the game to bed. There is an argument, had Rivera not made a few mistakes, the Yankees could have 2 or 3 more titles since 1996. But that is baseball.
The Role Model
I am not a believer that professional athletes be considered “heroes.” They entertain, yes, but they are not heroes. Professional athletes can be role models, to an extent. Rivera is one such athlete. His quiet confidence shows a man of conviction and strength of character that many of us can and should model. His determination to rehabilitate and return next season shows pure committment to his team and to his fans. Rivera wants to go out on his own terms as he should. Whether you bleed Yankee blue or can’t stand the Pinstripes, all of us can agree, Rivera transcends loyalties. The game is not done with Rivera. Most importantly, Rivera is not done with the game. Until next season….
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think!