And so it ends with a bang and a whimper. No Yankee great’s departure has ever caused anything like the shock to the system New York fans are now experiencing.
I’m hearing from some, “Well, what about Thurman Munson’s death?” A shock, yes, but let’s be honest, Munson wasn’t loved. Certainly his loss was more tragic in human terms, but in pure baseball terms what can compare to this?
On top of the loss for the season of Michael Pineda, the Yankees are now, realistically, playing for nothing more than to stay in the top half of their division. Yes, Dave Robertson can replace Mariano Rivera, but who, then, is going to replace Dave Robertson as the set-up man?
The best response to the end of Mariano’s career is from Alex Belth this morning on his BronxBanter website.
All that remained in Mariano Rivera’s incomparable career as the
finest short-inning closer in baseball history was an ending. Last
night Rivera fell to the ground on the warning track in Kansas City
before the game. He shagged fly balls, something he’s done his entire
career – teammates and reporters have always said he’d be a smooth
outfielder. He sprinted after a ball and jumped as he reached the
warning track. Then he was on his back, his mouth open in pain.
But that isn’t the image that replayed in my mind this morning. What
I remember most is watching Rivera being driven off the field in a cart
and the smile on his face. Maybe he was embarrassed or maybe he wanted
to reassure his teammates that he was okay. Or perhaps Rivera, a
spiritual man who has always attributed the events in his career – from
his accidental discovery of the cut fastball to losing the seventh game
of the World Series – to an act of God believed this was just meant to
be and who was he to question it? As if he’s been secretly waiting and
now he had an answer.
Things fall apart. For everyone.
Is there a consoling note in this? Certainly, if we take the long
view. It isn’t like Mariano’s career was lacking in anything. He has
five World Series rings and his reputation as the greatest relief
pitcher ever is firmly established. There really wasn’t anything more
for him to do, and at least we’re spared the sight of him going out
solely, watching his magic slip away with age. Maybe it’s better that
it ends like this, all at once, so we can begin to deal with what life
without Mariano is like.
Yes, thinking those thoughts does make me feel better. The long view –
that’s what we should focus on. Of course, as Keynes put it, in the
long run we’ll all be dead.
One other thing: I’m not sure how this connects with anything, but
when I saw the photos of Mo lying on the ground writhing in pain, it
conjured up an image from the past. Take a look at this:
That’s the rookie Mickey Mantle down from stepping on an open drain pipe in the 1951 World Series. Standing next to him is Joe DiMaggio, who is about to catch the fly ball hit by Willie Mays Mantle’s career and his entire life was never the same after that play.
I wonder, is it worse to have this happen to you at age 20, with your career ahead of you, or at age 42, like Mariano, in your final season of a glorious career? I don’t know, but if I had to choose, I’d take what happened to Rivera.