Hot! Mariano Rivera Tears ACL, Season and Career in Doubt

[Editor’s Note (May 5, 2012): We’ve since learned that the greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera, 42, plans to rehabilitate his knee injury and come back to pitch next season. When asked why, he said, “I’m not going down like this. God willing and given the strength, I’m coming back.” He then ate a handful of rusty nails to demonstrate the seriousness of his response.]

One who habitually or professionally writes for a sports media forum craves attention grabbing stories. Anyone can write an article that recaps what happened on a field of play, but when a real juicy off-the-field story arises a sports journalist feels a sense of euphoria. The article that you are currently reading under normal circumstances would fit this bill, but it’s contents go far deeper than reporting on a juicy sports story.

The best closer in the history of Major League Baseball, a man who has loyally served as not only a Hall of Fame player, but as an incredible human being, is presumably out for the remainder of the season following an untimely tearing of his ACL. Prior to the Yankees May 3rd affair with the Kansas City Royals, as he has done his entire career, Mariano Rivera was shagging fly balls in the outfield. He attempted a leaping catch on a ball hit by Yankee Jayson Nix and landed on an awkward spot where the warning track meets the grass. His knee twisted and buckled below him and he was unable to walk off under his own power.

The immediate response of the ignorant will be to attack the Yankees for allowing this to occur. Under no circumstances is this a time for would haves and should haves. Mariano has had his own unique workout routine his entire career, and never has his drive or effort been questioned. What has helped Mariano remain so healthy and physically capable his entire career has been the importance he places on not only his pitch quality, but his conditioning.

Mariano may be 42 years old, but those who have followed him his entire career could note he doesn’t look like he’s aged a day. It’s because Mariano cares for more than the glory of a strikeout, but the value of serving his team. Mariano doesn’t think he is important to the team, he knows it. Anytime he has failed, his instinct isn’t to think, “I let myself down,” but to think, “I let the New York Yankees down.”

The Yankees have built a brand of producing not only World Series championships, but giving Yankee fans year in and year out a reason to believe that their investment in the team is worthwhile. For a superstar, it is easy to fall into bad habits and allow arrogance to negatively influence his personal image. At no point in Mariano Rivera’s incredible career has he portrayed himself in a negative light. Being a dominant closer takes ability, discipline, and confidence. Mariano is the best there ever was because he knows that he is the best yet trains every year like a rookie trying to make the team. He has never taken an appearance or game for granted and represents what is good about Major League Baseball.

Rivera has been a stabilizing force throughout this entire Yankee dynasty. It’s a given that the Yankees will be postseason contenders every year, but with all the new faces both young and old that have been part of Yankee rosters throughout it all, only Derek Jeter can rival Mariano Rivera as far as being a constant. Only Jeter and Rivera have given the Yankees consistent production and leadership. Only Jeter and Rivera have gone about their business without any doubts of their ability to lead the Yankees to the playoffs year in and year out. It’s no coincidence that the Yankees have made the postseason every year with the exception of one since 1995, the year Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter both made their debuts.

Rivera has hinted all year that he knows in his heart whether or not he will retire at the end of the season but he has steadfastly refused to reveal his decision to the public. Many may have interpreted this as Rivera warning fans that he intends to retire, but until that opinion became fact, nobody was ready to accept it. Seeing the pain in Rivera’s eyes as he was carted off the field, the opinion that this will be the last year he takes the mound may have just become a confirmed reality.

Yankee fans please save the criticism of his work out routines and blame to the Yankees front office for another day. Mariano Rivera’s unfortunate injury deserves to be mourned, not criticized.

The days of watching not only an incredible player, but an incredible man donning Yankees pinstripes and serving the only team he’s played his entire Hall of Fame career for, may have come to an end. Time will tell who the Yankees intend to replace Mariano with for the rest of this season.

Logically, Rafael Soriano or David Robertson will take on the responsibility, but the intention of this article is not to think to the future, but to instead, honor a man who deserves better.

There is no good way to end an article that highlights such a tragedy, but on behalf of all Yankee fans, we hope to have you back Mariano, but if the days of watching the best closer in the history of the game have indeed come to an end, then thank you. Thank you for all you have done and for giving baseball fans a chance to tell future generations that they had the privilege of seeing the best there ever was.


Nicholas Kostopoulos

1 Comment

  1. It’s hard to fault a 42-year-old guy for being the best there is and yet still loving to shag fly balls in the outfield before games (who doesn’t love shagging fly balls??).

    In a way it had me thinking, if a non game-situation injury like that took out Mo, that would almost make sense, wouldn’t it? It’s some Alexandre the Great stuff — never defeated on the battlefield and only ever conquered by disease.

    The guy is about as indomitable on the mound at the end of game’s as there has ever been, silly us thinking any mortal batter could end him, instead what felled the legend was…a lazy fly ball to the warning track.

    I’m obviously relieved that we haven’t seen the last of Rivera on the mound, and this is where I would normally point out my worry that we may never see him at his peak again, but I don’t feel the need to write that here. It’s Mo. He’ll be back.

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