For every snarky article I’ve recently written about Roger Clemens, I’ve been determined to counteract it with a “feel good” story. As of last weekend, that story was going to be about Mariano “Mo” Rivera. For those of you living in the closet, Rivera is the greatest living (if not the all-time greatest) closer in baseball history. About two weeks ago, Rivera injured his right knee in what most would thought would be his final season in the majors. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL and torn meniscus. He is now out for the year.
Nonetheless, like Effie in “Dream Girls”, Mo vowed, “I’m not going.” The day after, he announced his intention to return for the 2013 season. “I can’t go down like this,” he told reporters. Prior to the injury, Rivera was 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 5 saves. In his 18-season Major League Baseball career, he is 76-58 with a 2.21 ERA and a record holding 608 saves. He’s also the all-time postseason saves leader with 42. Although no one can predict what a 43 year old pitcher coming off the disabled list is going to look like, Mariano Rivera at his worst is better than most.
Since then, sports journalists, disc jockeys, bloggers, armchair Joe Girardis, etc. have postulated the future of Mariano Rivera. Would he write a storybook ending, a la Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls? Or would he write another ending, a la Michael Jordan and everything after? Sadly, this ending might have gotten a bit clearer since Monday.
Mo met with a team of knee surgeons on Monday. The New York Post reports things didn’t go as hoped. “We ran into complications,” said Fernando Cuza, Rivera’s agent. “I am referring to (Yankees physician) Dr. Ahmad and (Yankees general manager) Brian Cashman for further information.” Wait! Whoa! Adding insult to injury, a blood clot was found in his right calf.
As my outline of a triumphant Rivera return flew out the window, he is on blood-thinning medication intended to dissolve the clot. Wednesday, the seemingly Super Human Rivera said he was ok, though he was scared when he received the diagnosis. As things stand now, he needs to spend at least a week or two strengthening his right knee before he has surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament. The future beyond that now is admittedly murkier.
So, what happens when heroes grow old? You always want to see a player go out on his own terms, like Chipper Jones and Cal Ripken. You never want to see a player robbed of time, like Roberto Clemente, or worse – fade painfully away like Tom Glavine.
I set out to write a “feel good” story and wound up with a sad “wait and see”. Talk about not writing the future.
I am guilty, like most, of expecting Mariano Rivera to always be there. With Rivera sidelined, there has been an amazing outpouring of emotion throughout the league. Rival Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine said, “He’s special.” “Hopefully he’ll come back, even though he’s with the bad guys.” Royals’ manager Ned Yost called Rivera “one of a kind.” Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon referred to Rivera as the “godfather” of their role. “It’s just kind of tough to put into words,” Papelbon said. “It’s just tough to see your leader, your idol — it’s hard to even comprehend it or talk about it.” Well said. Until Rivera’s future become clearer, David Robertson along with Rafael Soriano are expected to handle the save opportunities.