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If this is the end for Mariano Rivera, it’s a sad day for baseball

May 4, 2012, 2:50 AM EDT

marianorivera-920p.standard AP

Mariano Rivera’s career could be over.

Think about that for a moment, and let it set in. If that is indeed the case, if the 42-year-old is unable to come back, or unwilling to go through the grueling rehab required to pitch again, then this is truly a sad day for baseball.

Rivera was injured on Thursday in Kansas City while shagging balls during batting practice, his knee buckling as he crumpled awkwardly to the dirt of the warning track. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL, prompting Yankees manager Joe Girardi to say “this is bad. There’s no question about it.”

A gifted athlete, Rivera has been shagging balls his whole career. As Keith Olbermann relays in his blog, Joe Torre once said Rivera was easily his best defensive center fielder.

“Yes, he’s a great outfielder,” Torre said, “He’s always bugging me to let him play there in a game. But does anybody really think I’d be crazy enough to let him play in a game? What if he got hurt?”

How prescient, and how unfortunate.

This is not how legends are supposed to go out. Our final image of Rivera in uniform should not be of him writhing on the warning track, or being carried to the cart by his teammates. It should be of him tipping his hat to the crowd as he walks off the mound after saving one last victory.

The numbers for this 12-time All-Star are simply ridiculous:

  • First on the all-time saves list with 608
  • 1119 strikeouts and 277 walks in more than 1200 innings
  • A 2.21 ERA and 0.998 WHIP
  • A career ERA+ (which measures his ERA against his peers, with 100 being average) of 206.

And then don’t forget the postseason: 42 saves in 96 games. A 0.70 ERA and a 0.759 WHIP. And five championship rings.

But even though the numbers are amazing and worthy of Cooperstown enshrinement on their face, they are only part of the Mariano Rivera picture.

Throughout his career, from setting up John Wetteland on the 1996 championship team, to pitching these past 18 years in the fishbowl atmosphere of the Bronx, Rivera has carried himself with a level of class and grace rarely seen in life, let alone in sports. The greatest closer of all time might also be the most universally respected athlete in sports. When he does decide to retire, whether tomorrow or sometime down the line, he will hang up his cleats as the last player – fittingly — to wear No. 42, which was retired across baseball in 1997 to honor the great Jackie Robinson.

It’s too early to know how long Rivera will be out, and if he’ll come back. Chipper Jones missed nearly eight months with a similar injury in 2010-11. Rivera was non-committal as he fought back tears and talked to reporters after Thursday’s game.

“At this point, I don’t know,” Rivera said. “At this point, I don’t know. Going to have to face this first. It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we’ll see.”

Here’s hoping the injury is not as bad as feared. Here’s hoping that even if it is, Rivera decides to come back, even if only for one more trip to the mound. He might not care for the burden of a season-long farewell tour. It’s simply not his style. But this is no way for a legend to go out.

Mariano Rivera deserves a better sendoff.

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  1. cmbailey7384 - May 4, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    As a Red Sox fan, I remember watching those World Series the Yankees won and saying, “I wish we had a closer like that.” Even if you didn’t like the team, even if you referred to them as the Evil Empire, he was still one player that you respected through and through. If this is the end for him, personally I hope he comes back and goes out on his own terms, but if this is the end, I personally will miss him, and when I watch Red Sox/Yankees games, hearing an announcer say another name is coming in to close for the Yankees just won’t have the same feel as it had before.

    • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Blah blah blah, if by ok you mean third in the east then yeah they will be fine

      • drewsylvania - May 4, 2012 at 2:47 PM

        Wanna bet?

      • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 4:03 PM

        Yeah I’ll bet you &10000000000000000000000000.

        What an idiot!

      • drewsylvania - May 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM

        Don’t be 4.

    • alan3008 - May 4, 2012 at 10:15 AM

      14.9 million down the drain for the Yankees this year. Hate to see the guy get hurt, but you gotta love that part of it.

      • protius - May 4, 2012 at 10:47 AM

        So, your wife got hit by a bus, now you won’t have to put up with the terrible sex. Yeah, I see what you mean; there’s a silver lining for everything.

      • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        First of all I put up with terrible sex everyday(prostate issues) second of all WTF are you talking about

      • protius - May 4, 2012 at 8:11 PM

        To late, you’ve already replied to yourself, but let me ask you this question: Do you walk to school, or carry your lunch?

        Hmmmmm, what’s wrong with this picture? You have prostate issues and you put up with terrible sex every day. You either live alone, or you’re very narcissistic.

        Next, you claim that you don’t know what I’m talking about? I think that when most readers take a look at your screen name, they wonder WTF you’re talking about.

        Dude, don’t worry about the band-aid. Hurry up and pack, the mother ship is waiting for you behind the moon.

    • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      And before i start replying to myself like some of the other posters in this room(bigleague and randygnyc) go ahead and thumbs down buts lets remember how MJ, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays went out. Pull the band aid off quickly rather than one inch at a time.

      • foreverchipper10 - May 4, 2012 at 2:35 PM

        So rather than have him finish the year out as an elite closer and walk away on his own terms it is better he tore his ACL a month into the season. That makes sense. Sigh.

      • drewsylvania - May 4, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        You just replied to yourself.

      • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 4:04 PM

        OK you got me.

  2. erk877 - May 4, 2012 at 3:08 AM

    Lifelong Sox fan here. This is never the way I wanted to see Mo’s career end. Classiest man in the game-a classic warrior in the best sense. Given the current state of the closer role, he is truly an historic figure. He also has elevated a single pitch, the cutter, to arguably the most important in a modern pitcher’s arsenal.
    For as much heartache as he has caused me over the years, the game will be less compelling with him gone.
    Next stop Cooperstown. All the best, #42, you’ll be remembered by all true fans as one of the all-time greats.

    • indaburg - May 4, 2012 at 3:47 AM

      You said it, erk… For as much heartache as he has caused, the game is less compelling without him. Here’s to the Sandman. Get well soon. I hope he decides to return.

  3. crmgoodness - May 4, 2012 at 3:42 AM

    Another Sox fan here hoping Mo can comeback and get the send off he truly deserves. A player that can so thoroughly dominate yet remain so humble and decent is truly something special. Normally a Yankee misfortune would bring me nothing but joy, but this just sucks beyond compare.

  4. hittfamily - May 4, 2012 at 4:24 AM

    Most pitchers, or athletes for that matter, suffer at least 1 fairly devastating injury if they play long enough. It’s rough for him, but at least it happened in his final season. I can remember attending my grandfathers’ funeral a few years ago, and thinking how lucky my large extended family was for not having any early deaths, or otherwise terrible occurances. It was somehow comforting to know that the first member of the family to die, was the one who was supposed to die first. He has dodged a lot of bullets, but one finally caught him. I hope Mo feels somehow comforted to know that he didn’t walk away from the game, but he was simply unable to play it anymore.

    Happy trails Sandman.

    • hittfamily - May 4, 2012 at 9:32 AM

      6 up
      14 down

      Huh?

      A bunch of fucking assholes decided to show up today.

      • detroitfanatic - May 4, 2012 at 9:45 AM

        I gave you a thumbs up til the F bomb asshole.

      • jdillydawg - May 4, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        Maybe you need a thicker skin if you’re so worried about what people think about your opinion. You could try posting on a Needlepoint Board, maybe, those chicks seem docile.

      • protius - May 4, 2012 at 8:20 PM

        jdillydawg talkin’ Needlepoint and docile chicks, now ain’t that a steaming pile-o-cat shit. jdillydawg………….LMAO

  5. scobbalobba - May 4, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    Shagging fly balls ? is that an American thing..

    Anyway, I ‘m a Yankees fan from Brisbane Australia and I am wishing “Big Mo” a speedy recovery and I would like to think he will get to have 1 last trip to the mound, even if it is only for a several minute standing ovation

    • skerney - May 4, 2012 at 5:59 AM

      Shagging does not mean what you think it means.

      • hittfamily - May 4, 2012 at 9:38 AM

        Except for 1990’s outfielder Billy Bean.

        In his case, it means exactly what you think.

  6. indianajones15 - May 4, 2012 at 4:48 AM

    If this is the end of his career, it will be more than sad for the Yankee nation. He is a class act, a great family man and more, Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery whether or not you decide to return to baseball.

  7. uyf1950 - May 4, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    It is a sad day indeed. Wish him the very best and a speedy and complete recovery. Whether he decides to try and return is completely up to him at some point. But regardless of what his decision is, it’s been fun to watch him over these many years as a Yankees fan. Mo Rivera, the very best of the best no question.

  8. bowltr - May 4, 2012 at 6:21 AM

    What a shame! As a Red Sox fan I’ve long admired and cursed Mo’s greatness. He seems like such a good guy to root for. I will always remember opening day 2005 when the Sox were getting their World Series rings after our 86yr drought. The teams were being announced and Mo got a standing ovation from the Sox fans. He laughed and smiled and seemingly enjoyed the moment. Considering they cheered him because he blew 2 saves in the 04 ALCS that tells you a lot about his character.
    Get well soon Mo, you deserve to end your career on your terms.

    • steevo14 - May 4, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      As a lifelong Yankees fan, I am humbled and very grateful for all the Sawx fans and their wonderful support. Watching him answer those tough questions and seeing so vulnerable was tough. I was never prepared for that.
      I pray that he is relieved of his pain and can come back to the game next year and go out on his own terms.
      Again, thank you for your kind words and sharing your personal experiences with Mo’.

    • themuddychicken - May 4, 2012 at 11:26 AM

      I am glad you brought up that moment from 2005 opening day. As a Sox fan myself, that is he precise moment I realized just how much I liked and respected Rivera (as if everything that came before wasn’t enough). I use that moment to describe to people what a class act Rivera is and how it’s just about impossible to root against him.

      Not that there’s much competition for the title given my general distaste of the Yankees, but he’s easily my favorite Yankee ever.

  9. spudchukar - May 4, 2012 at 6:27 AM

    This is no way for Riviera to go out. Even the Yanks arch-rivals applaud his fabulous career and character. Whoever is in charge, could we please have a little poetic justice here?

  10. bigjimatch - May 4, 2012 at 6:33 AM

    Great post and all very true, but my advice would be to never quote or cite Keith Olberman again. Especially not in a tribute to Mariano.

    • Matt S - May 4, 2012 at 8:41 AM

      He quotes Olbermann quoting Joe Torre, first of all, and second of all: why not? You may not like Olbermann, but the man knows a lot about baseball and the Yankees.

      • aceshigh11 - May 4, 2012 at 8:43 AM

        It’s because he’s a goddamned LIBRULLLLLL!!! And goddamned LIBRULLLLLLS are EVIL, doncha know!

        And just for good measure: DEY TOOK OUR JEEORBS!!!!

      • protius - May 4, 2012 at 10:52 AM

        What’s a Jeeorb?

      • jdillydawg - May 4, 2012 at 11:26 AM

        Awesome. A jeeorb, of course, is something 8.3 million people are looking for right now. Probably can all be found in Keith’s back pocket, damn LIBRULLLLLLL!!

      • protius - May 4, 2012 at 7:38 PM

        Comrade, your attempt at socialist humor is pathetic. Was it approved by apparatchik?

      • bigjimatch - May 10, 2012 at 11:24 AM

        Sorry buddy, I am not a right-winger. The guy is just a douche. And he provides no interesting baseball insight, as evidenced by the quote and the fact that no one has reference his opinion on anything baseball related in years.

    • aceshigh11 - May 4, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      I knew there would be one.

      And why not? The man is a huge fan of baseball and incredibly knowledgeable on the subject.

      So sorry that he offends your oh-so-delicate right-wing (no doubt) sensibilities, but as much of an egomaniac and pain in the ass he is to work with, he knows his shit when it comes to baseball.

      • cltjump - May 4, 2012 at 9:28 AM

        Please shut up. I’m fairly certain that had nothing to do with it. It amazes me how you turn every thread you comment on into a tissue where you can cry about evil conservatives.

      • mrwillie - May 4, 2012 at 9:37 AM

        What better way to pay homage to one of the greats, than to get into a political argument on a baseball site. Well played sir, well played.

      • drewsylvania - May 4, 2012 at 2:53 PM

        Uh, Olbermann is a douche. There’s not much argument about that.

      • bigjimatch - May 10, 2012 at 11:28 AM

        Please. No one has cared about is opinion on anything baseball related in years. He had a nice thing going as as a political talking head, but was too much of a douche (unless Al Gore is part of this vast right-wing conspiracy. Rush Limbaugh is a sports an, but I don’t want to hear him talk sports either. I am just giving my advise. They guy is just a random turd – but if you want to worship at his baseball alter, feel free. .

  11. tominma - May 4, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    This is NOT the way Rivera should be going out. He was, more than most, entitled to a standing ovation in every park he pitched in this year. We Red Sox fans HATED his pitching against our Sox but applauded the class with which he always cobnducted himself.

    A first ballot Hall of Famer. a GREAT closer, A class act!

  12. 1historian - May 4, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    Sox fans – I’m proud of you

  13. jimranes - May 4, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    Red Sox fan here…Mo killed us most of the time. But I remember the first time he pitched after the Sox won a World Series and in the process came back from a 3-1 deficit. When Mo walked on the field,, the filled stands rose as one and gave him a standing ovation. Mo smiled tipped his hat. Class. Pure class of a Champion! There are two Yankees that I have the greatest respect for, Mariano Riviera and Derek Jeter. Like all baseball fans, I hope to see Mo pitch again at the Fens!

  14. thetruth1313 - May 4, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    As many other Red Sox fans that have already posted, this is definately a huge loss in the boaseball world and very unfortunate for a player like Rivera. He really is a class act.

    But if there is a bright side to all this, maybe this happening means Bozo will go in to seclusion and we will never have to hear from him again!

  15. ajcardsfan - May 4, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    I hate to see this, especially to an injury that hurts like hell. I really hope he’ll be able to rehab and come back for one more game.
    To Mr. Rivera: You would never believe how many times I’ve cussed a closer and used your name as a reference to what they should do. You’re a great player, and while it seems fitting that you should share a number that’s been retired across baseball because you changed what a closer should be. Among two deaths here local to St. Louis (Lillian Musial and Craig Cornett), I shall drink to your health and hope this isn’t the last of your career. Cheers!

  16. aceshigh11 - May 4, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Wow, more Red Sox fans here paying their respects than I imagined.

    And I’m another one. One of my favorite pitchers of all-time. Nothing but respect.

  17. tominma - May 4, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    Red Sox fans know baseball. We appreciate a great talent and honor the great players on any team. YES!—-Yankees DO SUCK… but only when the beat us. Im hoping Rivera gets one last chance at a standing ovation in Fenway Park as a tribute to a GREAT closer and class act!

  18. bigdell - May 4, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    From a member of the “Evil Empire”:

    Mo has been a great player, but, more importantly, a great person for our kids to look up to. His feats on the field will probably never be duplicated.

    More importantly, Mo’s legacy of dignity, respect for family and community, and generosity will certainly never be duplicated.

    Finally, thanks to red Sox Nation for the show of class for a great player.

  19. cltjump - May 4, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Go Sox Fans. You guys can be classy. Which is only fitting for the comments thread on what is hopefully NOT the end of the career of maybe the classiest guy to ever lace up cleats. The guy was a respectable class act, never seen anything I wouldn’t want a kid to imitate from him. He was an incredible, incredible talent on the mound, taking the cutter and just pounding. He is the best closer of all time, and I hate this. Here’s to Mo’s health–we need more like ya, buddy.

    • alan3008 - May 4, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      Not “was”, but “is” a respectable and incredible. He is not done yet. He hasn’t announced his retirement.

      • cltjump - May 4, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        True, my fault. Slip of the tongue. Or fingers. Whatever.

  20. tuffnstuff - May 4, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    As a Yankee fan, I am really happy to see all the love from the Red Sox Nation and other team’s fans. This proves that real baseball fans love the game and appreciate the quality players. How sad that it took such an injury to Mo to bring out all the true lovers of the game. Thank you.

  21. alan3008 - May 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    First, I wouldn’t say ACL rehab is “grueling”. SEAL training is grueling. ACL rehab is tough, tedious work, but thousands of athletes have done it and came back at a high level. Rivera was still pitching at a high level, (9 games, 8.1 innings, 9 SO, 1-1 record, and a 2.16 ERA) so there is no reason he cannot come back.
    I hope he does come back and pitch a few more years. No athlete wants to go out like that. It would remind me of Joe Theisman.

  22. jdillydawg - May 4, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I’m a Mariner fan by default of geographic location, so am used to watching mediocrity (ok, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but I’m factoring in their stellar 2001 year just to make it bearable). Every now and then we’d get to see Mo pitch when they came out here. My kid – who’s 10 – loved watching Rivera. We’d stand 20 feet from him in the bullpen and he’d just be in awe. I will miss those moments the most.

  23. ahmiller21 - May 4, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    You know as a Sox fan I remember this past offseason hearing that Boston had made an offer to him. I was PRAYING that for some crazy reason he would actually sign with the Sox. I knew it wasn’t going to happen but the thought of it was amazing!! As Red Sox fans, the Yankees that we “hate” we hate (and respect)because they are just that damn good. Good luck Mo! Hope you recover soon!

  24. diehardcubbiefan4life - May 4, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    What a sad day for baseball. I hope he comes back for one more year and ends the year in 2013 getting out of a bases loaded, game on the line jam to win the World Series.

  25. kraken887 - May 4, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I am from the Boston area and have been an avid Sox fan since the 1950’s. Hating the Yankees is in my DNA, like most Sox fans. Aside from that statement, I cannot think of a ball player on another team that I respect more than Mariano Rivera. He was always cordial when in Fenway and did his job better than any other closer in baseball, ever. The game has lost a true warrior if he has pitched his last game.

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