A quick word on the Mariano Rivera injury (and for some fantastic coverage, please check out our sister site, Second Place Is Not An Option). I just wanted to share a great New Yorker piece that I found earlier today while I was trolling the internet on my lunch break, which I tend to do.
The entire piece (it’s short, a blog piece – it takes maybe five minutes to read from start to finish) is wonderfully written, and I found myself slowing down and re-reading pieces of it. One part, though, stuck with me. Towards the end, writer Ian Crouch looks at Mo from the Boston point of view. After talking about Mariano’s bread and butter pitch, the ethereal cut fastball, Crouch writes:
Red Sox fans don’t need to be reminded about the cutter, either. We’ve seen it, in dozens of games, mostly on the losing end. In April and in the playoffs, and on hot summer days in between. Rivera is part of a core of players that mark this version of the New York Yankees dynasty, which dates back to 1996, and who, until recently, were “daddies” to the guys in Boston. Derek Jeter is still around, and Andy Pettitte is making a stab at a comeback, but Jorge Posada bowed out last season, and Paul O’Neill, and Scott Brosius, and Tino Martinez and all the other improbable Red Sox killers are now long gone. Jeter is still jeered in Boston, but not Rivera. He was a central player, after all the tough losses, in our great growing up as fans: the 2004 playoffs, in which his blown save in Game 4 of the A.L.C.S., gave the Sox a spark of hope that later ignited a string of four straight wins and a trip to the World Series. The next April, Rivera was back in Boston for the home opener, which doubled as the World Series banner and ring ceremony at Fenway. During the introduction of the opposing team, the fans booed all the usual suspects, but when Rivera’s name was announced, he drew a rousing cheer. The fans were mocking him, sure, and he clearly got the joke, always a pro, laughing as he waved back to the crowd. But I think it felt good for the fans to cheer Rivera, to let even a little respect sneak through. We’d wanted to all along.
Mariano Rivera has the love of one city and the respect of another. He has the rings and all the records. He had nothing left to prove. Until now, if he feels inclined. “It’s torn. Have to fix it,” he said of his knee last night. “From there, we’ll see.”
I think that pretty much says it all. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is intense, and historic. A lot of players – a lot of legends, first ballot Hall of Famers – have taken the other side’s field and listened to a chorus of boos. Jeter, Bernie, Posada, Varitek, Wakefield, Ortiz. Mantle, Yaz, DiMaggio, Fisk. That’s the rivalry, that’s the game, that’s baseball.
But Mariano Rivera transcends the rivalry. Sometimes, players do that – they mean more to the game as a whole than they do to any one or two games on the schedule. Mo came from a Panamanian village, a stroke of luck brought him to the Yankees, and an even bigger stroke of luck left him throwing a cutter after coming back from an injury in the minor leagues. He once told reporters, at the height of his career, that he was thinking of retiring to go back to Panama and becoming a preacher. His entire career, it seems, has been almost an accident, even as it’s seemed predestined. His modesty, his work ethic, his quiet determination – that resonates with all fans, regardless of affiliation.
What’s going to happen? He says he wants to come back, but we all know it’s going to be tough. I’d like to see him pitch again, even if it’s just to take the mound for one batter and get the applause he deserves. I don’t think anyone – even Mo – knows whether that’s going to happen. But, we do know one thing: if you’re a fan of baseball, you’re a fan of Mariano Rivera – even if you wear a Red Sox shirt to the games he pitches.