Friday, May 04, 2012
'Rivera’s life and career have been a monument to the possibilities of the game,' Mike Lupica
Mariano Rivera lying on the ground after injuring his knee chasing fly balls in Kansas City, 5/3/12, ap.
5/4/12, Mike Lupica, "Yankee great Mariano Rivera gets carried off the field in a way no one could've imagined," NY Daily News
"The beauty of the man has not always just been the right arm and the grace and the fastball and the ninth innings, has not just been a career that saw him become the Babe Ruth of Yankee pitchers, the beauty of Mariano Rivera was the boy in him. Even as he got older, even as he continued to close games into his 40s, he stayed young. It is why he kept chasing fly balls in the outfield in the afternoon before Yankee games. The baseball boy in him.
I would stand with him in front of his locker and say, “Who’s the best outfielder on this team, really?”
This year or any year.
Mo Rivera would smile and say, “You know the answer.”
And I’d tell him I wanted to hear him say it. So he would.
So that is where he was on Thursday in Kansas City, far from the pitcher’s mound and far from Yankee Stadium, chasing down another batting practice fly ball when his right knee gave out and he went down out there, with what is now reported to be a torn ACL.
It is one thing, even if it is a terrible thing, to watch a basketball kid like Iman Shumpert of the Knicks blow out a knee in a playoff game against the Miami Heat. It is another thing to watch it happen to the great Rivera at the age of 42, watch him get carted off the field in the first week of May in what many thought was going to be his last season in baseball.
“It’s bad,” Derek Jeter said. “Mo shagged every day. Been doing it as long as I’ve known him.”
“Mo’s a vital part of this team, on the field, off the field,” Jeter said. “He’s going to be missed.”
“Mo is Mo,” the captain of the Yankees said finally. “There’s no one like him, there’s never going to be anyone like him.”
No one is writing off the greatest Yankee pitcher of them all, the greatest baseball closer of them all, the greatest money pitcher there has ever been and will ever be in baseball. But he is 42 and is gone for the season now because his knee explodes on an evening in Kansas City.
And when he is finally knocked out of things, it doesn’t happen because somebody knocks him out of a ninth inning, it doesn’t happen with him trying to close one more game for the Yankees.
It happens before the game even starts.
When it happens to Rivera, it isn’t his right arm that gives out on him, it is his right knee. So much drama as to what happened in Kansas City, and so much irony, too. One of the biggest Yankees of them all gets carried out of the season, not in a way that anyone ever could have imagined.
He will be checked out again in New York, but doctors everywhere are hardly ever wrong about a torn ACL. Maybe the first one to know how bad it was was Mariano Rivera himself.
Even in the time of Jeter, another of this time who is on his way to the Hall of Fame and Monument Park, Rivera was always the best of all of them, closing all those games, breaking the record, being the last out again and again when the Yankees were winning all those World Series.
Obviously, this is a terrible blow to their chances this season, but it is as much a loss to baseball, because Rivera’s life and career have been a monument to the possibilities of the game, the possibilities that sports can still provide to a skinny kid from Panama.
These past few years, we kept waiting for him to slip, to lose something off that cut fastball. But it never happened. The slip finally came in the outfield in Kansas City in the afternoon.
There was the day last season when I was sitting with him in front of his locker, because there has never been a better place to be and talk baseball with a Yankee, and I asked him how he would know when it was time to retire.
“No one will ever have to tell me,” he said. “No one will ever accuse me of hanging on. When it is my time to go, I will be the first to know.”
And then he would go out and get three more outs in the ninth inning, and look the same as he did in all the other years. He started to make you think he would stay young forever. It was why he was in the outfield again yesterday, a knee giving out
- before his right arm ever did."