There never seems to be a good time for an athlete to walk away from the sport and job he loves, but for Mariano Rivera, there doesn’t seem to be a better time than now to ride off into the sunset.
The New York Yankees missed the playoffs this year for just the second time in 19 years and they aren’t as talent-heavy as they used to be, but one bright spot for them this year and every year since 1995 has been Mariano. Last night was his last time ever pitching in New York for the Yankees, and it was surely a special moment for him and everyone else that was able to witness it. He was even joined on the mound at one point by longtime teammates Andy Pettite, who will retire this offseason as well, and Derek Jeter, who didn’t really have much of a season at all this year due to injuries.
I think that is when reality finally clicked in for Mariano, and he showed it by getting emotional. However, he had every right to react like that because he deserved the attention that he received last night, and every other night this season because a player like him doesn’t come around too often.
He will walk away from the game as the all-time saves leader and the greatest closer of all time, and it’s not even close. There has been closers that have come and gone during Mariano’s career, and some have been very dominant like the former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne. He has a record of 84 straight saves and at one point, even I acted like a homer and was praising how Gagne is better than Rivera, but in reality that was never the case.
For a few seasons, it was game over when Gagne entered the game, but for Mariano’s whole career, it was game over as soon as Enter Sandman hit the loud speakers in whichever stadium he was in that night.
Mariano was not only a great person on the field, but off the field as well. He will be missed very much. Now the question is: who will step up and take his place as the best closer in the MLB?
Whatever the answer is, for the next three days, that title still belongs to Mariano.