Mariano Was Always A Stand-up Guy To Me

An article by posted on May 3, 2012

This is a Mets blog, but also a baseball blog, and part of baseball is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer. Mets fans remember Rivera because he snuffed out many games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.

When the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat with a crack I thought it had a chance, but like many before, because of that awesome cutter, Piazza didn’t get all of it and the ball it just died. It is one of baseball’s most dominating pitches, like Tom Seaver’s slider and Doc  Gooden’s fastball. Not many solved it.

After watching the Knicks get pulverized last night and getting bored watching the same about the Mavericks, I started to channel surf and caught the tease about Rivera being hurt and his career possibly being over.

Watching him crumpled on the warning track I recalled my eight years covering the him and recalled several moments. What came to mind almost immediately was his constant demeanor. Whether he sawed off another bat to end a game, or when Luis Gonzalez beat him with a bloop single to win the 2001 World Series, he was a stand-up guy.

There was one time after he blew several save opportunities in a row when he got testy and said he was a human being and not a machine with oil running through his veins. It was surprising to hear that, but it showed he was, indeed, human.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to chat about things non-baseball. One spring I told him a joke three days in a row. On the fourth day, he came up to me and said, “where is my joke?” I loved that.

Another time I asked him if he could play any position but his own and he said centerfield. So, to see him shag fly balls was not a surprise. He did it on a daily basis throughout his career.

But, to be injured shagging flies is a freak, unusual thing. Somewhat like his cutter, it is something that can’t be explained. He wasn’t injured because he is over 40 – see Derrick Rose also tearing his ACL – but being over 40 will make the comeback all the more difficult.

Sure, I can see him retiring, but I can also envision his pride not letting him go like this.

Yes, it was an unexplainable injury, but a reminder of how fragile things can be for an athlete. Mets fans have seen more than their fare share in recent years, like Ike Davis’ ankle, David Wright playing a month with a fracture in his back, the concussions of Jason Bay and Ryan Church, and how Billy Wagner’s elbow injury might have cost them the playoffs in 2008 and subsequently brought on the Francisco Rodriguez era.

Followers of the Mets know better than most how any injury can’t be projected, but can determine the course of a team. How things might have been different in recent seasons without injuries to Wright, Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Duaner Sanchez.

If Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in that taxi accident, the Mets never would have traded Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez.

Just think of how things could have been different.

As far as Rivera goes, the Yankees will reload – they always do – but they’ll never find another Rivera.

About the Author ()

I am an active member of the BBWAA and have covered Major League Baseball in several capacities for over 25 years, including 15 in New York working the Mets' and Yankees' beat. I covered the Baltimore Orioles for eight years and the Cleveland Indians before that. Today I am a freelance writer and social director for several media outlets and a Senior Editor for MetsmerizedOnline.com.

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