Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This wasn't supposed to be how it ended
for Mariano Rivera.
While most assumed this was going to be the great Rivera's final season, the
reality of it all may have set in on Thursday night when the future Hall of
Famer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, thus ending his
season and perhaps the career of the greatest reliever to ever appear in a
Major League Baseball game.
It's almost too crazy to believe, especially when you consider how it
Prior to the Yankees' 4-3 loss in Kansas City, Rivera was shagging fly balls
during batting practice, something he has done almost every day of his 18-year
career. He lunged for a ball hit by Jayson Nix near the warning track in left-
center field when his knee buckled and he lost his footing. He immediately
clutched at the knee and was writhing in pain.
"I grabbed myself between the grass and the dirt. I couldn't pull my leg up
and twisted it (the knee). It's an ACL. Torn actually. Meniscus also," Rivera
With concerned teammates looking on, manager Joe Girardi jogged to the
outfield wall with members of the training staff to attend to Rivera, who was
placed onto a flatbed truck and carted back around the diamond.
"He broke for a ball like he always does, and then it kind of went funny,"
said Yankees pitcher David Robertson, who saw the injury up close. "At first, I
thought it was funny -- and then all of a sudden I realized he was injured, he
was down. That's when I really got worried. There's nothing I can do except
stand there and watch. It's a miserable feeling."
By the way, for anyone who wants to kill Girardi for even having him out
there, get a clue. Rivera actually took pride in his work in the outfield
before games, often commenting that his dream was to play center field before
It was a freak accident. It happens.
Now we have to wonder if this is it. Does Rivera's career end with him being
carted off the field? When he announced in spring training that he already
knew his decision concerning his future, I assumed, like most, that this was
I mean what more does he have to prove. He's won five World Series titles, he
has the all-time saves record and is quite possibly the most respected player
in the league.
There is nothing left for him to prove.
But, this isn't on his terms. I'd find it hard to believe that this is the
sendoff he envisioned. Dollars to doughnuts, Rivera is back for one more
So, where do the Yankees go from here?
For the past few years, Robertson has been considered the heir apparent,
especially after his spectacular All-Star season of 2011 that saw him pitch to
a 1.08 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings of 70 games.
He'll be given first crack at it, but should he falter the team also has
another former closer on their roster in Rafael Soriano, who will now become
the team's eighth-inning pitcher. And don't be surprised if Phil Hughes finds
his way back to the pen once Andy Pettitte is ready to step into the rotation,
perhaps as soon as next week.
Luckily the Yankees have bullpen depth and are in better position to deal with
this than most other teams. But you can't replace Rivera. Robertson and Soriano
will probably be fine, but they'll never be Rivera. That's not a knock on them.
There will never be another Mariano Rivera.
"Mo is a vital part of this team on the field, off the field. He's going to be
missed," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "There's no other way to put it.
You don't replace him. Someone else can do his job, but you can't really
I've long argued that Rivera is not only the best closer to ever play the
game, but he is best player of his generation. Understandably it's hard to
justify that for a player who appears, for the most part, one inning a
night, 60 times a year.
But if you can find me a more dominant or important player in this era than
Rivera, go right ahead.
The stats on Rivera are mind-boggling. His 2.21 lifetime ERA is the second-
lowest in history for a pitcher with more than 1,000 innings, since ERA became
an official statistic in 1913.
Actually the more amazing thing about that is that Babe Ruth is fourth on the
As impressive as the 608 regular-season saves are for Rivera, it's the 42 that
he has in the postseason that separates himself from just about anyone who has
ever pitched in October.
Comparing Rivera to anyone in the postseason, though, is ridiculous. It's his
domain. He's appeared in 96 games and has pitched to a 0.70 ERA. He's so good
that his blown saves have become actual events. He has thrown 141 postseason
innings with just one loss.
That's right, one loss. He's about the closest thing to automatic as there has
And if in fact this is it, mark your calendars for July 22, 2018, because
that's the day he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's not a question of
if he gets in, the only question is will he receive more votes than any
player? Nolan Ryan currently holds that distinction with 491 votes, while Tom
Seaver has the highest percentage of votes, as he was named on 425 of 430
Rivera may challenge both. One because he was that good and two there may not
be a player who was more respected and revered by the media simply because he
doesn't show anyone up and treats his opponents with the same respect he shows
Former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly may have had the best quote of all-
time when describing Rivera.
"We don't want to face him anymore," Kelly said. "He's too good. He belongs in
a higher league. He should be banned from baseball."
Let's hope Rivera gets to leave on his terms.
The Sports Network