As a die-hard Red Sox fan, I don’t often have positive words for the N.Y. Yankees, or any member of their organization. There have been exceptions, but they are very few, and very far between. Mariano Rivera’s potential return to the Yankees in 2013 gives me another reason to say just a few kind words about him, and what he has meant to the game.
The reports over the last couple of weeks about Rivera’s return have ranged from him possibly retiring to wanting to return to the Yankees for the 2013 season this past Friday. He had said when he went down with a torn ACL that he would definitely return to MLB in 2013, and when you’ve saved 608 MLB games in your big-league career, you pretty much get to pick your destination. GM Brian Cashman seems to agree, as he said that he intends to work out a deal with Rivera.
What type of contract Rivera will be offered will nearly be irrelevant, though it might be worth noting he collected roughly $15 million from the Yankees for his 2012 contributions. Despite the fact that he only appeared in 9 games for the Yankees in 2012, they’re not really in a position where they can lowball Mo. What will be interesting to me is whether or not he takes the high road and signs a contract that is worth significantly less than his market value.
If he had completed his 2012 season, it’s possible that Rivera might have retired. It’s also possible that with him in the bullpen, they might have captured another World Series championship. However, when his season ended on the warning track of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, I immediately hoped that he would be able to return to the mound. Guys like Mo are hard to come by, and as I’ve written prior, even most Red Sox fans don’t feel the same vitriol for him as most players who don the Evil Empire’s uni.
Players of Rivera’s stature should get to go out on their own terms, much like Ted Williams did. Following an abysmal 1959 season in which he hit under .300 (.254) for the only time in his career, he refused the contract offered to him by the Red Sox and signed on for the 1960 season at a 25% discount. He responded by batting .318 with 29 home runs, 72 RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS- at age 41. He also hit the last pitch he ever saw as an MLBer for a home run. The Red Sox, as was customary at the time, finished second to last in the AL that year, and wouldn’t contend for another 7 seasons.
That’s the way I want Rivera’s career to end. I want him to get to pitch the entirety of the 2013 season, and I want him to pitch well. Something in the neighborhood of 30+ saves with a sub-2.5 ERA. I want him to strike out the last batter he faces on his cutter, and then take a lap around Minute Maid Park in Houston. That’s right, Bud Selig managed to find a way to screw up Mariano Rivera’s victory lap, too. Add it to the growing list of things that the commissioner can’t seem to get right.
The fact that he doesn’t get to close out his career at Yankees Stadium (unless the Yankees are in the post-season, which is something I still wholly oppose) is a bit ridiculous. Why MLB couldn’t have the foresight when they created their 2013 season to allow for the fact that one of the all-time greats could potentially be pitching in his last big-league game is quite beyond me. Perhaps it will be more apropos if the Yanks don’t allow him to pitch in Houston, but instead deem that his last game as a Yankee will come against the Tampa Bay Rays in NY. It doesn’t matter that much, in the end. Wherever he is pitching, fans will cheer for him just as if he were one of their own. Throughout his career he has been the epitome of professionalism, and fans will respect that whether it’s Houston, NY, or (gasp!) even Boston. Mo deserves that final lap, and I’ll be cheering him on, wherever I am, when it happens.
Are you glad Mo is coming back? Let me know: