… and why I hate Yankees’ outfielder Andruw Jones.
Yesterday, seemingly, the Hall of Fame career of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera came to a crashing halt. Shagging flies in Kansas City before that evening’s game between the Yankees and Royals, as he had done so often over his 18-year career, Rivera sustained severe damage to his right knee, tearing his right ACL and sustaining damage to his meniscus. At age 42, the likelihood of a recovery which would enable him to keep playing is slight. More than likely, we have seen the last of Rivera’s reign as the Yankees’ premier reliever.
More appropriately, we have seen the last of Rivera’s reign as baseball’s premier reliever. Assuming that he does not return to the baseball diamond, Rivera will retire with an all-time record 608 career saves. No other active player has more than 370. The only way that this saves record will be broken is if the number two man on the list, Trevor Hoffman, somehow convinces a team to sign him up so that he can try for eight additional saves and regain the record that he held before it was broken by Rivera last year. Note that the 608 number can be inflated even higher if you count Mo’s post-season statistics, which also were record-shattering.
Last September, Rivera notched save number 602, passing Hoffman and solidifying the positions of those who opined that he was the greatest reliever ever. In my post of September 20, 2011, I drew that very conclusion: http://open.salon.com/blog/andywolf/2011/09/20/mariano_rivera_sets_the_saves_mark_but_is_he_the_best_ever
There is no reason to change that opinion now. And, most assuredly, there will be no reason to change that opinion during the course of our lifetimes. Mariano Rivera was part of the “core four”, the backbone of the New York team that won five World Series championships since 1996. There was no reliever in the game who was more reliable – and his loss leaves a tremendous void at the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen.
His loss also means the official “retirement” of the number 42 – the number was retired by Major league baseball some years ago to honor Jackie Robinson, but those wearing the number at that time were permitted to continue to do so. Mo was the last “42” player remaining – just a further testament to his longevity. He will be greatly missed by the Yankee faithful, and by all baseball fans.
The first World Series championship for the “core four” was in 1996. In game one of that World Series, on a cold New York night, 19-year old Andruw Jones of the Braves stroked two home runs and led Atlanta to a 12-1 victory over Andy Pettitte and the Yankees. That night, Yankee nation, this author included, hated Andruw Jones.
Jones now plays for the Yankees. Last Sunday afternoon, I and some friends, including our very own AtHomePilgrim, went to watch the Yankees play the Detroit Tigers. In the middle of the eighth inning, the Yankees led by a 5-2 count. Mariano Rivera started taking some warm-up tosses in the bullpen, and prepared to enter the game in the ninth inning to close out the New York victory. But in the bottom of the eighth, Andruw Jones, yes, former Atlanta-wunderkid Andruw Jones, slammed a home run into the seats to give the Yankees a four-run cushion. With the “save opportunity” removed, robo-manager Joe Girardi told Rivera to sit down, and instead sent David Robertson out to pitch the ninth inning and Robertson, presumably the team’s new closer, handled the job and closed out the 6-2 New York win.
When Jones hit the home run and we saw Robertson get up in the bullpen to throw, I noted my displeasure with Jones’ effort, and that because I do not expect to get to too many games this year, it might have been the last chance that I would have to hear the strains of “Enter Sandman” as Rivera jogged in from the bullpen. That it might have been my last chance to be in the ballpark to watch number 42 mow down the opposition to seal a Yankees’ victory. Earlier in the year Rivera was hinting that this might be his last year; and I was feeling a sense of finality last Sunday.
Little did I know that I may never even see Rivera pitch again, either in person or on the television. Little did I know that the home run last Sunday would be more damaging to me than his two 1996 blasts. So I hate Andruw Jones even more now, because he is the man who, with his eighth inning home run in an otherwise meaningless April game, precluded me from seeing the great Mariano Rivera pitch one last time.
"Enter Sandman" video (the music that played when Rivera walked in from the bullpen):