On Thursday night, before the New York Yankees were set to play the Kansas City Royals in Kauffman Stadium [Royals Ballpark], the greatest closer of all-time suffered a season-ending injury while in the midst of chasing down routine fly balls.
Shagging hit baseballs to the outfield was always part of Mariano Rivera’s regular workout before games. More than anything else, it was considered as exercise and a way to have fun. All of his teammates, even Yankees coach Joe Girardi understood the ritual.
The injury occurred near the warning track in left field. While trying to catch a fly ball, the 42-year-old Yankees closer had lost his balance. Rivera’s knee buckled and his cleats stuck to the dirt. Mo’ immediately grabbed his knee and soon after that, many of the Yankees’ players along with the training staff ran out onto the scene.
Rivera’s injury was a torn ACL. This was devastating, not only for the Yankees, but also for Major League Baseball. If there was one person who didn’t deserve this situation, it would have to be Mo’.
The Yankees captain Derek Jeter knew exactly the importance of losing Rivera in the bullpen.
“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 replace him.”
What many people don’t understand is that Mariano Rivera was more than just an all-time saves pitcher to his teammates and to the fans. Mo’ epitomized everything that a team leader should be. Rivera was always accountable in his play and performed at a high level with class and respect for the sport. On a personal standpoint, Mo’ was a brother to his teammates.
Now, Rivera is gone and no one knows when Mo’ will actually be able to return. While many people hate the situation, the Yankees can only do one thing, which is to re-focus and turn the page.
The Yankees closer hasn’t been on the disabled list since 2003 and there was no way
Mariano Rivera was going to allow his career to end in this fashion.
“I’m coming back,” said Rivera. “Write it down in big letters. I’m not going down like this. God willing, if he gives me the strength, I’m coming back.”
There isn’t any doubt that Mariano Rivera will be back. Champions are built in a different way and while nothing in this lifetime is ever guaranteed, it would take more than one injury to stop a guy like Mo’.
However, realistically… this will be a very difficult time for Rivera. When Chicago Bulls’ guard Derrick Rose got injured in this year’s NBA playoffs with an ACL tear, many have already questioned D-Rose’s chances of being the same player. Rose is only 23-years-old, which goes to show you that an ACL injury is something that can change an athlete forever.
At this current stage, Mariano Rivera is already 42-years-old [nearly 20 years older than D-Rose] and given that he returns, a big question lies, will Mo’ still be the same?
You hear it all the time from aging players in sports. Psychologically, their minds want to overcome the barriers put in front of them, but physically, their bodies are no longer willing to continue.
Mo’ will definitely come back to close his wonderful career the right way. Will Mo’ still be a dominant force on the mound when he returns? That’s a totally different story. Although, if there is ever a player that could regain his strength and be the player he once was, it would be Mariano Rivera.
Let’s hope for the best.
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