New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) pitches during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 2-1. Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE
There is only one way to feel today as a New York Yankees fan -- absolutely sick to your stomach. The sight of Mariano Rivera crumpled on the warning track Thursday night at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium with a torn ACL that will end his season -- and possibly his career -- was absolutely devastating.
Never mind what this means to the Yankees season. Simply, this is not how the career of the greatest closer in baseball history and possibly one of the best people the game has ever known, is supposed to end.
Rivera, 42, is more than a pitcher. He is baseball royalty. Loved by teammates, respected by peers throughout the game and media members who cover the game. Veteran Yankee beat writer Mark Feinsand reacted to the news by writing this:
"Not ony is he the greatest pitcher I have watched in my 12 years on the beat, but he's also probably the best person I have met in baseball."
Rivera was in the final year of his contract and had told reporters during Spring Training that he knew whether or not he would retire, but was not ready to announce his decision yet. The expectation was that this would be his final season.
It can't end for Rivera this way, can it? Yankee fans would love to see it end with Rivera celebrating breaking yet another in a line of thousands of bats to record the final out of another World Series championship. At least, you want to see Rivera end his career continuing to mow down hitters with that unfathomable cutter, quite possibly the most devastating pitch the game has ever seen.
Can it really end with Rivera crumpled on a warning track? In Kansas City? After landing awkwardly while shagging fly balls?
The two events are incomparable, of course, but the only event in Yankee history I have lived through that left me feeling worse than I do today was the 1979 death of Thurman Munson in a tragic plane crash.
Rivera says he will pray about his future before deciding what to do. Even if he wants to try to return, you have to wonder if he would ever be the same. The right knee, of course, is the one he pushes off to throw that amazing cutter. Could he, at 43, return to the level that has seen him save an all-time record 608 games?
All of these are questions Yankee fans never wanted to ask, and hoped never to need an answer to. Not having No. 42 come jogging out of the bullpen to the strains of 'Enter Sandman' to rescue the Yankees is a future Yankees fans have postponed thinking about for a long, long time.
The time to think about it, though, is at hand. In an unbelievable fashion. If you will excuse me now, I am going to be sick.