The news broke on Thursday that Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, acknowledged as the best closer baseball has ever seen, might retire rather than try to come back from a devastating knee injury at the age of 43.
Veteran New York sports writer Ernie Palladino opined Friday that retirement might be a good idea for Rivera, writing that it "probably isn't" worth it for Rivera to return.
"It would serve him well to get out now. His legacy as a great closer would remain intact. He would go out because of an injury to an old body, not after he came back and found out, sadly, that he, like so many others, had tried to hang on a year too long. There is no guarantee that the knee will ever allow Rivera to pitch at the same level that will put him in Cooperstown.
"To see him go out any other way - after 608 saves and five World Series rings - would be tragic."
Is Palladino right? Yankees' fans and baseball observers don't really want their last memory of Rivera's career to be the sight of him crumpled on a warning track in Kansas City after blowing out his knee while chasing a batting practice fly ball. More than that, though, no one wants to see one of the greatest and most elegant pitchers of all time return as a shell of himself. No matter how hard he works, he will be 43 next season and there is no guarantee that Rivera will still be Rivera regardless of how healthy his surgically-repaired knee is.
I have mixed feelings on this. I do believe, however, that Rivera has more to lose by returning than he does by saying goodbye to the game. If he decides to hang up his spikes it will be a sad day for Yankees' fans. Yet another reminder that the glory days are gone. It would be sadder, however, to watch Rivera finish his career as something other than the majestic, often unhittable, Mo that we remembers.
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