This is a Mets blog, but also a baseball blog, and part of baseball is Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame closer. Mets fans remember Rivera because he snuffed out many games over the years, including Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.
When the ball left Mike Piazza’s bat with a crack I thought it had a chance, but like many before, because of that awesome cutter, Piazza didn’t get all of it and the ball died. It is one of baseball’s most dominating pitches, like Tom Seaver’s slider, Doc Gooden’s fastball and Johan Santana’s change. Not many solved it.
After watching the Knicks get pulverized last night and getting bored watching the same about the Mavericks, I started to channel surf and caught the tease about Rivera being hurt and his career possibly being over.
Watching him crumpled on the warning track I recalled my eight years covering him and recalled several moments. Coming to mind immediately was his constant demeanor. Whether he sawed off another bat to end a game, or when Luis Gonzalez beat him with a bloop single to win the 2001 World Series, he was a stand-up guy.
However, one time after he blew several save opportunities in a row he got testy and said he was a human being and not a machine with oil running through his veins. It was surprising to hear, but it showed he was, indeed, human.
I enjoyed stopping by his locker to chat about things non-baseball. One spring I told him a joke three days in a row. On the fourth day, he came up to me and said, “where is my joke?” I loved that.
Another time I asked if he could play any position but his own what would it be and he said centerfield. So, to see him shag fly balls was not a surprise. He did it on a daily basis throughout his career.
But, to be injured shagging flies is a freak, unusual thing. Somewhat like his cutter, it is something that can’t be explained. He wasn’t injured because he is over 40 – see Derrick Rose also tearing his ACL – but being over 40 will make the comeback all the more difficult.
Sure, I can see him retiring, but I can also envision his pride not letting him go like this.
Yes, it was an unexplainable injury, but a reminder of how fragile things can be for an athlete. Mets fans have seen more than their fare share in recent years, like Ike Davis’ ankle, David Wright playing a month with a fracture in his back, the concussions of Jason Bay and Ryan Church, and how Billy Wagner’s elbow injury might have cost them the playoffs in 2008 and subsequently brought on the Francisco Rodriguez era.
Followers of the Mets know better than most how an injury can’t be projected, but can determine the course of a team. If Jose Reyes didn’t have an injury history would he have been re-signed? How things might have been different in recent seasons without injuries to Wright, Wagner, Carlos Beltran and Duaner Sanchez.
If Sanchez doesn’t get hurt in that taxi accident, the Mets never would have traded Xavier Nady for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez.
Just think of how things could have been different.