May 8, 2007

Slow Mo Shouldn't Go

We'll never stop believing in Mariano Rivera. He's been almost un-hittable for so long that when he has bad outtings, such as Monday night's game against the Mariners when he gave up the go ahead run, in the form of a solo home run, in a game tied at 2 to Adrian Beltre, fans are shocked. Quoted in a report on the Yankees MLB website by Caleb Breakey, Don Mattingly said about Rivera: "We expect him to be perfect every time out," Mattingly said. "It's not always going to happen, but it's Mariano. You know he's going to do the job for you."

If you're like this writer who witnessed Beltre's home run against the "Sandman" Monday night, it felt like the wind was knocked out of you. The man is only human. Is his recent spate of melt downs due to age? Rivera is thirty eight years old. He's been dominant for so long in his career that people forget that someday, even the great Mariano Rivera may have to either change roles on the team or retire. What would the Yankees do without their hero closer? They'd lose big games in tight spots, that's what they'd do. Since there is no heir apparent in the farm system or anywhere else on the impending trade market to fill his big shoes, Yankee fans, and the Yankee organization as a whole have every reason to ponder whether or not Mariano has reached the end of his career.

It could be that Mariano is going through a rare stretch. Because he hasn't been used very often this season, his performance may be suffering because of it. A pitcher like Mariano needs to taken out for a spin every once in a while, like a finely tuned exotic sports car, to maintain performance. Mariano has a routine, and the bizarre nature of this Yankee's season has kept him on the bench way too often. In games where the Yankees hand the bullpen a lead after six or seven innings and they almost expectedly give it up, what's a closer to do?

This season, as the ninth inning approaches in a close game, the strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" will blare over the Yankee Stadium loudspeakers. Fans will cheer for their hero as he tosses his warm up pitches on the mound. Will he close the game? Will there be another upsetting ending like the one Monday night and others this season? Who knows about that? But, one thing is for certain, Mariano Rivera is a hero, a legend, and we shouldn't give up on him, yet.

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