Enter Sandman

The End of a Historic Era
Monday Night Open Thread
(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Mariano Rivera will conclude his remarkable career very soon. The farewell tour has basically come to an end. Unfortunately, once he leaves, he’ll take his patented cutter with him. The greatest closer of all time will presumably hang up his mitt on his own terms, and upon retirement, will instantly join the epic names of Yankee lore. The last #42 in Major League Baseball will depart from the game with dignity and grace. New York fans – baseball fans everywhere, really – will collectively mourn as a man of such notable modesty off the field leaves behind a career that can really only be defined as stellar on it. Statisticians, baseball analysts, fans, and bloggers alike will try to do Mariano’s numbers justice, but they’ll all fall short. His achievements speak for themselves at this point. Two decades of sustained dominance is simply nuts.

So, rather than dissecting Mo’s career (or even trying to digest it for that matter), I want to write about a bit of nostalgia that recently came to mind. The game I remembered occurred back in August of 2010. The Yankees were squaring off against their divisional rival, the Red Sox, naturally. I remember it being one of those dog-days of summer where it was swelteringly hot out; it was the kind of utterly disgusting heat that caused the $10 stadium beer (that should have, at the very least, been ice cold) to taste warm and unsatisfying almost immediately. Our legs felt like they were peeling off the outfield bleachers —  which not coincidentally, was right were my wife (then girlfriend) and I were sitting — every time we shifted in our seats.

A rather ineffective John Lackey started for Boston while former-rotation-stalwart, CC Sabathia, took the mound for New York. The game went about as smoothly as it could have despite the Sox taking an early 2-0 lead after Victor Martinez homered and Mike Lowell snagged another RBI.  I believe it was Lance Berkman who worked the walk and it was Curtis Granderson who brought him home. Ramiro Pena (yeah, he was still in the lineup) ultimately drove in Granderson on a ground out. It wasn’t until about midway through the game though that the combination of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Jorge Posada (yeah, they were around then too) finally broke the score open. Heading into the ninth inning, the Bombers led 5-2. Despite the blistering heat and general lack of Red Sox momentum the stadium was still full. The game wasn’t over. This was late summer baseball between divisional rivals. My wife and I waited. Everyone knew what was going to happen next.

Queue the iconic Enter Sandman riffs. My wife pointed excitedly as Mariano trotted to the mound in his usual unassuming way. I watched with anticipation as I had so many times before; I had seen Mariano take the stage for the better part of my life and he’s never failed to impress me with his calm demeanor on the mound. Moments later, Victor Martinez grounded out on what was probably three pitches. One out. Adrian Beltre hit a pop fly a few pitches later. Two outs. Boston fan-favorite, Mike Lowell, ended the game with a weak fly ball to center field. In anticlimactic fashion, the game was over. That was it.  The Yanks won 5-2. There were no loaded bases or late game two out heroics. The Yanks just exchanged a few high-fives between the pitcher’s mound and home plate as is their custom. The Sox unceremoniously slunk back into the visitor’s locker room. Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York captured the speakers.

It wasn’t one of Mariano’s most notable performances by any means, nor was the game particularly critical to season’s outcome for either ball club. It was really just the opposite actually. Mariano simply notched another save. The team benefited from one more stress free afternoon, and New York fans everywhere enjoyed another day of quality Yankee baseball. Really, it all felt quite routine. But it was special for me nevertheless. It was the first time my wife experienced the new stadium, the first time she got to check out Monument Park, and the first time she saw the World Series trophies in the Yankee Museum. More significantly, it was her first time seeing Mariano pitch live. I remember her watching his performance in disbelief. Mariano dismantled the heart of the opposing team’s lineup like he’s done so many times before — that is to say, with brutal efficiency.  We loved every minute of it.

As for Mo, it was just another save for the record books. There weren’t any fist pumps following the third out. There weren’t any silly superstitious antics or rituals.  There were no invisible arrows flung into the atmosphere, excited shrieks, or violent fist pumps. There was only Mo’s humbling ability to shut opposing batters down and bring happiness to Yankees fans everywhere.  From the moment he made his presence on the field known, it was basically a foregone conclusion that he was going to do his job, and do it as well as he always had. But that’s the beauty of Mo, really. He’s a security blanket like no other. He brings peace of mind to everyone. Hell, even the opponents seem to take solace in knowing that if they fail against Mo, it’ll be because they’re supposed to.  On the rare occasions where things go astray, we find ourselves more bewildered than disappointed.

Mariano Rivera, as he had done so many times before, finalized another awesome experience that afternoon at The Stadium and on that particular occasion, my wife and I got to experience it in person together for the first time. I doubt that we will ever get to see someone perform so brilliantly and so constantly in our life time again.  There have been so many memorable Mariano moments both before and after that game against the Red Sox, many of which are certainly far more significant to the team’s glorious history. That’s the one that happened to pop into my mind though, and I’m happy about that. 

Thank you for all the wonderful memories, Mariano. We’ll miss you and we wish you a happy, fulfilling retirement.

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The End of a Historic Era
Monday Night Open Thread
  • Mike B.

    A great story about a great day. All focusing on a great pitcher whose likes we may never see again. Thank you, Mo!

  • Tom in Georgia

    Nicely done, Mike. Thanks for summing it up so well.

    • Swanson’s Moustache

      I agree, but the article was actually written by Matt (who, by the way, has been the best “weekend writer” RAB has had).

      • Chris In Maine

        This

  • Darren

    Nice memories of what made Mo so special, that lack of stress from the closer is pretty amazing. And Mo’s career is almost impossible to comprehend – when you consider how dominating his regular season numbers are, and how his postseason numbes are twice as good!

    What often gets lost in the shuffle of Mo’s career is how amazing he was in ’96. It seemed like every game he was coming in for a 2 or 3 inning appearance, with a blazing, rising fastball that would hit 96mph and blow hitters away. For those too young to remember, he was a lot more overpowering than he became later in his career, at least in terms of pure heat, not in terms of movement or precision.

    Boy are we gonna miss him.

    • Adjective Noun is Adjective

      The Mo inning I will always remember is the 8th inning against the Orioles in game 4 of the 1996 ALCS.

      http://www.baseball-reference......0120.shtml

      Go to the play by play for the bottom of the 8th. The words don’t do it justice, I will always remember Rivera could get out of any jam, even one he made himself.

  • Steinbrenner’s Ghost

    They should have waited until next year and had the ceremony on Sunday Night baseball, that way the entire nation could have seen it.

  • dkidd

    great piece

    i love the line “we find ourselves more bewildered than disappointed”

    there will never be another player that causes this particular feeling. when mo blows a save, it feels like the laws of physics have stopped working. game 7 2001 still doesn’t make sense to me. thinking about it is like thinking about the kennedy assassination. you know it happened, but there has to be some deeper explanation about what REALLY happened

    this is how great mariano rivera is: when confronted with the fact that he’s HUMAN BEING, i can’t process it. i can’t make it fit

  • Chris

    that machado injury looks bad. shame

  • ropeadope

    OT

    Machado carted off field top 7 in Tampa – potential serious (ACL?) injury.

    • Chris

      looked like an ankle but who knows

  • Chris

    knee

    • ropeadope

      Hope you’re still watching – what a game!

      • ropeadope

        Loney PH walk-off homer bottom 9 – Yankees task just got a bit tougher.

  • in meMOriam (aka lightSABR)

    I never got to see Mo pitch in New York, but I saw him once in Baltimore. Even with only a third or so of the crowds being Yankees fans, it was amazing the hush that fell over the crowd in the middle of the ninth, the way everyone seemed to stop talking and crane their necks for a better view of the man.

    It was a 1-2-3 inning, ending with a beautiful strikeout. The batters never had a chance.

  • LarryM Fl

    Many of us have watched Mo from starter to closer. But what amazes me is the ability as a closer in the beginning to dominate and at the end of his career to dominate with the same pitch but with much different stuff. I do not believe Mo’s dominates withstands major league play without his ability to be cool,calm and collective.

    Mo could teach that pitch to any pitcher but the 3 C’s were the reason for his success just as the success he is in his personal life.

    Thanks Mo for without you to finish the game the Yankees maybe a few rings short of 28.

  • KD

    My favorite Mo memory was the 2004 ACLS game 1 at the stadium. we were winning 8-0 after six and then 8-7 in the eight, 2 outs and the tying run on third. Mo was flying in from Panama and arrived just in time to take the ball and record out three in the 8th and pitch the 9th. They kept announcing over the P.A. where he was at the moment. “Mo’s plane has just landed!” “Mo is in a cab and headed for the stadium!” “He just pulled up to the Stadium!” What an amazing game. (We won, of course.)

  • Chris In Maine

    We are a bit further away from the stadium than most of you are, however we do try to make the “pilgrimage” as often as we can. We usually catch the Yankees live at least once a year between Boston, the Bronx or one of our trips to Tampa. My 11 year old son has seen been to probably 7 or 8 Yankee games. Having said that, the only time he has seen Mo pitch was down in Tampa a few years ago. Nova was the starter and had a decent game. He left with what I remember to be a 6-1 lead in the 7th. An Amauri Sanit appearance later, (now 6-5 if I recall correctly) we got to see Mo close down the game. Once he came in there was no question of what the outcome would be. My son was actually happy that the game had gotten to the point where there was a save situation because he wanted to see Mo. Three up, three down, game over. Happy Dad, happy Kid. I’m so glad he got the chance to see him live. Even when on the road, Mariano commands such respect.

  • td

    Hi guys:

    Red Sox fan here. Normally I would never post here, because this is clearly a place for Yankees fans to talk Yankees baseball, not for a lot of childish trash-talking between rivals.

    However, I wanted to express my appreciation for Mo as a Red Sox fan. Yup, he’s broken our hearts many times. But, like many Sox fans who are also fans of the game, it’s impossible not to respect his attitude, talent, and personality.

    My ‘biggest’ memory of Mo is from game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. After He Who Must Not be Named chose not to take out Pedro and the Yanks tied it up, in came Mo for the 9th. And again for the 10th. And again for the 11th. The Sox never got closer than a 2-out double to scoring a go-ahead run, and Mo never seemed to be anything less than in complete control. The one image I remember (anguish seems to have burned a lot of them away) is Mo, laying down on the mound, clearly exhausted and clearly ecstatic. Even in that moment of misery, I remember thinking how much I admired his pitching and his demeanor.

    A lot of fans around the league have come to equate Mo with Yankees baseball – as they should; I can’t think of a better ambassador for the team or the game – but the unique relationship between the Yankees and Red Sox meant that us Sox fans felt an enduring respect and affection for Mo, even when we were cursing him for sawing off the ends of our team’s bats with his cutter, even when we felt that sinking feeling that it had reached the 9th, Sandman was coming in, and this was likely a loss to our hated rivals. Whatever you felt about the Red Sox presentation to Mo last weekend, I hope you heard the genuine appreciation the fans in Boston had for him as a person and player. I know that I got a little choked up when they showed him in the bullpen during the 9th inning, and you could see him tear up a little, like the realization that this was his last game at Fenway made his retirement all the more real to him.

    Baseball will be less than it was with Mo gone…I don’t know how else to say it besides that.

    • OldYanksFan

      Very, very nice guy.
      But please be careful.
      You could give Red Sox fans a good name.

    • DArren

      Cool post, thanks for coming to share your thoughts. Red Sox fans certainly are in a unique position, having been burnt by Mo worse than anyone, esp in Game 7 03, as you mentioned, but also coming back against him in 04 and many other teams (including this year).

      I’d wish you good luck in the playoffs, but, you know. :)

    • Mike B.

      td, I don’t know what to say except you are one classy Boston fan. I never thought I’d say this, but here’s to BoSox fans! When all is said and done and the trash talk subsides, they know the game and appreciate all great players (even if they wear Yankee pinstripes). If we ever meet up, td, the beer’s on me!

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