Was there any doubt that the best closer in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera, would have a 1-2-3 inning as his swan song during last night’s All-Star Game? Not in my mind. Did I think it’d be in the eighth inning? Nope.
Jim Leyland, manager of the AL team and the Detroit Tigers, did doubt that anyone else would have the same success Rivera would when he brought Rivera in in the 8th inning. It was still a close game (3-0 AL) and it was at a National League park (Citi Field), meaning that whoever else he could have brought in for the 8th blew the three-run lead, the Sandman would have never entered and the moment that ensued would have never been experienced.
Rivera received the ovation I expected from the packed house in Flushing–a standing one. Leyland had another trick up his sleeve (besides a pack of smokes). He kept the AL roster in the dugout or on the top step to accentuate who’s moment it was. A class act by Leyland no doubt, though many were up in arms about bringing him in before the ninth.
Personally, I was a little choked up watching it from the comfort of my bed. Rivera himself was a little misty-eyed as well. As a former player and coach for many years, it takes a lot for me to be taken aback by a sporting event but last night proved once again that I am, in fact, human. I didn’t cry–there’s no crying in baseball–but I did get chills from a moment that was occurring over 120 miles away in the Stadium of the “other” New York team.
The fact that this is his final season and that the ASG was in New York might have been coincidental but it certainly played out exactly as it should have. Rivera was named the MVP (duh!) of the game though it could have gone to any number of AL players. White Sox ace Chris Sale worked two perfect innings for the win, Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis had an RBI-double in the sixth or even Rangers’ closer Joe Nathan, who did get the save.
Twitter was having a near-meltdown when he was brought in while my timeline was filled with #Mariano, #Rivera, #EnterSandman, #ASG2013 and anything else baseball/Rivera-related. Here’s two tweets (just to see if I can embed them properly).
So to Mariano Rivera, thanks. That’s all I can say. You’re a class act, a fierce competitor and the greatest of all-time. But that’s just for the All-Star Game. We still have a half of baseball left to go and the Yankees need Rivera to be as dominant as he was in the first half (1-2, 30 saves, 1.83 ERA) if they expect to make a run at the Red Sox and/or the postseason.
This just about says it all. The last batter he faced in the game, Brewers’ Carlos Gomez, was quoted after the game–“I got to the dugout and said, ‘I’m gonna be history. I’m the last guy Mariano got out in the All-Star Game.”