An Ode to Mariano Rivera: The baddest badass of all tiiiiiiiiime
Mo.In Cantonese, it means "nothingness." Which make sit an ideal nickname for Mariano Rivera, the man whose very appearance on the mound, like a gaunt revenant of baseball doom, turns veteran ballplayers into hollow, empty shells, bereft of whatever swagger they may have demonstrated on pre-game TV. They should unfurl a banner that says "ABANDON ALL HOPE WHEN I ENTER HERE" over the mound when The Sandman makes his appearance. He is that good. Nay, great. No...even great is insufficient. How about "Thunderously, apocalyptically awesome"? Yeah. From Wikipedia:
After a breakthrough year in 1996 as a setup man, he became the Yankees' closer in 1997 and has maintained that role for the team ever since. Rivera has become one of the best closers in baseball history, and he has done so by primarily throwing one pitch, a sharp-breaking, mid-90s mile per hour cut fastball that has been called an all-time great pitch. Rivera is a ten-time All-Star, a five-time American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and a three-time saves leader. He has recorded the second-most saves in Major League history, and in 2009, he surpassed 500 career saves. Recognized as an exceptional postseason performer, he holds Major League postseason records for saves and earned run average (ERA), among other records. Baseball writers expect Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame upon retirement.
On Mo's deadly weapon:
Rivera discovered the cutter accidentally while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza in June 1997, finding that the fastballs he threw in the bullpen were beginning to move sharply and unpredictably. After failing to straighten out the pitch and prevent the movement altogether, Rivera accepted it and began to use the pitch in games, with the cutter coming into prominence in 1998. When asked from where his ability to throw the pitch came, Rivera explained, "It was just from God. I didn't do anything. It was natural." Rivera has taught the pitch to several other pitchers, including Roy Halladay, who now uses the cutter as part of his repertoire. "You know what's coming, but you know what's coming in horror movies too. It still gets you," says Mike Sweeney, referring to his inability to hit the cutter despite expecting it. Chipper Jones once compared it to a "buzzsaw", (referring to its tendency of breaking left-handed hitters' bats) after witnessing teammate Ryan Klesko break three bats in a plate appearance against Rivera in the 1999 World Series. Jim Thome called it "the single best pitch ever in the game". In 2004, ESPN.com ranked Rivera's cutter as the best "out pitch" in baseball. Buster Olney referred to Rivera's cut fastball as "the most dominant pitch of a generation".
I love me some Cap'n Derek Jeter as both a ballplayer and as a True Yankee (tm) character...there's something impossibly amazing about how he pops up whenever needed, like the superhero he is. The turning moment in the game yesterday happened when Johnny Damon stole second on an overshift, due to Mark Teixeira being up at bat as a lefty; with the third baseman covering second, Johnny D saw that no one was at third and kept running, easily stealing that bag too. At that very moment, I turned to my friends and said, "If the Yankees were on D, Jeter would have mysteriously appeared there to take the throw and catch the runner. That's what he does." But what Mo does, no one else does. I think no one has defined Yankee success better and more completely than Mariano Rivera, in his many years of staggering triumph in late, short, desperate situations. Where literally no one else could be trusted, it's always been the same: "Gotta go to Mo." Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, Cano, Damon, Posada, Matsui — all of them are fantastic players who've delivered when needed. But in the overloaded Yankee lineup, it's a revolving-door star situation, where the torch of godliness has been passed from teammate to teammate, night to night. And in the end, after the pine goes boom, there is only Mo. How many times have we seen a game in this postseason definable simply as "No Mo, no mo'"? How many times have we wished Mo could be available for a 12-out — a 16-out — save? If the Yankees take this Series, 39-going-on-eternal Mo should be the unquestioned MVP, you can take that sucker to the bank. We are fortunate to have seen him pitch in our lifetimes, and we will face a looming abyss in need of filling when he finally retires, may that day not come soon. Number 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, as the late Douglas Adams, author of the "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," would have it. And you know what? Yankee fans agree.