October 1, 2014

The End of Perfection?

Only the hardest-hearted Boston Red Sox fan is cheering this weekend.

On Thursday night, one of the most consistent, awe-inspiring, likeable and admirable players in baseball history suffered an injury that may end his stellar career.

Veteran New York Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera tore his ACL while chasing a fly ball in batting practice before a game in Kansas City, a serious injury that threatens to shut down one of the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.

Rivera, however, insists he will not be giving up.

The New York Times reports:

For almost 17 years, Mariano Rivera has starred for the Yankees with humility and grace. His dignified demeanor, as much as his famous cut fastball, has defined him in the public mind.

Now we can add another character trait to the most indispensable player of his generation: defiance. Less than 24 hours after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament while chasing a fly ball in batting practice, Rivera told reporters in Kansas City, Mo., that he would not let the injury end his career.

“I’m coming back,” Rivera said. “Write it down in big letters. I’m not going out like this.”

Just recently, I watched Rivera pitch a perfect ninth inning against the Texas Rangers, earning one of his record 608 career saves (he also has 42 in post-season play). I feel the same way watching him pitch as I did watching Michael Jordan play basketball — it just doesn’t get any better than this; this is a privilege, a joy, an experience of common grace to be savored and treasured. What has always been most amazing about Rivera is that he basically throws one pitch, a cut fastball; he continues to throw it over and over again, and no one can hit it.

Rivera is a man of Christian faith and he is finding strength in that to stay positive and focused on doing his rehab and getting back to the career in which he has been so successful. “Miracles happen,” Rivera said with a smile. “I’m a positive man. The only thing is that I feel sorry I let down my teammates. Besides that I’m OK.” Whether he comes back or not, I have an idea from watching him over the years that he’s going to stay OK.

When Rivera’s knee buckled on the warning track the other day, and he went down, he fell against the outfield wall where a billboard exhorted: “Walk Off A Hero.”

Something tells me it’s going to happen, one way or another.

Comments

  1. He’s incredible. My lowest point as a Yankees fan was when Don Mattingly — another example of class and professionalism — lost his final game in heartbreaking fashion, and retired without any playoff success. That’s when I was 13, and I cried afterwards. Seeing what happened to Mariano brought me as close to that childlike sense of loss and disappointment in all the years since.

    For all of the selfishness, vanity, and lack of loyalty that typifies sports these days, there is still nothing better than an athlete/team who gets it right.

    (And he’s never needed a fad, gesture, or subculture’s following to promote himself. He’s loved and respected for his humble and consistent Christ-likeness).

  2. ChrisS says:

    I dont care who your team is, you have to appreciate Rivera. Nolan Ryan, Jerry Rice, Wayne Gretzky and any number of current players fit into that ultra proffesional motif that makes you enjoy the purity of the thing.

  3. Randy Thompson says:

    Thanks so much for the post on Mariano Rivera. He’s a truly great pitcher, but, more, he is a sterling human being who reflects the presence of Christ.

    As a Yankee fan now exiled (very pleasantly) to Red Sox Nation here in beautiful New Hampshire, I’m wondering: Can we expect a post here sometime soon on Derek Jeter?

  4. As a health care professional(physical therapist), an ACL tear is not necessarily career threatening. With a good rehab program he should be fine.

    BTW, my wife is a social worker who has a special place in her heart for hospice chaplains…she tells me to tell you ‘hi’.

    • David L says:

      The problem isn’t so much the specific injury but that he’s 42. At that age a long layoff from the action may let his muscle tone go away.

  5. Martha says:

    I know nothing about baseball, so here is something that fits better under the Saturday Ramblings tab – a 100 year old tortoise has run away from its owners.

    How does a tortoise run away? Yes, yes, I know: very slowly! But it’s 100 years old on top of being a tortoise – it’s not exactly like it sprinted out the gate the moment their backs were turned?

  6. I am not the most ardent Red Sox fan…but I *am* a fan (since 1985 when I was 10 and they beat the Angels; I’m also a Dodgers fan :-). But Rivera is the best there is, both in terms of baseball and life. He’s incredibly professional and humble, speaking of his Christian faith meekly and plainly. More importantly he lives out his faith by pouring money into Christian initiatives in his native Panama. That he has also put together a first-ballot HOF career based on one pitch that has never changed over 16 years…well that might be the only thing more amazing than his personality.

    I really hopes he makes it back as good as he has been since 1996. You never want to see the best come back one too many times, but you also never want to see the best end his career with a shredded knee after shagging balls. Go Mo!

  7. Rchard McNeeleyi says:

    Rivera was one those guys you loved to watch come in and close out a game, unless it was against your team. I hope that he can recover and finish out his career as the great closer that he is.

  8. Mike, I was at that game here in KC. I so much hope that is not the last we see of Mo.