The Irreplaceable Yankee

This is a day the Yankees and their fans could never completely prepare for: the post-Mariano Rivera era. Going after a fly ball in yesterday's pregame practice, Rivera stumbled on the warning track and fell awkwardly. An MRI revealed a torn ACL and meniscus, a serious knee injury that ends the season of the Greatest Closer of All Time. The spontaneity of sports is part of its appeal -- day to day, you never know what will happen. But this stunning news was as unexpected as any you'll hear.
This sudden injury comes just seven-and-a-half months after he set the major league record for career saves. (Below, the historic pitch against the Twins for #602.)
While long-ago Yankee Tommy Henrich was nicknamed "Old Reliable," Mariano has personified it. Has any player been as consistent as him over the past 15 years? In a game driven by statistics, Mo's are remarkable. Keep in mind, someone with a .333 average is considered a great hitter. A starting pitcher with a .700 winning percentage is an ace. Rivera has converted nearly 90% of his save opportunities (.892) over more than a decade and a half! So after 15-plus seasons of seeing the bullpen gate swing open and number-42, like Mighty Mouse, coming to save the day, it's going to be very different for the Yankees and their fans.
Photos show a glimpse of the talent, but there's been much more to Rivera over the years: the concentration, the effectiveness of his singular pitch -- the cutter, the intimidation opponents feel when 42 faces them on the mound. They can't accurately convey the dedication, the character of the man and the respect both teammates and opponenrs have for him. The son of a Panamanian fisherman has become a Bronx icon -- and much like the Babe, the Mick and the others whom he'll eventually join in Cooperstown and Monument  Park, his innings will be filled. Replacing Rivera the man, will be another -- and near impossible -- challenge.
At age 42, with 608 lifetime saves, we might have seen the last of the relief pitcher who set the gold standard at his position.


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