Most players playing baseball today switch teams at least once in their careers, with some collecting jersey after jersey from a new team each season. Even some players who seemed destined to be with one team forever, like Albert Pujols in St. Louis, switch teams when dollar signs are flashed in front of their eyes. Mariano Rivera is not one of those players. He has spent his entire career with one team. His entire record setting Hall of Fame career.
After announcing that 2013 would be his last season pitching in the Majors, Rivera started received standing ovations everywhere he went, as opposing fans knew they would never have the chance to see baseball’s best closer of all time pitch again. General Managers even rewarded Rivera for his outstanding career by giving him personalized gifts. This trend was started last year when Chipper Jones announced he would be retiring following the end of the 2012 season.
Jones received gifts at most of the visiting ballparks on the Braves’ schedule, and the same has been done for Rivera this season. The Texas Rangers presented Rivera with a custom pair of cowboy boots embroidered with the Yankees’ logo and the number 42. The San Diego Padres gave Rivera a warm hearted rocking chair made out of baseball bats. Rivera is notorious for breaking bats with his nasty cutter and could build a house out of broken Louisville Sluggers from his pitching.
The Tampa Bay Rays gave Rivera more of a Kodak moment as they had a sand sculpture of Rivera made. Rivera got a great picture and smile out of the gesture, but he probably would like the Rays to offer him their Wild Card playoff spot instead. The Yankees are outside the two Wild Card spots at the moment, but there are two series left in the season to make a run, and if Rivera is pitching that means that the Yankees are probably winning.
Rivera is one of the last of a dying breed. Players of his caliber, of Hall of Fame and number retirement caliber, no longer feel a sense of pride by staying with one team for an entire career. At the same time, teams are not willing to keep even a committed veteran on the roster if he is making a large salary and could be replaced to save a few pennies.
I understand that aging veterans may not be as productive as a younger player, but there should be an exception every now and then for the fans’ sake and the players’ sake. It’s not like these players are on the team every year, or even once a decade. A team should feel lucky if a player has obliged to stay with his one and only club and wants to end his career there. If that takes an extra year or two then so be it.
Rivera has a teammate who may be one of the only other candidates for a retirement tour, should he announce his plans before the start of a season. Derek Jeter is getting close to being forced to hang up the spikes. His health has been awful the last two seasons, and he is getting paid a lot of money to be the face of a team but not play. The Yankees’ front office has made a commitment to cutting its payroll and has done so, although it’s not like they are trying to save money like the Miami Marlins every five years by trading all of their star players. Jeter is a Yankee legend without a question, but the question is whether he and the owners will be agreeing when he should keep playing and when he should retire. If things go smoothly and Jeter does announce his intentions to retire before the start of a season, you can guarantee you’ll see teams honoring Jeter the ways they have for Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera.
Mariano Rivera as dominant at closing as Metallica at rocking out
Rivera has been dominating a position that he has for almost his entire career. The thing is, he is supposed to be an old guy who can’t hack it like he used to. He has looked as dominant as ever, and some people have suggested that he may come back for another season in 2014. There’s one problem: he can’t. Rivera has already publicly announced his retirement and has been getting these gifts in city after city. If he were to say that he is coming back for one more season, that would negate everything that all these other teams have done for him.
Rivera would not get another standing ovation like he has this season, and there would be anymore of these retirement tours, although having said there aren’t many players who qualify for them, the few who do would be much less likely to get the cool gifts that come with being a Hall of Fame caliber player playing with one team his entire career.
Mariano Rivera has been a role model athlete and a great asset to baseball over the years. If any player deserves the retirement tour that he has received, Rivera is that athlete. It is fitting that the last player to be able to wear the number 42 has honored it in a way that would make Jackie Robinson proud. His dedication to his craft is matched by his character as a person, the qualities he possess as a person, and the way in which he carries himself.
There are more numbers retired by the New York Yankees than any other team in baseball, but every team already has the number 42 retired. The Yankees will probably have 42 alongside their retired numbers in addition to the separate 42 for Jackie Robinson. One thing that should also be taken into consideration is retirement of Rivera’s intro song. “Enter Sandman” has become iconic for Rivera whenever he enters the game. I think when the Yankees are away and Rivera enters the game they should still play the song. Any player that wants to use that song after Rivera has retired better have a pretty good track record. Rivera is taking his retirement gifts, his jersey number, and should take his song as well. He has earned everything and will not have to choose which cap to wear once he enters Cooperstown as a first ballot Hall of Famer.