Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hide Ya Kids: A Mariano-less World Isn't Safe

I don't go to the Boogie Down often, but when I do, I go to watch YOUR New York Yankees.

Last night, the gloomy, rainy night mimicked my emotions as I entered through baseball's 3-plus year old cathedral for the first time this season. I wasn't going to see the great Mariano Rivera pitch tonight, nor would I get to see him pitch live for the rest of the season.

Rain makes a baseball game about as boring as watching it on TV. The seats, and therefore your pants, are wet. The stadium is as empty as a New Jersey Nets game. And there's always the threat of the umpires postponing the game, making the trip a complete waste of time.

But throw in the fact that Rivera wasn't there, and for most of the evening, I just wanted to go back home.

David Robertson is a more-than-capable closer, regardless of his high-wire trapeze act that simultaneously inflates his WHIP and our collective blood pressure. He leads ALL active pitchers in strikeouts per 9 innings with a 12.3 career mark, which includes an astonishing 15.9 K/9 ratio this season. While Robertson's fastball routinely clocks in at only 93-94 miles per hour, many players have admitted that due to his late release point, the ball feels like it's coming in at 97. To complement that, Robertson can throw a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball on the black, a burgeoning circle change to lefties, and oh yeah, he's been trying to learn The Great One's famous cutter.

But it's just not the same. Even while the idiots in my section (when you win all the time, you're bound to have fans that are just downright dumb) demonstrated their stupidity by yelling at Robertson and calling for Mo, I couldn't help but associate with them. This was a different Yankee team just because 3 measly outs in 1 measly inning were being produced by a player who didn't wear #42. Mariano's peripherals may not compare to Robertson's anymore, but there's something magical about the skinny kid from Panama. If God Himself were to pick up a bat and stand in, maybe He gets a hit (you know, because He's God), but at the very least, He wouldn't dare bat lefty and allow Himself to be jammed by The Cutter.

True fans root for the laundry and not the man. It's how we tolerate and root for Alex Rodriguez and Carmelo Anthony, two guys that seem like absolute jerks but represent a piece to the puzzle that cannot be replaced. We sacrifice our personal feelings for the big picture. Mariano Rivera, however, is the polar opposite. Knock on wood that he never signs with another team (which is the silver lining of him getting injured, I guess), but if he did, find me a Yankee fan who wouldn't at least silently root for him, and I'll show you a Yankee fan who just died from a anthrax package sent by yours truly. There isn't a bigger Derek Jeter supporter than me, but Mariano is Jeter without the glitz, glamour, and girls -- and sometimes, that's better.

Mariano, we appreciate your courageous attempt to come back next season and don the pinstripes for one final year. But if you come up short, don't let anyone tell you that your legacy changed. We'll be right here to remember you in the exact same way.


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