I have so many mixed emotions when it comes to Mariano Rivera and his pending retirement. I'm a lifelong Yankee fan whose first nickname, even before Gambo, was 'Yankee' in the St. Gerard's Little League. I've been to hundreds of games at Yankee Stadium. I have wrappers that I have saved from Reggie Bars -- don't ask. I have scrapbooks from the '77 and '78 seasons. I know who Brian Doyle is!
Okay, I made my point, I love my team. And as a lifelong baseball fan, I've seen all the greats get old and lose it -- from superstars to average ball players. I saw Willie Mays at the end with the Mets and Steve Carlton with the Twins. I watched Tom Seaver with the Red Sox, Joe Morgan with the Phillies and A's and even recently Randy Johnson with the Giants. It's the law of nature: you get old, your skills diminish, and if you hang around, you become a shell of your former self.
But Rivera defied those odds. He was great from start to finish. The best at his position year after year for parts of three decades. Even now at the age of 43 there isn't a manager in baseball that would choose anyone other than Rivera to close a game they had to win.
Rivera is baseball royalty. Everyone watching knows we will never see anyone like him ever again, it's just not possible. No need to go over the statistics, he's the best and there is no argument. It can't be debated and no one would dare try.
And while I would love to see him continue to pitch I'm happy to see him go out on top. Not like Jim Brown, Sandy Koufax and Barry Sanders who all retired early. But for someone whose been doing this since 1995. I'll be very happy to say I never saw Rivera have a bad season. I never saw him get old. I never saw him ordinary. Never saw his skills diminish. All I saw was greatness from start to finish.