After tearing the ACL in his right knee early in the 2012 season, Mariano Rivera issued a promise: he would devote himself to rehab and return to the pitcher’s mound, thus ensuring his retirement came on his terms rather than in a forced fashion. While the soon-to-be 43-year-old closer has made good on the first portion of that promise, he’s reputedly having some doubts about whether he really wants to pitch another season regardless of his health situation.
No matter what decision Rivera makes, it’s easy to understand from a fan’s point of view. After all, few professional athletes stick around as long as Rivera, and if he’s ready to call it quits and enjoy retirement with his family, far be it from us to fault him. Then again, take a look at the guy’s numbers. If there’s any decline whatsoever in the all-time saves leader’s game, it has yet to surface.
At the time of his injury, Rivera was in the midst of yet another all-world season as the closer of the New York Yankees: he had a 0.96 WHIP, a 2.16 ERA, and an even 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Granted, this was only in 8.1 innings of work, but those numbers are eerily similar to his career marks. I don’t think anyone would argue when I say a healthy Rivera in 2012 was likely to put up numbers right in line with where he was at the time of his injury.
The Yankees would obviously love to have Rivera back, but in the event he chooses to hang it up, they’ll need to get busy on a contingency plan. Last year’s interim closer, Rafael Soriano, performed capably in the role, but is expected to opt out of his contract and test the free agency market. If the Mariano Rivera era really is at an end in the Bronx, just about every fan in baseball — even in Boston — has to admit it’s a sad loss for the game.