The Stars are Fading

I was talking with a buddy about this via text earlier today: All the stars from our generation in baseball are starting to retire. And it hurts. We’ve already lost Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. to retirement.

Alex Rodriguez is a hobbled old man (but really, who liked him anyway?). Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones are winding down their careers. It’s just a sad, sad time for us 90’s kids.

The one that kills me the most is Mariano Rivera. As we all know by now, Mo has decided to be frustratingly covert about his post-2012 plans. He has hinted at coming back and hinted at retiring, but when the contract is up, he’ll have a big decision to make.

Rivera is getting on in years, but he’s still one of the best closers in baseball and is absolutely dominant in the postseason. He hasn’t had any major health issues, so this is purely brought on by being satisfied with his illustrious career.

It’s not often that a player gets to go out like that, but nobody is more deserving of such an honor than Mariano.

Whether or not Mo decides to retire after the season, he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer and go down as the greatest closer the game has ever seen. He’s won five rings with the Yankees and has an almost microscopic postseason ERA. The numbers will be remembered, but there are so many other intangibles that stand out about Rivera.

The reasons I will miss him (and let’s be real…the reasons I’ll cry when he retires) formulate an endless list. First and foremost, he is one of those rare players (like Jeter and Bernie Williams) who have the humility and class to make any baseball fan root for them.

I hate the Yankees – I’m in the majority there. But if you tell me that you hate Rivera, you will get a swift kick to the groin. Unless you’re bigger and faster than me. It’s impossible to hate a guy that has earned the sport’s respect with his play and his demeanor.

I remember watching an E:60 special on Mo a few months back. He hails from a small town in Panama, where he often returns in the off-season to help rebuild and financially strengthen a poor community. He is trying to spread the gospel of baseball in the place he grew up.

That’s not necessarily out of the ordinary for a successful Major Leaguer. But, Rivera is one of those once-in-a-lifetime players whose scope of influence is so vast that it can literally touch any fan, player or person on multiple continents.

Rivera never had a controversial moment in New York, even under the bright lights of the big city. He never basked in that spotlight, even amidst a wealth of prima donna teammates like A-Rod.

And perhaps best of all, Rivera is a great sport. Despite serving up the World Series-winning rally in 2001 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in one of his rare moments of failure, Mo never made excuses about his play.

Rivera is a true champion and a model human being. For my sake, your sake, and baseball’s sake, let’s hope he sticks around for another contract or two and continues to dominate hitters for a living. Bromantic tribute, end.

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