Saturday, March 9, 2013
Mariano Rivera, 43, retiring after 2013
By Andrew Marchand
TAMPA, Fla. -- The greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, will retire at the end of the 2013 season.
In a news conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday morning, the 43-year-old Rivera made the expected announcement official with his family, Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner and all his teammates, led by Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, at his side.
"After this year, I will be retiring," said Rivera, flanked by his wife, Clara, and his two sons.
Before making the announcement, Rivera joked that general manager Brian Cashman broke team policy and gave him a three-year deal.
"It's not too easy when you come to a decision like this," Rivera said, turning serious. "After this year, I will be retired. ... Now you're hearing it from me. It's official now."
Rivera said he would have retired at the end of last season if he had not gotten hurt.
"I didn't want to leave like that," he said. "I felt like I wanted to give everything."
On Saturday afternoon, Rivera returned to game action for the first time since early May when he crumbled to the warning track shagging flies at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. Rivera tore his ACL and had not faced an opponent in nearly a year.
Rivera, appearing in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves, retired the side in order, striking out the final two batters he faced, Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. Both looked at third strikes.
"It was great to be on the mound again," a smiling Rivera said. "I feel wonderful. Everything went well."
Earlier in the news conference, asked how he wanted to end his career, Rivera said, "The last game I hope will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series.
"Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition."
With his retirement, Rivera will become the final major leaguer to wear No. 42. Rivera cherished the fact that he would be the last player to have the number because of what Jackie Robinson represented.
After 2013, Rivera plans on taking some time off to vacation with his family. He will devote even more time to his work with his church and eventually would like to mentor Yankee minor leaguers.
Before falling in Kansas City, Rivera planned on 2012 being his final season. Rivera wanted to finish his remarkable story in more upright fashion. The son of a fisherman, signed out of Panama for $3,000 to be a shortstop, Rivera vowed in Kansas City that he would not go out in such an ugly way.
Rivera made his decision before spring training and everyone around the Yankees felt this would be his final season. Manager Joe Girardi said he was thankful to have one more season when he could call Rivera for the ninth inning.
Cashman said he will not be able to find anyone like Rivera again.
"He is irreplaceable," Cashman said. "He is the greatest of all-time. I've known him since he has been in the minor leagues. He has never changed once. You have seen a lot of players get a lot of money and a lot of notoriety and become famous and they change over time. He hasn't changed a bit."
Rivera has asked the Yankees to find people during the season who have passion for baseball at each park so he can personally thank them for their devotion to the game. Examples given by Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo were a family that drives five hours to attend a game or an usher who has been a longtime stadium employee.
Rivera has been recognized as the greatest closer of all time and is regarded as a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer. The numbers back up the universal praise.
Rivera will retire with the most saves in the history of baseball. His 608 are seven more than Trevor Hoffman, who is second on the list.
Retired former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who last played in 2011, released a statement, saying there was "only one Mariano Rivera."
"There won't be another person who will come along and do what he did," Posada said. "No one does it like him. It was an honor to catch him and play alongside him for as long as I did. He made my job as a catcher so much easier. Mariano is a special person and obviously a special player.
"I'm so happy he is going out on his terms. Now every time he steps into a ballpark this year, teams and fans can celebrate and appreciate what he has meant to this great game we play."
Rivera's 42 postseason saves are also the most in history. While aided by the modern era's expanded playoffs, Rivera's playoff mastery is exemplified by his postseason ERA of 0.70 in 141 innings. He has been instrumental in the Yankees winning five World Series since he arrived to the majors in 1995.
Rivera was a starter for part of his initial season, going 5-3 with a 5.94 ERA. In 1996, he set up for John Wetteland. In 1997, he became the Yankees' closer.
"What he has meant to the organization during the postseason, it has been a remarkable run," Girardi said. "So we are going to find out [what it is like without him]. Hopefully, it is not the hard way."
Rivera would be the first one to say he wasn't perfect. In 1997, he gave up an important home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the Yankees' playoff loss to the Cleveland Indians.
In Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, he was on the mound for Louis Gonzalez's broken bat game-winning bloop over a drawn-in infield.
In 2004, Rivera could not stop the Boston Red Sox's epic comeback after trailing the ALCS by three games to none.
Still, Rivera's greatness, it can be argued, is the biggest reason for the Yankees' success over the past two decades. In 141 playoff innings, besides Alomar's long ball, Rivera has only allowed one other homer, to Jay Payton in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.
"I don't feel myself, the greatest of all time. I'm a team player," Rivera said. "I would love to be remembered as a player who was always there for others."
In 2003, Rivera made the Aaron Boone ALCS Game 7-winning homer possible by holding the Red Sox scoreless the final three innings.
Rivera's teammates and opponents have often talked about how knowing that "Enter Sandman" would play over the loudspeakers made the game seem shorter, as if Yankee opponents only got 24 outs instead of 27. The feeling was that if the ball got into Rivera's hands, the game would be over.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.