Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mo Begins His Farewell Tour

USA Today Sports / Kim Klement
As Mariano Rivera approached the podium for his press conference, surrounded by his wife and two sons, you sensed that the rumors of his impending announcement that he would retire from baseball after the 2013 season were indeed true. His approach seemed cautious, as he slightly held his head down, like he did not want to literally face the packed room of reporters and teammates until the moment he absolutely had to. Once there, he greeted his onlookers with that signature smile we've all become so familiar with for the last 19 years.

And then, after being introduced by Yankees head of pr, Tony Zillo; after thanking his Lord and saviour Jesus Christ; after jokingly thanking Brian Cashman for breaking Yankee policy and giving him a 2-year extension to play until 2015; after acknowledging his teammates, the announcement came.

"It's not easy when you come to a decision like this," Mariano said. "But I would like to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to wear the pinstripes uniform that I have worn proudly for so many years. It has been wonderful."

"After this year, I will be retiring."

And that was all anyone needed to hear. Nothing said after that statement really mattered. It had become official: the Yankees all-time leading closer; Major League Baseball's all-time leading closer; the greatest closer to ever play this game would be saying good-bye to it all after the 2013 season.

Simply put, Mariano wants to be home with his family. They miss him. He misses them. And one could guess that while spending most of the 2012 season at home rehabbing from the achilles injury that cut his season short, the desire to remain with his family became more palpable. But being the honorable man that Mo has always been, he decided to come back and play in 2013 because he owed it to his fans, to his team, to baseball and to himself. So we all should be thankful for Mo's injury, otherwise, today's announceent would have come much sooner.

"If I would have finished the season last year, I would have retired last year."

Today's press conference was a short one. If you were expecting Mo to give a long, dragged out speech about his career or what the game of baseball has meant to him, you were wrong. What Mo has decided to do is let the season be his way to give fans their long good-bye. This press conference was as Mo has played the game: precise and expedient. He got in, took care of the task on hand, then got out, with a smile. There were some questions by the media, of course, to which he and his wife Clara graciously answered. But with the Yankees having a game this afternoon of which he's scheduled to throw his first pitch in a game since May of last year, Mo, even in this special moment, would never take anything away from that. It has been and always will be, about the team.

I've written two farewell posts here on Bomber Boulevard: one for Andy Pettitte's "first" retirement, lol, and one for Jorge Posada. Each coming after their last game was played. So I will wait until the end of the season to write my official farewell to the great Mariano Rivera, discussing his career, his place in baseball history and what he's meant to me and all of you as Yankee fans. Being a man-of-his-word, unlike Andy (thank God!), I suspect that it will be the only farewell post for him I'll ever have to write. Deep down in my heart though, I'm praying to be wrong about that.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Which Yankee Will Go Down Next?

USA Today / Derick E. Hingle
That is probably the biggest question Yankee fans are asking now, as the reports of Mark Teixeira being out for 8-10 weeks with a strained wrist tendon have made it's way around the mediasphere. Tex suffered the injury yesterday while taking swings in the batting cage during warm-ups with the U.S. WBC team.

This incident is the second major injury for the Yankees in the past two weeks. On Feb. 24, Curtis Granderson broke his forearm during a Spring Training game after being hit by a pitch.  He too will be out for 8-10 weeks.

And of course, there's still the issues of Alex Rodriguez being out until mid-July or perhaps the entire season as he rehabs from his injured right hip; pitcher Michael Pineda still in the "slow" process of rehabbing from the torn labrum in his pitching elbow; Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter being "close" to coming off of the disabled list from last season, but still both not quite 100%.

Now, the good news about Tex's injury is that it will require no surgery. He'll rest the wrist for 4 weeks and then will begin rehab.

The bad news is that now, pretty much all of the Yankees long-ball power will be absent from the lineup when the season begins. With the exception of Robinson Cano, all of the Yankees who hit more than 15 homers last season are either on the disabled list or off the team (A-Rod, Tex, Grandy, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher). In total, the Yankees have essentially lost 180+ home runs.

To say that the Yankees are, at the moment, a "challenged" team is an understatement. Not only do they now have to scramble to replace their latest ailing superstars, but both Grandy and Tex have sustained injuries that could affect their production when they return.

We all need to keep our fingers crossed and beg the baseball gods not to let anything happen to Robinson Cano before the season begins.

Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper