By Jason Keidel
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According to many mutating reports, Mariano Rivera -- the only essential member of the famed Core Four -- is pondering retirement.
Just months after the relief pitcher nonpareil assured us he would not leave the game in repose -- on crutches into Cooperstown -- he's digging for the desire to endure one more campaign as the greatest pitcher in the history of the sport's greatest team.
There are as many translations as there are mutations. Some see this as Rivera's annual anxiety after each interminable season, weighing his lust for glory against his love for his family. It's a considerable, internal debate. And maybe this is the year his children's cries finally drown out the years of cheers he's inhaled from his pinstriped congregation.
Others see this as a coy contract ploy. Had he announced his return a month ago, with Rafael Soriano under contract, he would have less leverage than had, say, Soriano opted out of his three-year deal. Turns out he just did, hours ago, technically leaving the Yankees without a ninth-inning monolith for the first time since 1996.
Soriano spent his first year flexing more petulance than promise, blowing leads then ducking the media. It takes more than talent to bask in Broadway's glow without burning in its glare. But this season, Soriano was resplendent. And, to many, it made Mariano moot, which is rather astonishing.
Even Rivera, the greatest Yankee since Babe Ruth, is expendable, another color in an eternal, rotating twilight of forgettable legends -- the only fitting and final man to wear No. 42.
There are only two men I've met who made me feel like a child on Santa's lap on Christmas Eve, awestruck into paralysis -- Muhammad Ali and Rivera. Some men are more than the sum of saves or knockouts.
There's a palpable nimbus around Rivera. There's no doubt that his faith is part of it. He's not the part-time zealot who claims a direct line to the deity whenever it's convenient. (How many times has "God" beckoned an athlete to a particular team or town which just happens to offer the most money?) As with Ali, you must meet the man to feel the man.
In this one case, I hope Rivera is flexing his negotiating muscle on the Yankees, who have priced the proletarian out of their birthright -- a good seat at their Bronx ballpark. The swaths of empty seats during the playoffs have turned those velvet ropes into a noose around their corporate neck. It seems even you have limits. You're sick of two grand for seats, ten-buck beers, five-dollar pretzels and Poland Springs only to hear of Hal Steinbrenner's newfound frugality.
The time to go cheap was when we still had Yankee Stadium, not this embellished martini bar with wine-and-cheese, Abercrombie boys who spend six innings with iPhones pinned to their ears, waving like chimps at the nearest camera. No, Brian Cashman needs to crowbar that wallet wide open to make Rivera's decision to return most facile.
I've drained my limited lexicon on Rivera, to whom no superlative amply applies. If you're one of those who thought Soriano truly replaced Rivera, then you haven't watched the man, a jewel brighter than any baseball diamond.
We need Rivera once more -- for a proper salute, for our sanity and for his sanctity. Please give us just a few more deeds under brown leaves, before He leaves.
Do you think Mo will come back for one more season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below...
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