Mariano Rivera is the best closer in the history of Major League Baseball. That's not an opinion, that's a bona fide fact, accepted and defended by anyone who can be considered a baseball fan.
Mariano Rivera, however, is also a very old baseball player. Again, a simple fact. At age 42, it's just not possible for him to be the same pitcher he used to be. And with a recent ACL surgery on top of that, his chance of another dominant season is even more far-fetched.
I would never question Mo's heart, nor his desire to get back out there on the mound. And no one in their right mind could possibly doubt that he still knows how to throw that cutter. But even though it hasn't even been a full season since his devastating injury, this is a very different team from what it was on May 3.
Big changes are undoubtedly coming for a Yanks team that was swept in a four-game playoff series for the first time in 36 years. Alex Rodriguez's playoff performance was a huge catastrophe. The former Core Four continues to collapse with Jeter's hard-to-watch ankle injury. And age continues to be the biggest factor to this team's success, even with young studs like Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson leading the way.
This team is in shambles. Question marks surround almost every facet of this team, and they are far from solving any of them.
With Rafael Soriano officially opting out of the final year of his contract, the front office now has another big issue that needs to be dealt with, and it all revolves around what a 42-year-old pitcher coming off of ACL surgery decides to do.
If it were any other pitcher but Mariano Rivera, the answer would be simple. Instead, the Yankees may be stuck losing a great closer in the hopes that the best closer can come back strong for possibly one more season.
The odds of this panning out are actually pretty slim. Soriano is no longer going stand being a setup man, even if he's going to get paid tens of millions of dollars a year to do so. He wants saves, he wants the pressure and he's proven that he can be a valuable commodity for just about any team.
In other words, say so long to Sori if Mo returns.
So let's just say Mo does come back and pitches lights-out for a whole season. Excellent news. A feel-good story of the year.
Then what? Does Mo keep this up until his body breaks down even more?
Does he finally retire after proving that even a torn ACL can't stop his dominance?
Do you now trust David Robertson or Joba Chamberlain in that closer role for probably the next few seasons? Better yet, could they even come close to achieving the same success that Sori did?
Looking at all of this, it would be safe to say that this team would miss Soriano if he leaves the Bronx, possibly for years to come, and especially if Rivera turns out to be mortal after all.
In reality, the best option for everyone is also the hardest. It's time for Mariano Rivera to retire. He's got nothing left to prove, and no one would think less of him if he did decide that it was time to move on.
I don't want to write that statement, but it has to happen if the Yanks want to start building a successful future and not continue to be bogged down by big, ridiculous contracts.
No one likes seeing their heroes leave, and it's going to be a pretty difficult transition for every single Yankee fan, especially as other heroes such as Jeter keep on aging, and former heroes like A-Rod are now clear-cut villains.
Still, we got a taste of what a Mo-less future might hold this season, and it honestly wasn't so bad after all, even if it ended in an embarrassing sweep.
Soriano as the closer is the key to that bright future in the Bronx, but until Mariano Rivera can admit that his retirement may be the best option for the team he loves, the New York Yankees are looking at a future that even Rivera couldn't possibly save.