NY Yankees News: Will 2012 Be Mariano Rivera's Last Year?

Brian Buckley@brianbuck13Contributor IIJanuary 6, 2012

TORONTO, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 17:   Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees is all smiles after tying the all time saves record of 601 during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays September 17, 2011 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
Brad White/Getty Images

The old adage says, “All good things must come to an end,” like The Wire, day-night doubleheaders and the innocence of Lebron James.  Unfortunately, the same axiom reigns true for the “Core Four” of the New York Yankees.  It has to end sometime.

With the beginning of the 2012 season looming in the distance, the Yankees plan to man a team that will only have half of the illustrious group. 

In the midst of Andy Pettite’s exit and presumably Jorge Posada’s as well, the team will suit up half of the original unit they went to war with beginning in 1996.  After this year, it’s quite possible that Derek Jeter might be the last man standing.

Could this really be Mariano Rivera’s last year?

Obviously, the only person that can answer that uncertainty is No. 42 himself, but the signs are pointing to 2012 as Rivera’s swan song. 

Sure, his 2011 stats—which included 44 saves and 1.91 ERA—don’t reflect the numbers of a man two years over the hill. 

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In fact, there are only four active players who have more candles on their cake than Rivera, and none of them impact a game like him.  But, like Homer Simpson says, “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14 percent of people know that.”

The numbers aren’t the most telling suspicion of Mo’s impending retirement.

During the offseason, Rivera experienced a health scare of sorts when he began to feel the symptoms of a sore throat.  What seemed minor ultimately developed into a more serious problem when his soft-spoken voice was reduced to a barely audible whisper. 

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 30: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox on August 30, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Surgery was deemed necessary, and polyps were removed from his throat in a successful procedure.

However, even with a new clean bill of health, Rivera is realizing (not to sound like an after-school special) his body is changing.  As we grow older, freak conditions can pop up more often than in yesteryear. 

Would you want to be in a Kansas City hotel with no HBO when something doesn’t feel right? Or would you rather be stress-free and nestled on your couch with the ones you love?

Speaking of family, Rivera has three sons and a wife at home, whom he has never spent a full year with in over 20 years.  His oldest son, Mariano Jr., enrolled at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and plans to try out for the baseball team as a walk-on. 

With Rivera residing in Purchase, New York, the commute to do the family thing will be as easy as the Orioles in September.

Lastly, his two-year contract ends after the 2012 season.  At that point, he’ll have to make another commitment as he rapidly approaches his mid-forties. 

Even the bodies of players who defy their age will silently groan at the prospect of boarding cross country flights at 3:30 A.M., only to sit on hard benches for three hours with the “possibility” of entering the game.

For the past five years, offseason and spring training rumors of Mariano Rivera’s last day in the sun have been prevalent.  Still, every year and without fail, we wave a hand and say, “He’s not going anywhere.” 

However, this could be our final glimpse of the greatest closer of all time.  When asked about pitching past 2012, Rivera replied, “I don’t know what will happen.  I might call it over.”

If Rivera does call it a career, his exit will also include the No. 42, as he is the last remaining player to wear the number now dedicated to Jackie Robinson. 

So, when that press conference happens, Mariano will take Jackie with him—two great symbols of baseball pride, waltzing into the sunset hand in hand.