Headlines can be a writer's best friend, and a writer's worst nightmare. Sometimes they can attract attention to a story in a positive way and up the reads and feedback on a story. Sometimes they can instigate widespread anger that is misleading with regards to the actual story.
This column is the latter.
No one wants to see Mariano Rivera hang up the cleats, and worse for the fans, his cutter. But, it would behoove Rivera to pass up the thought of a valiant comeback in this situation for what his future could hold for the following reasons.
He Will Never Be "The Old Mariano"
To be brutally honest: He has an absolutely destroyed knee right now. The ACL is the tendon that runs through the entirety of the knee, essentially keeping the knee from bursting forward and creating a bigger, more uncomfortable bulge there. Not to mention the torn meniscus.
As a pitcher that throws as many high-speed pitches as he does (he has made his money on what could be the best cutter ever thrown in baseball history), he needs everything in that leg, the leg he pushes off of on the mound, to work perfectly for him.
If he were to try and pitch again on a reconstructed knee and take 1-2 mph off of his cutter and a little bit of the movement and he all of a sudden becomes hittable. Who wouldn't hate to see the greatest closer of this generation go out with his head hanging after a few blown saves?
Plus, let's not forget that if he were to have another knee injury, even if it is not as drastic as this one, he will be effectively useless from that point on. The human body requires some serious reconstruction to have a chance to survive one knee injury. Two in one lifetime is nothing short of debilitating.
The Hall of Fame Is Begging for You
Let's not act like Rivera is not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Rivera has notched 608 saves, coming to an average of 39 in a 162-game season, sports a career WHIP of just under 1.00 and has fanned 1,119 batters. Good luck keeping that out of Cooperstown.
Besides, the Hall wouldn't mind a Rivera sighting in their ballots. The steroid era names are beginning to show up on the ballots now. Put yourself in the shoes of a Hall of Famer.
Would you rather answer 20 or more questions about not voting or voting for certain players and continuously being forced to rehash one of baseball's darkest moments, or answer two or three about how great "The Sandman" is?
Rivera ending his career of baseball without the potential failure of a comeback would be a great story and capping it off with a Hall of Fame plaque is fitting in every way possible.
Why Not Take Some Extra Time With Your Family?
Rivera has a wife and three kids. Having appeared in 60 or more games in 14 of his 17 years before the 2012 season, he clearly has not been home as much as most husbands and fathers would like.
I feel confident Rivera was wanting to return home a hero, but a man of his prominence and popularity will have no problem feeling appreciated if he were to retire. So, with that, why not go home and live the retired life with your wife?
He made more money in his career than most Americans would know what to do with. Go enjoy it, Mariano.
He Can Still Satisfy His Competitive Urge
Having no where to channel a need for winning is a legitimate concern for most retired athletes. Rivera has now been taking every minute of every day to do nothing but make himself better for winning since 1995. It's getting to the point where that's all he knows.
To remedy this, well, let me just put it this way. Is there a better man on the face of the planet to learn how to throw a cutter from? He may not be able to be a MLB pitching coach, seeing as his repertoire is limited as a closer, but, as a private instructor, Rivera could teach pitching and get the same competitive fire doused as he watches his students take the mound.
Plus, I know the name "Mariano Rivera" will drive the price up a little bit.
Also, Rivera has financial interest in two New York City restaurants. Again, this is different from taking a major league mound with the game just one bad pitch away from being lost, but he could always turn to this new interest. Plus, what New Yorker wouldn't take a subway across town to eat at a diner on the chance of seeing The Sandman up close and in person?
Let me make myself clear and state that I am a monstrous Rivera fan. Seeing Rivera win as many World Series titles as he did was fantastic, even as the A's fan that I am. All good things must come to an end.
Mariano, baseball will never forget you. You can guarantee I'll make sure my kids stop at your plaque in Cooperstown. That's a must-see. "That man right there threw the best cut fastball that baseball will ever see. Past, present, future. This is the guy," I'll tell them.