Insanity is often defined as doing the same thing repeatedly, and expecting different results.
By that rationale, sanity would be doing the same thing repeatedly, and expecting the same results.
Perhaps greatness is best defined as doing the same thing repeatedly, and achieving the same results.
It is no mere coincidence announcers made known Mariano Rivera’s entrances into baseball games by recognizing him as “the Great Mariano.”
Again and again, fans have cringed upon hearing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and its heavy chords, for they marked Rivera’s slow jog to the mound. Again and again, he has dipped toward the ground just before throwing another pitch to the batter. It has always been the same pitch. Always the cutter. Always inside. Yet, again and again, batters have been baffled by the pitch, unable to get solid contact on it, breaking another bat, grounding out yet again to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
The Great Mariano mastered a simple art: to throw the same pitch with each wind-up, to the same spot and retire the vast majority of batters he faces.
This pitch from batter’s box hell has led Rivera to 608 career saves, as well as 42 postseason saves. His 0.70 postseason ERA is a number baseball will long revere. Of the 4,847 batters Rivera has faced, only 65, or approximately 1.3 of every 100, managed to send his cutter back over the fence. Those batters have only managed a .209 batting percentage against Rivera throughout his career.
It was the only art simpler which may cost him his career. Fielding fly balls in center field is not a difficult task. Rivera did it to stay in shape, to stay occupied and to stay a part of his team as a whole. On Friday, he did it as part of his routine.
And then his foot stuck in the grass of Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, his knee twisted, his ACL tore. Yankees fans everywhere bemoaned fly balls, the Royals and the gods of fate. Baseball fans everywhere bemoaned the loss of one of the sport’s classiest, most accomplished and most respectful ambassadors. It is, after all, by no mere coincidence the Commissioner’s Office has allowed Rivera to continue to wear No. 42 for his entire career, even though no one else is allowed the number in honor of Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
Mariano bemoaned nothing.
That is his nature. It is the same nature which has haunted opposing teams for the last 16 seasons. Rivera was cool, calm and collected no matter the situation. Game seven of the 2003 ALCS? No problem. He pitched a scoreless three innings, and he collapsed on the mound in relief — not joy, but relief — after Aaron Boone hit an 11th inning walk-off home run to send the Yankees to the World Series.
Game seven of the 2001 World Series? Again, not going to phase Rivera, even after Diamondbacks hero Luis Gonzalez hit a game-winning bloop single off the greatest closer of all time. Of course Mariano was distraught, but he knew it was part of the game.
Tear your ACL in a mindless drill before a routine game against one of the league’s worst teams? Rivera rode off the field Friday on the back of a cart, face stoic, as always.
And he has sworn to do what he always done after a setback. Even though Rivera has only lost 58 games in his career, and add his one Gonzalez-induced postseason loss to reach 59, he has mastered the recovery from such disappointment. He returns the next night, “Enter Sandman” blares on the speakers, and he throws the
cutter, again, and again, and again. Per usual, batters are baffled by it.
Mariano swears he will pitch again. Yankees fans pray he will pitch again. Baseball fans hope he will pitch again.
They all do so, not because Rivera has unfinished business, and not because the Yankees are lost without him. Rivera’s career has everything, including five World Series rings — he is the only man to throw the final pitch in five separate World Series — and the Yankees bullpen may be the deepest in the league.
No, Rivera swears and fans pray and hope because so rarely greatness is recognized as it happens. Man fails to recognize the greatest moments of his life as they happen. Well, every time Mariano throws a cutter, it is a great moment.
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