I don’t think any Yankee struck fear in the hearts of mortal men quite like Mariano Rivera. Creepy-looking enough to be a Batman or James Bond villain, lanky enough to conjure images of a scarecrow coming to life and chasing children down a dead-end street, and skillful enough to smother even our strongest playoff aspirations.
He was the guy we wanted to hate. The one we needed to hate. And as a Red Sox fan, hells yeah, I hated the fact that the Yankees had this game-closing mutant at their disposal.
But after hearing news that the guy tore his ACL last night — during pre-game warm-ups, of all times — and may have pitched his last game, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. For all the fear and loathing he conjured in this town, he seemed a stand-up guy. The anti-Giambi, if you will.
Couple of examples: After we’d finally gotten to him in 2004, Mo got a standing O during the 2005 Opening Day ring ceremony. A lesser player might have flipped us the bird, showed us his nuts, or simply cranked up the Marshall Tucker Band on his iPod. But Rivera tipped his cap, gave a huge grin, and just soaked it up. Just last month, while the Yankees were putting the finishing touches on their 15-9 pasting of us, cameras caught Mo in the Fenway visitor’s bullpen, signing a ball for a fan in the bleachers–something he could have easily shrugged off.
While I won’t miss him tormenting our hitters, a part of me would hate to see him go out like this. So, while pre-2004 me would likely want to kick myself in the nuts for saying this, I wish him a speedy recovery.