A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mariano Rivera

Entrance themes have become a part of baseball, and with that, some are definitely better than others. While many players opt for the masculine aggression or at least the masculine sense of woman I’m going to make you mine, it seems that in 2007, the Phillies soundbooth people changed his White Zombie and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Bootie.” Meyers sealed the deal on the save, but he was none too happy.
Had he been something more than a wife-beating also ran in the City of Brotherly Boos for Santa Claus, things might have been different. Had he been cool beyond belief, he could have gotten Voodoo Child like Hulk Hogan did when he came out to the ring in the late 90s (I once met a guy who had never heard the Hendrix original and thought it was simply Hulk Hogan’s entrance theme.) He had he been me, he would have argued for Modest Mouse’s Cowboy Dan, but since he was striving to be “the most dominant closer in the history of the game” (registered trademark), he could have got great entrance music like Enter Sandman had Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner not already taken it.
No disrespect to a younger Billy Wagner who was throwing 100mph heat consistently, but Joel Zumaya had more heat than him. Well, he did prior to the surgery. That said, they’re both becoming footnotes to a history of this game while Mariano Rivera continues to keep the Red Sox from getting too full of themselves and becoming dominant, which is a good thing if you’re a Boston fan because you’ve become conditioned to not being able to seal the deal.
Sometimes, it seems like forever ago that Boston had no chance of winning it all, and it seemed like that even in 2004 when they were down 3-0 with their backs against the wall and up in the 9th inning in that fateful game 4 against Mariano Rivera in the American League Championship Series. Everyone remembers the 9th inning because it was against Rivera, but it was also in the final stretch of the next game that they took out Rivera as well. Two blown saves in two nights, and the Red Sox were cruising to their first World Series victory since 1918.
And it was five years ago that the Red Sox got their rings with Rivera getting a standing ovation for his contributions to that magic moment.
All the same, the man who had been made invincible since he took over for John Wettland in 1997 despite one bad pitch to Sandy Alomar Jr. was stopped by a combination of gritty Red Sox who wanted it. All the same, it doesn’t seem like anything short of Bill Muellar and a pool accident can slow down Rivera. For what it’s worth, the over-rated sense of being a reliever hasn’t come into Rivera’s mind or dented his ability to throw a cut fastball, which if it’s truly that effective and scary, why isn’t every pitcher perfecting it?
It must be something about that inside feeling that takes away the ability to crowd the plate from even the most solid of batters. The way the bat explodes right above the part that the hitter grips and shatters its smallest part when it’s thrown well. Only the Red Sox and a couple of hitters have ever seemed to do well against him. Perhaps it’s fear. Perhaps it’s legend. Perhaps it’s that they players are showing way too much respect to a reliever.
All the same, I started drafting Yankees in fantasy with Rivera. I’ll take those saves, those strikeouts, and that ERA. I’ll take Jeter, too. It’s hard to root for them since I hate the Yankees in the way that I do, which I will admit has softened in marriage. It’s not the same feeling wearing the “Certified Yankee Hater” T-shirt, but it’s hard to root for them to win. I’d just like a couple hits and mopping up a meaningless win in Kansas City or Baltimore.
That said, it would be nice if my fantasy team would start coming together. We’re floating about half way, and once again, my batting average sucks. My pitchers are ok, but the batters… not so good. Fortunately, I didn’t draft David Ortiz like I did the first year I played four years ago. Albert Pujols and Tim Lincecum are great for number ones, but why does it feel like I’ll never stop being on suicide watch even in the first two weeks of the season?
It’s like my teams don’t have a chance to win when in fact they’re built to dominate. What is it about a meaningless fantasy game that can make a man do drastic things (like look forward to picking Yankees and former Yankees)? I just need to get over this and play for the long haul with Joe Mauer, Ichiro, Jason Heyward, Jon Pappelbon, Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Miguel Tejada, Jair Jurrjens, Josh Beckett, Jon Lackey, and Mark Buehrle being left to their fully capable selves to resurrect this season from mediocrity and blandness.
Besides, nobody wins pennants in April and May (isn’t that right, Mr. Winfield).
That said, I must grudgingly offer respect to Rivera despite what happened at his pool, despite the over-rated nature of closers, and despite the fact that he is definitely not a handsome man. However, I just can’t get past the fact that he wears number 42. Only one man should wear that, and he is a legend, and for that, the number should be TRULY AND PERMANENTLY retired from baseball.

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