With the New York Yankees eliminated from the pennant race for one of the two wild card spots, the team took time to stop and honor one its greatest players to ever don the pinstripes.
Mariano Rivera took the mound for the last time in his historic career at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, and as he entered Sandman, he exited Sandman leaving everyone in tears, including himself. With the Yankees on the verge of being swept at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, Rivera entered the game with one out in the eighth inning to the voice of late great Bob Shepard and for the last time Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and of course he put those Rays bats to sleep.
Then he came back out for the ninth inning and got two outs which led to the great genuine moment of two members of the Core Four, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettite, to come out and give the third member of the Core Four his final, well deserved, farewell. For one of the first times in his career, Rivera showed true emotions on the mound as he was embraced by both Jeter and Pettite which finally sunk in for Rivera that it was over and he let his emotions take over. It was such a great moment of the greatest closers to ever pitched and one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
On Sunday, in true Yankee fashion, the only way they know how to do it, Rivera was honored and celebrate on the field before the series finale versus the San Francisco Giants. Like many greats before him, such as Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, Rivera stood in front of the Yankees crowd, among his peers and said goodbye to the sport he loves, baseball.
Yes, no one might come close to the farewell speech Gehrig gave on that fateful day on the Fourth of July in 1939, but Rivera tried his best. Rivera thanked everyone from his family, to his teammates, to the organization, to the late great George Steinbrenner and in the end, in Rivera fashion, all he wanted to do is get the ceremony over and play some ball.
The moment was set-up perfectly for Rivera as another member of the Core Four, Pettite, making his last start in Yankee Stadium after announcing he would retire for good at the end of the season, was starting the game with Rivera waiting to close the game as they did for many years, they hold the record for the number of games they have combined for a win-save, 72 times. Unfortunately, the great Hollywood ending was not meant to be despite the gem of a game that Pettite pitch, the Yankees were unable to give him the run support he needed and Rivera came in to pitch 1.2 scoreless innings in a 3-2 loss that pretty much sealed the fate of these Yankees.
With that, the Sandman has exited and along with the great pitcher, the great era of those Core Four Yankees have had the lights turned off. With that, Rivera leaves the game with 652 saves, a 2.21 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1173 strikeouts and was even better in the postseason with 42 saves, a 0.70 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and only one playoff lost in his illustrious career.
Few players are great and there are even fewer players who increase their value in the postseason and Rivera was just that. He was the cornerstone of those teams, if the Yankees had a lead late, they were automatic to win because Rivera was coming in and breaking those bats. Now, the Yankees will usher in a new era in which Jeter is the last man standing and who knows for how long with his recent injuries. Only time will tell what direction the franchise will go but one things is for sure, we were witnesses to one of the greatest players and eras in history of baseball.