Mariano Rivera has always been cool under pressure. There has always seemed to be a calmness about him that runs counter to the innate intensity of his job. He always seems to have things under control. Ninth inning closers are typically bearded madmen and adrenaline junkies, but Rivera has always brought an expressionless, clean-shaven look. It's as though he has a higher level of understanding than anyone else in the stadium.
The always steady pitching machine broke down May 2 when Rivera, the New York Yankees' unparalleled closer, fell in the outfield at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. He was brought down by a torn ligament and meniscus in his knee.
No one, not even the most die-hard, Yankee-hating Boston Red Sox fan would have wished this upon him. When you envision the end of Rivera's career, you think of him closing out game seven of the World series, or letting a game get away at the end of his 18th and possibly last season. But, you certainly wouldn't want it to end like this. Rivera, unquestionably the best closer in history, is expected to miss the rest of this season, and the obvious question is whether he will ever pitch again.
Only Rivera himself, is able to answer whether he's up to the task. At age 42, he'll have to endure grueling rehab for about the next nine months, all in an effort to return to the mound in 2013. Before Thursday's injury, most baseball fans and pundits expected Rivera to retire at the end of this season.
Back in spring training, Rivera announced that he had made a decision about his future. He hinted that it involved retirement, but he did not fully commit to saying it explicitly. Perhaps he didn't want a season-long farewell tour, or he wanted to leave himself some room in case he wasn't satisfied with the way 2012 ended.
There isn't much that could be less satisfying than having your career end in the outfield in Kansas City while catching fly balls during batting practice. If you hurt an elbow, a shoulder, a wrist, or any part of your throwing arm, then maybe you could accept that. But an injured knee?
In Rivera's world, there is no place for such a notion, no reconciling with such a possibility. So, on Friday he vowed he would be back, and he will. This way, he can restore balance to his world, and go out the way he always wanted.