Sometimes it feels like, once you reach a certain age and possess a certain worldview, that your cynicism (or deep skepticism) gets to be too much like Brian McCann, blocking any and all “feelings” from reaching the home plate in the middle of your chest under the flimsy conceit of “professionalism”.
For a moment, it appeared Brian McCann would triumph inside me. Last night, just as Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter emerged from the Yankees dugout to remove their long-time friend and teammate from his final home game, there was a brief flare up of reflexive dismissal, a feeling which quickly gave way to more sincere, human emotions. It was a very touching scene, triggering brief flashes of humanity deep with an icy cold exterior.
The Mariano Rivera Victory tour really became a sight to see as it wound its way through the parks of the American League. The weird mix of professional appreciation and PR obligation created a strange game of gifting one-upmanship. Teams paid tribute to the Yankee great as best they could, with the gracious Rivera patiently soaking it all in.
The Yankees held their big Mo blowout on Sunday, inviting aging heavy metal bros and the family of Jackie Robinson to the Bronx as they retired Rivera’s jersey amid much pomp and circumstance. Monday brought the bobblehead fiasco and the resulting backlash. Last night, Rivera’s final home game felt much more directed towards the fans and the man himself.
Rivera came into the game in an unusual situation for the all-time saves leader – he entered in the 8th inning of a game his team trailed by four runs. Mariano got four outs on 16 pitches before he was pulled by Pettitte and Jeter, an emotional exit for all involved.
After playing his role in Rivera’s final exit, Andy Pettitte also received a long and loud ovation from the Yankee Stadium faithful. Pettitte leaves the game at the same time as Rivera, not a lifetime Yankee but a player who forged his bond with the fans over countless playoff appearances and innumerable successes while wearing the pinstripes.
On the other side of the country, there was a different type of farewell under way. Tim Lincecum took the hill for the Giants at AT&T Park, potentially for the final time. Lincecum is set to test free agency in the off-season, and last night could mark his final appearance in a Giants uniform.
Rather than sending Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell to the mound when it appeared Lincecum’s night was through, Giants manager Bruce Bochy played it closer to the vest. When it looked as though Lincecum’s night was finished after six innings, the fans gave the two-time Cy Young winner and two-time World Series winner a rousing ovation. When Lincecum came back out and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, they rose to their feet and provided Lincecum with a fitting send-off as he made his way back to the dugout with seven strong innings in the books.
Bochy claims he didn’t make a big production out of Lincecum’s final start of 2013 because he and the Giants want the 29-year old right-hander back after the season. And even if Lincecum signs elsewhere, he remains a big league player with many years ahead of him, not a retiring great slipping quietly from the spotlight.
The night before in SF, the Giants skipper went through a similar process with Barry Zito. Zito’s time as a Giant doesn’t feature as much personal hardware as Lincecum but he, too won two World Series in the last three years. Zito’s contract looked like an albatross from the day he signed it but the man reliable (if not terribly) more than 200 times for the Giants over the seven-year life of his career. Zito was not afforded a Mariano-esque final walk off the field at AT&T Park.
Few players earn the sort of outpouring of affection that Mariano Rivera experienced at the end of his sparkling career. Maybe it’s for the best that these send-offs are reserved for a select few, the rare ballplayer who goes out while still at the top of his game. The superstar (in the fame sense of the word) who spends an entire career with the same team, putting up historical performances in the playoffs for the better part of a generation.
Four pitchers on very different paths after playing for very different yet successful franchises. A beautiful scene in New York and one of uncertainty in San Francisco. Whether Cooperstown or Safeco Field or what have you awaits, the only thing we know for sure is what Derek Jeter said as he approached Mariano Rivera on the mound last night: it’s time to go.
And the rest
Behold, a goof.
Fan Steve Chandler sent me this photo. Said Wilson told Baer to stop using his image in stadium video highlights. pic.twitter.com/zprE6J3kkO
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) September 27, 2013
In non-sentimental baseball news, Jurickson Profar is 20-years old and he kept the Rangers chances alive for another day with a dramatic walkoff homer.
Speaking of Votto, what’s up with Canadians in the World Series? [Baseball Prospectus]