“It’s just a man who has retired talking to another man who’s thinking about retiring, and just telling him my feelings on it. It’s not me lobbying him to come back, because as I've said along, I would never want a player to come back if he didn't want to come back. I’ll just talk to him, because I want to make sure that his heart is right when he decides it’s time.”
Those were some of Joe's very candid words to the media after last night's game about his feelings on Mariano Rivera's retirement. Joe, you sly devil. I see what you're doing there. Of course you aren't lobbying Mo to come back. Why would you want to lobby the greatest relief pitcher of all time, greatest athlete at doing 1 thing in the history of organized sports, the most beloved Yankee since Mickey Mantle, and arguably the all-around best teammate and person in sports to come back for another year when he's clearly still got it? Nobody would want that.
In all seriousness, I like that Joe was that open and honest about the situation with Mo last night. He said what he felt and even though he didn't come out and admit it, Joe obviously doesn't want Mo to retire and wants Mo around next year. It's a feeling that everybody else in that clubhouse surely shares and a feeling that we all as Yankee fans share, and good on Joe for expressing it.
Save for a few home runs, Mo has come back this season from ACL surgery and picked up right where he left off. It's like he never even got hurt. He's got a 2.12 ERA, is 1 off the American League lead with 40 saves, and he's striking out as many batters as he always has while walking fewer. Since the obligatory "What's Wrong With Mo???" week in early August he's rattled off 7 straight scoreless appearances, giving up only 4 hits and 1 walk in that span with 5 strikeouts. There's no physical or baseball-related reason for Mo to retire, and as great as he continues to be there's no reason why anybody shouldn't want him to come back.
The personal reason(s) for the decision are what's driving Mo's decision and it's a decision that, to his credit, he has stood by and not wavered on at all since the season began. He was emphatic and borderline short with reporters in the locker room when told of Joe's comments and good for him for not wanting to entertain the idea or the discussion. I'm sure he knows how big of a media distraction his last few games are going to be. He doesn't want it to blow up already while the team is fighting its way back into postseason contention. And as beloved as he is, Mo would look pretty stupid going from park to park this season getting honors and gifts and standing ovations bestowed upon him for his final season only to come back next year. He knows that too.
But from a selfish Yankee/baseball fan's perspective, it's understandable to want Mo to reverse his decision. We've never seen anybody do what he's done for as long as he's done it, and he hasn't shown the slightest sign of slowing down. It would be amazing to watch how long he could keep this going just for the sake of watching how long he could keep this going. We're always going to be left to wonder once this season is over, us and Joe. That will be the final piece of Mo's legacy and it's a piece that nobody is ready to put in place yet.
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