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Contemplating the End of the Mariano Rivera Era

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As I wrote in a comment earlier, some quotes from Mariano Rivera that came out of camp today seem to suggest that the All-Star closer and saves leader will ride off into the sunset and retire after the 2012 season. Letting that sink in at first is a little difficult. For the vast majority of my time as a Yankees fan, Mo has been there to lock down the 9th inning, and we've all been extremely fortunate to have the best closer in baseball history to depend on all these years.

I'm generally not very sentimental when it comes to baseball, but it's a little sad to think of a time when Rivera won't be the cornerstone of the Yankee bullpen, and a little more sad to think that that time may be as early as next season.

From the beat writers:

Erik Boland @eboland11
Rivera on Decision 2012 (his): It "Doesn’t depend on how I pitch. Always I want to do my job but I’ve made my decision already."
Sweeny Murti @YankeesWFAN
Rivera said his decision has been made, "even if I save 90 games, even if they want to pay as much money as they want to." So…
Marc Carig @MarcCarig
Mo cracked a joke re: prior retirement scares but said decision — which he didn’t reveal — is final. "This one is different. This is it."
Marc Carig @MarcCarig
He wouldn’t say it straight out but Mariano Rivera sounded like a man at the start of a farewell tour.

While nothing definitive was said, it certainly seems like Rivera has made up his mind that this will be it for him. I'm sure a lot of ink will be spilled this season about who his heir should be, but that will all play out in time. I do not envy whoever the unlucky soul happens to be, though. He will have impossibly big shoes to fill.

The Yankees are certainly in a good place to send Rivera out on top with another World Series championship this year, which I'm sure everyone thinks would be a perfectly fitting way for the saves leader to end his legacy. Even if 2012 is not the end, it won't be that far off. Whether he retires this season or decides to pitch indefinitely, we should enjoy watching the best ever at what he does round out a historically amazing career.

If this is truly it for number 42, it's been a hell of a ride.