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Mariano Rivera: No such thing as a perfect ending

Mariano Rivera's farewell tour has hit a couple of bumps along the way.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Once it became evident that the 2013 New York Yankees were not a particularly good team, my thoughts turned to the possibility that Mariano Rivera's last appearance in Major League Baseball would likely be a less consequential moment than he is probably used to. The last game of the regular season for a team, long since eliminated from postseason contention, perhaps. What a disappointing final bow for the greatest reliever all time. Surely he deserves better? I never actually considered that Rivera's personal performance might be what put a damper on the proceedings, but here we are. Three straight blown saves, the only such occurrence in his amazing career.

It's happened many times before, questions surfacing about Rivera being "done", if a man who has seemed more automaton than human being had actually given in to the ravages of time. Normally, you just ignore the silly notions of sportswriters and fans who always seem to be in a race to be the first to write the obituaries of aged sports greats, even if only a week before they were waxing poetic about how amazing they were. Normally I ignore such noise, but this year it's different because it's the last year. You wish for every appearance of Rivera to go absolutely perfectly. You want every single bat to shatter and the cutter to dance as though it were being moved by supernatural forces. You want nothing but positive memories of Mariano Rivera's last season as the closer of the New York Yankees. But it's not a play, and the opponents, even as they partake in the farewell festivities, are not there to gawk and strike out like actors in the final scene of a Disney movie.

So you take the good with the bad. I assume we all accepted that Mariano would not finish with a 0.00 ERA and convert every single save opportunity this season. And, after a decade and a half of being the greatest closer on Earth, I'll certainly be giving Rivera the benefit of the doubt in believing that this recent rough patch is not a sign of decline or imminent doom, because Rivera's sustained excellence dictates it. If one were to revisit the play analogy that I used before, this is the point in the final act where the protagonist must overcome adversity in order to triumph in the end. And even if it doesn't work out that way, it was better to have Mo's career end on his own two feet and on the mound as opposed to being laid out in agony in the outfield in Kansas City. It's not the perfect ending, but it's certainly an improvement.

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