When Major League Baseball announced its finalists for the “Man Of The Year Award” this week, it was no surprise that Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was nominated by fans as one of them. But even this honor falls short of what Rivera has meant to the game.
For the record, the Cleveland Indians’ Nick Swisher, the Seattle Mariners’ Raul Ibanez, the Philadelphia Phillies Chase Utley, the St. Louis Cardinal Carlos Beltran and the Los Angeles Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez also received nominations. Congratulations to them.They all have made great contributions to their teams and their communities.
In Rivera’s case, the MLBPA said, “The Mariano Rivera Foundation provides children from impoverished families with an education that will prepare them for the future. In the last few years, they have extended their program to reach elementary school age children, as well, by supplying the essential school items such as back packs, books, notebooks, pencils, rulers and other utensils at the beginning of the school year. In 2014 the foundation plans to build and equip a Family Center in the city of New Rochelle, New York.”
The winner is decided by a vote of the players. But the best analysis of Rivera’s legacy on and off the field is offered by those who have played beside him, managed him, and played his position.
“He’s the most mentally tough person I’ve ever played with, Derek Jeter said of Rivera.” This is coming from a guy that has shown the highest level of mental toughness during his career.
“He is the best I have ever been around. Not only the ability to pitch and perform under pressure, but the calm he puts over the clubhouse. He’s very important for us because he’s a special person,” Joe Torre said.
Rich Gossage, perhaps the greatest Yankee reliever before Mo said, “When Rivera takes the mound, the other team is sitting in the dugout thinking, ‘We’ve got no chance. It’s over.’ This guy walks into the game, and they are done.”
So there is no question that Rivera deserves the “Man Of The Year Award.” The real question is, does the award adequately recognize his contribution to baseball? Does “Sportsman of the Year” even do that? Maybe that is a start. But there is no title that could ever do justice to what he has meant to Yankees fans.