You could kind of see it coming- no one player stood out in the American League's 3-0 win in Tuesday night's All-Star game. So it was no surprise when the player most honored on the night took home some hardware at the end of the night.
AL manager Jim Leyland threw everyone a changeup when he brought Mariano Rivera into the game in the 8th inning to throw his prized cutter. While it upset a lot of people, based on the reaction on Twitter, it made perfect sense to a manager that did not want to go down in history as the guy who couldn't get the greatest closer of all time into his final All-Star game.
With a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning, Leyland knew that if the National League scored more than three runs there was a good chance there would be no bottom of the 9th for Rivera to enter. So the Sandman entered one inning earlier to the strains of Metallica blasted over the Citi Field loud speakers. The fans rose to their feet, the NL squad rose to their feet, and Rivera's AL teammates waited in the dugout to give #42 a stage all to himself.
The roar of applause nearly brought Rivera to tears as he acknowledged the crowd with a wave of his hat and nod of his head. Then it was all down to the business of protecting a three run lead. Four cutters to shortstop Jean Segura resulted in a ground out to second baseman Jason Kipnis. It took six cutters before pinch-hitter Allen Craig lined out to Alex Gordon in left field.
Former Met Carlos Gomez hit the sixth straight cutter he saw on the ground to shortstop Jhonny Peralta for the final out of the inning. 16 pitches, 16 cutters, and a 1-2-3 inning to close out Rivera's All-Star game career. It was a somewhat appropriate ending since Rivera first rose to fame as the set up man for John Wetteland in 1995-1996. Texas closer Joe Nathan got the save for the game, then handed the baseball to everyone's idol as a human being.
Then it was time for the post-game and sure enough there was Rivera alongside MLB commissioner Bud Selig. The closer joined long time teammate Derek Jeter as the only Yankees to win the All-Star game MVP Award. (There was no MVP Award until the 1962 games, which was also the last year two games were played in one year.). Rivera was then given an award that was more Alex Rodriguez than Mariano Rivera.
He couldn't help but chuckle with amusement and amazement as he was presented with a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray that sat parked on the field. I can see it being auctioned off to raise money for Mr. Cutter's church.
The greatest gift on the night though was the admiration of the fans, his teammates, and his peers. Everyone knows there will never be another