That 39-year old Mariano Rivera will be the next John Smoltz is a matter of if, not when. By ‘the next John Smoltz,’ we mean the example of an aging superstar pitcher whose body finally begins to pitch his age. Sometimes the ‘ifs’ in MLB are hard to see coming. This ain’t one of them.
We invoke Baseball Gods and fate to explain some sports injuries. But unless you run a plastic surgery factory in Aventura, the effects of aging is a fairly mainstream scientific idea. That’s why this is the one injury — perhaps breakdown is a more exact term — which would most affect who the next world Series Champion will be and is not hard to see coming.
Soon we will appreciate the irony that the great John Smoltz’s final game happened in front a similarly great contemporary like Rivera. Don’t think Rivera wasn’t having melancholy thoughts as he watched either; ‘Is that how it will be for me? Will I have to suffer the ignominy of having a Coco Crisp doing Grand Slam curtain calls? God, maybe I should get out now? Worse, maybe that moron Girardi will call me in again to discuss my mechanics.’
So what do wealthy New York franchises do with stubborn facts about the aging process? They develop a theory of course. Let’s call it the Omar Minaya theory. Now Omar Minaya didn’t invent this theory, he is just its latest poster boy. The OM Theory defined:
1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in that paying 8-figure salaries to veteran players who would be in the decline of their careers in any other era [a non-Bionic era], will keep them healthy during an entire major league baseball season: i.e., see Carlos Delgado.
2. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons. i.e., management of New York MLB teams and their fans.
[Middle English bileve, alteration (influenced by bileven, to believe) of Old English gelafa; see leubh- in Indo-European roots.]
I’m not a gambler, but if I were, finding a Yankee fan and placing a wager that we are only weeks away from the beginning of the end of Mariano Rivera’s spectacular HOF career is almost an unfair way to make some money. The more interesting question to me is which Bionic Era major leaguer will go down next.
Now members of my own family, who inconceivably worship at the secular-Yankee alter, namely my brother Fred and Evelio [I-phone Yankee logo wallpaper, ’nuff said], will vociferously suggest that this observation is driven by a hatred of the Yankees [and a broader hatred of all NY professional sports teams]. They would not so much be wrong about my feelings as they would be limited in the understanding of why I take such pleasure in their misfortune, i.e. sports hatred.
I appreciate what the Yankees do for MLB. They and other large market teams have in effect been subsidizing smaller market teams for many years. They do not do so out of charity; you see, if there there were not economically viable MLB teams in smaller markets, there would be no NY Yankees. I just love the irony of seeing the beneficiaries of their payouts succeed where they fail. Besides, I made a promise as I sat and watched the stinking, Darwin theory-challenging and thuggish-Knick [redundant?] fans exiting the Miami Arena on May 3rd, 1998.
It may be slightly outdated, but I urge all fans to read Sports Illusion, Sports Reality by Leonard Koppett. He does an excellent job of explaining why if it weren’t for the constant drumbeat of media coverage, we wouldn’t be as interested in MLB. In other words, we are kidding ourselves if we think we follow professional or college teams based on the love of the sport.
So again, who’s next after Rivera?