Author: Bob Harkins


If this is the end for Mariano Rivera, it’s a sad day for baseball


Mariano Rivera’s career could be over.

Think about that for a moment, and let it set in. If that is indeed the case, if the 42-year-old is unable to come back, or unwilling to go through the grueling rehab required to pitch again, then this is truly a sad day for baseball.

Rivera was injured on Thursday in Kansas City while shagging balls during batting practice, his knee buckling as he crumpled awkwardly to the dirt of the warning track. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL, prompting Yankees manager Joe Girardi to say “this is bad. There’s no question about it.”

A gifted athlete, Rivera has been shagging balls his whole career. As Keith Olbermann relays in his blog, Joe Torre once said Rivera was easily his best defensive center fielder.

“Yes, he’s a great outfielder,” Torre said, “He’s always bugging me to let him play there in a game. But does anybody really think I’d be crazy enough to let him play in a game? What if he got hurt?”

How prescient, and how unfortunate.

This is not how legends are supposed to go out. Our final image of Rivera in uniform should not be of him writhing on the warning track, or being carried to the cart by his teammates. It should be of him tipping his hat to the crowd as he walks off the mound after saving one last victory.

The numbers for this 12-time All-Star are simply ridiculous:

  • First on the all-time saves list with 608
  • 1119 strikeouts and 277 walks in more than 1200 innings
  • A 2.21 ERA and 0.998 WHIP
  • A career ERA+ (which measures his ERA against his peers, with 100 being average) of 206.

And then don’t forget the postseason: 42 saves in 96 games. A 0.70 ERA and a 0.759 WHIP. And five championship rings.

But even though the numbers are amazing and worthy of Cooperstown enshrinement on their face, they are only part of the Mariano Rivera picture.

Throughout his career, from setting up John Wetteland on the 1996 championship team, to pitching these past 18 years in the fishbowl atmosphere of the Bronx, Rivera has carried himself with a level of class and grace rarely seen in life, let alone in sports. The greatest closer of all time might also be the most universally respected athlete in sports. When he does decide to retire, whether tomorrow or sometime down the line, he will hang up his cleats as the last player – fittingly — to wear No. 42, which was retired across baseball in 1997 to honor the great Jackie Robinson.

It’s too early to know how long Rivera will be out, and if he’ll come back. Chipper Jones missed nearly eight months with a similar injury in 2010-11. Rivera was non-committal as he fought back tears and talked to reporters after Thursday’s game.

“At this point, I don’t know,” Rivera said. “At this point, I don’t know. Going to have to face this first. It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we’ll see.”

Here’s hoping the injury is not as bad as feared. Here’s hoping that even if it is, Rivera decides to come back, even if only for one more trip to the mound. He might not care for the burden of a season-long farewell tour. It’s simply not his style. But this is no way for a legend to go out.

Mariano Rivera deserves a better sendoff.

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Will Jered Weaver’s no-hitter help Angels turn things around?


Jered Weaver couldn’t hold back the tears in the aftermath of his first career no-hitter on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Twins.

After an emotional celebration with his Angels teammates, he hugged his parents and his wife before taking the microphone to address the crowd.

“My mom, my dad, my wife, I mean this is awesome to have these guys (here),” he said. “This is why I stayed here for you guys. This is awesome.”

It was the biggest of moments for the native of Northridge Simi Valley, Calif., who stunned many last August when he gave up the right to become a free agent and instead signed a five-year, $85 million deal to stay with his hometown Angels. (It’s a deal that includes a full no-trade clause, by the way.)

Yes, the Twins are a bad team that was playing without Justin Morneau, but Weaver was hardly touched, allowing only two runners on the evening. The first came in the second inning, as Chris Parmelee reached base on a strikeout when Angels catcher Chris Iannetta was unable to hold onto the ball. Weaver later let Iannetta off the hook for ruining a potential perfect game, walking Josh Willingham with two outs in the seventh.

Weaver pitched masterfully, even if his stuff wasn’t electric. His fastball averaged only 89 mph (topping out at 92.8), but his pitches had plenty of movement and he lived on the edges of the strike zone.

“Weaver had everything working,” Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos told MLB Network radio. “His fastball he was locating on both sides of the plate. … It was fun to watch. He worked quick and pounded the zone and really kept them off balance. It was a pretty easy night for me. I think the fly balls I got were routine popups. I barely had to move.”

Two of the final three outs were fairly well hit – Jamey Carroll flew out to Vernon Wells in left field leading off the ninth, and Alexi Casilla hit a drive to right that Torii Hunter ran down on the warning track to end it. Otherwise the Twins managed to compile little more than a collection of lazy fly balls and pop-ups, whiffing nine times.

Moving forward, you have to wonder if this is the sort of thing that will help the Angels relax and begin playing the sort of ball most expected of them when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in the offseason. Playing the Twins certainly helps, as a scuffling offense woke up to score 17 runs in a three-game sweep. They’re 10-15 now and seven games behind the powerful Rangers, but there is a lot of baseball to be played, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could still be a 90-win team, or even better.

“I think the offense is starting to wake up,” Bourjos said. “The pitching’s been there most of the year and it’s just really on the offense. That middle of the order, you saw what it did tonight, and I think it’s going to continue the rest of the year.”

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Rangers fans say they never saw toddler, want apology

Kid ball

There was a bit of controversy in the baseball world Wednesday night when a toddler at the Rangers-Yankees game broke into tears when a ball tossed into the stands appeared to be callously stolen by the couple sitting next to him.

But things aren’t always what they seem, and the couple wants everyone to know that they are not the evil monsters everyone thinks they are. Sean Leonard and Shannon Moore, who are getting married this weekend, told WFAA-TV they were attending their first Rangers game together and were so excited and into each other that they didn’t even notice the boy, or that he was crying.

“My fiance Shannon and I were honestly unaware of the situation of the little boy sitting next to us last night since we were so caught up in the excited and moment of being at our first Ranger’s baseball game together,” he wrote in a statement.

Leonard said as a soon-to-be large combined family of seven, that he and Shannon understand the emotions of a young child at a game. They spoke to News 8 Thursday afternoon.

“I love children, I would never hurt someone,” Shannon Moore said.

The boy eventually received a different ball from the Rangers, so all is good in the world.

Leonard, and Moore, however, said that the reaction on the internet has been hurtful, and they would like an apology from Yankees announcer Michael Kay, who insinuated on the air that they were insensitive.

Maybe Kay should throw in some candlesticks, or a place setting, too.

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Oldest living ex-major leaguer turns 101


The oldest living ex-major leaguer is a Cuban by the name of Conrado Marrero.

Marrero, a 5-foot-5 pitcher who played for the Washington Senators from 1950-54, turned 101 on Wednesday, and Paul Haven of the Associated Press was in Havana to document the occasion.

Click here to read the story, but here are some highlights:

  • Marrero is older than Fenway Park.
  • One of his favorite moments was beating the Yankees, yet he says his Senators were “lazy” and error prone.
  • He’s met Babe Ruth, Connie Mack and Dwight Eisenhower.
  • He retired from the majors and returned to play in the Cuban minor leagues, all before Fidel Castro came into power.
  • He doesn’t follow the majors much anymore, but is aware of Jamie Moyer’s comeback (what a whippersnapper!) and Yoenis Cespedes’ exploits.
  • He once had this exchange with Ted Williams: “One day Williams got two home runs off me, and afterward he came up to me and said `Sorry, it was my day today,” Marrero recalled. “I responded, `Ted, every day is your day.”‘

How fun it would be to sit down with Marrero and just let him tell stories all day.

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Nats not worried about Bryce Harper’s scuffles in AAA


Bryce Harper’s bat has been pretty quiet down at Class AAA Syracuse, as he is hitting just .232 with no home runs and one RBI in 14 games.

But Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t worried, telling CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman that Harper, one of the top prospects in baseball, is progressing just fine.

Rizzo insists that Harper has a good approach at the plate and is hitting the ball hard, even if the results haven’t been there.

“I think it’s an adjustment period for him,” Rizzo said before Thursday’s game against the Astros. “It’s a different kind of pitching than he’s ever had in the minor leagues. You’ve got some hard-throwing prospects, and you also have some veteran, AAA/AAAA type of pitchers that can really pitch and command their stuff. They’re not the blazing fastballs, but they try to get you out different ways.”

Rizzo also said that Harper’s conversion to center field is progressing as planned, despite a pair of errors at the position so far. “He’s taken good routes. His throwing is really improved.”

With all the hype around Harper, it’s easy to forget that he is only 19 and in his second season in professional baseball. The fact that he’s playing on the AAA level is impressive enough, and his track record suggests that he will adjust to the new challenge in time.

As Zuckerman points out, the Nationals can keep Harper from reaching free agency until after the 2018 season if they wait one more week to call him up. But it seems likely they will wait much longer to give him his first taste of the major leagues.

The 10-4 Nats currently reside in first place in the NL East on the strength of a pitching staff that is allowing just over three runs per game.

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