The retirement of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera brings to an end an era in that storied franchise, as it does for yours truly (Martin). Mariano had only been playing for a year in the Major Leagues when I went to my first baseball game in 1996. His consummate professionalism, the air of inevitability that would settle over the park when he was ushered in from the bullpen, the stillness and authority that he projected from the mound became, for me, synonymous with the meaning of “The Closer.”
The game of cricket has no place for the drama of Rivera: the call to the bullpen in the eighth or ninth inning; the slow walk onto the field of dreams as the opposition’s heart sinks to depths with which it’s all too familiar; the bim-bam-boom of the one-two-three outs. In cricket, all bowlers remain on the field and bowl at regular intervals throughout the game, which means that Rivera, should he have played cricket, would have been called upon to bowl more than once—with no grand entrance and no Act V twist—and then retired to center field to await his next spell.
Certainly, bowlers have their specialties: some are better at getting out lower-order batsmen than others, others are good against left-handers, etc. But because baseball relies so much more on specialists (although cricket is heading in that direction), the refinement of Rivera’s particular skills has as yet no comparison. Ironically, it is likely that only in his absence—after being omnipresent for almost two decades—we will realize just how much of a nonpareil the Sandman was.