In the “West,” there’s definitely a preoccupation with success and perfection. Some may say there’s good reason for that, but I thought it would be enlightening to remember an example when someone, widely considered the best at what they do, failed. The person I had in mind: Mariano Rivera.
Mariano Rivera is the closer for the New York Yankees. During his esteemed career, he’s become MLB’s all-time regular season leader in saves, the all-time postseason leader in saves, been chosen for the all-star team 12 (!) times, won the World Series 5 times, and he is most assuredly going to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Without a doubt, a conversation about the best closer of all-time would have to include Mariano Rivera.
Now that I’ve set the stage for just how good Mariano Rivera is, I want to take you back to the 2001 World Series. In particular, game 7. Every young boy (and some girls, too!) dream of getting to be the hero in Game 7 of the World Series. For some little boys and girls, that’s about being up to bat in the Bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and 2 out and the team losing by 3 runs. A grand slam would win the game and forever immortalize them! For other little boys and girls, those who are pitchers (like Mariano Rivera), it’s about being on the mound in the bottom of the 9th. It’s about being the pitcher that the manager and the rest of the team is counting on to finish the game.
This is exactly what happened for Mariano Rivera. In Game 7, the Yankees were playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks took the lead in the 6th inning, but the Yankees came back with runs in the 7th and the 8th to take a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the 8th, Joe Torre turned to Mariano Rivera. Mariano did not disappoint in the bottom of the 8th — striking out the side. And then came the 9th inning. Instead of creating a narrative in print, I thought I’d embed a video I found (courtesy of MLB.com) that replays some of the drama/heroics of game 7. It’s only about 4 and a half minutes long and I highly suggest watching all of it, but if you want to skip to the “Mariano Rivera” part, it starts at around 2:20.
This moment was extremely shocking. Even having seen the game live and knowing what’s going to happen, it’s still shocking. One of the best relief pitchers of all-time and widely considered to be at the pinnacle of his game, failed. It just goes to show us that no matter who you are or where you are in life, fallibility is inescapable.