Will Mariano Rivera's Pending Retirement Be a Rallying Cry for 2013 Yankees?

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 7, 2013

The New York Yankees could use some good news. You know, just something positive to get them rolling towards the 2013 season with some gusto in their hearts and minds.

They're about to get some on Saturday...If they will it to be, that is.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, longtime closer Mariano Rivera is going to announce his intent to retire after 2013 at a press conference on Saturday morning at Steinbrenner Field:

In a full report, Sherman wrote that those briefed on the matter were cautioned that, given his nature, the 43-year-old Rivera could always back out of a planned retirement. The man himself said of the buzz: "If you hear that from me, that will be confirmed. It's only a rumor until I talk."

That there's not a confirmation, of course. But it's not a denial, either.

Frankly, this sounds like it's all but a done deal. As ESPN's Buster Olney noted on Twitter, it's something of an open secret around baseball that 2013 will be Mo's final hurrah. Assuming he does announce his retirement on Saturday, there won't be a feeling of surprise in the air.

Just an odd feeling of finality. It will be official that, yes, the 2013 season will be the last for the great Mariano Rivera.

Then will come all the words about Mo's greatness—I'll probably cook something up myself—complete with numbers and anecdotes that prove all sorts of points, the main one being that he's the single greatest reliever in baseball history.

But at the end of the day, the Yankees are still going to have a season to play. Rivera was already going to be a big part of it, and now it sounds like he's going to give the Yankees the excuse they need to make him an even bigger part of it. They could make Mo their Chipper Jones.

Jones announced before the 2102 season that it would be his final year, and he was front and center as the Atlanta Braves bounced back from a disappointing 2011 season to win 94 games and earn a wild-card berth. There were many contributors to Atlanta's success, but the season was all about Chipper, Chipper, Chipper.

Mo is cut from the same sort of cloth as Jones. He bears the same kind of greatness, and he bears the same kind of importance to the only team he's ever known. After 12 All-Star selections, 608 career saves, five World Series titles and who knows how many other accolades, Rivera has become one of these guys who's synonymous with pinstripes.

An impressive list, Mo is right there with Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

Given the circumstances, the Yankees' first response to Mo's announcement should be to take in the sheer gravity of it. Their next response should be to go out and use it. 

Mo shouldn't just be the Yankees' closer this season. He should be a figurehead. An idol. Their reason for going to battle. Heck, their rallying cry for battle.

Granted, the Yankees typically aren't the type for rallying cries. They're too highfalutin for such things, and they're just not necessary when you win year after year and you know that you're going to keep winning year after year.

But after all that's happened recently, now's not a good time for the Yankees to go about their business as they always have. The state of the union requires they do something other than stay the course.

Alex Rodriguez is absent from spring training as he recovers from yet another hip surgery, and the Yankees also want him out of the spotlight so as to avoid any unnecessary Biogenesis headlines. Derek Jeter is in camp, but still not quite ready (see The Star-Ledger) to play in games as he continues to rehab from ankle surgery.

More recently, Curtis Granderson was lost for the first month of the 2013 season with a broken forearm. This week, Mark Teixeira was lost for potentially the next 10 weeks with a wrist injury. The Yankees are thus due to have their worst Opening Day lineup in many years, and could end up having significantly less power than usual as the year goes on.

When Rivera announces his pending retirement on Saturday, he won't magically make A-Rod's hip, Jeter's ankle, Granderson's arm or Teixeira's wrist as good as new. For that matter, he won't make his own surgically repaired ACL as good as new. Rivera's a big believer in higher powers, but the only higher power he has is the ability to make hitters look silly with his trademark cutter.

But it can be assumed that Mo is going to make some sort of declaration that he aims to go out on top, and that he's going to do everything in his power to make sure he gets his wish. If there's a way for him to defy his age and to fight through the natural limitations that come with the territory in an injury comeback like his, he'll mean to seek it out and be the same old Rivera in 2013.

That's not a goal that every team could internalize, but it's the perfect goal for this Yankees team to internalize. They have more old guys than most, and more wounded soldiers than most. Given their collective age, it's a fair bet that they're never going to be even remotely close to 100-percent healthy at any point in 2013. More than any other season in recent memory, this will be one that really tests the Yankees' mettle.

They're going to need something to pass this test. Any other year, an acceptable something would be reinforcements in the form of a big trade or big signing. That's not likely to happen this year, though, as the mark has long since gone dry, the Yankees have gone cheap and they don't have much to trade. They're going to have to make do with what they have.

So the something that's going to get the Yankees through this season and on their way towards No. 28 is going to have to come from within, and the best thing they can hope for is an attitude.

If the Yankees want one of those, they know where and when to find it: Steinbrenner Field at 10:00 on Saturday morning.


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