The New York Yankees season is over and they will not be going to the playoffs. George Steinbrenner is firing people from his grave right now. Sports breeds drama, yet drama is a choice, according to Seth Godin (I love his blog). Yet, the real story as the Yankees end their season is Mariano Rivera ending his career.
Rivera went from being a low ranked minor league starting pitcher prospect to the greatest relief pitcher of all time. In this day and age we assume some performance enhancing drug has to be involved. No player is immune to this sentiment and it garners all the attention in sports now. But for a moment I would like to focus on the simple brilliance of Mariano Rivera.
Mariano Rivera did one thing well, and one thing only. He perfected the cut fastball and that was all he ever threw. He was virtually unhittable for his career and amassed over 650 saves. He did not mix it up. He just threw the “cutter.” Every batter who came up knew what he was throwing and he still got them out (Sans a hit by Luis Gonzalez to win the World Series). There was no need to predict what Rivera may do when you got up to face him. You already knew.
I love the phrase K-I-S-S, Keep It Simple Stupid. I say it to myself all the time. Mariano Rivera embodies this phrase. He perfected it in a day and age where mystery, suspense, intrigue and drama is created for the purposes of a gain. Rivera did just the opposite. He told everyone what was coming and delivered it. His success is amazing, but his approach teaches me more. Work hard to be exceptionally good at something. Being good at everything is impossible. What is your version of the cut fastball?
It is fitting that the Yankees will be retiring his number ASAP. The team that routinely creates and feeds off of its own drama (see the likes of A Rod), won because of the simplicity of approach of one dominant person. The number 42 was retired in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Robinson transcended sports and this was a fitting honor for an amazing man. Rivera was still wearing the number at the time so he was allowed to keep it. It is quite fitting that the last player to still wear the #42 today is Mariano Rivera. It will be great to see two #42’s retired at Yankee Stadium. 42 is a powerful number. It means so much for so many people. Would you be surprised to know that the #42 is one of the most commonly pulled balls in Powerball? There is karma in numbers. Mariano Rivera, in his own simply brilliant way, helped make this number even more powerful.