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The Outfield Door

Someday, the New York Yankees will make a call to the bullpen in their hour of greatest need, and he won’t be there.

But that day still seems a long way off. For now, whenever that outfield door opens, Mariano Rivera — by consensus, the greatest relief pitcher who has ever lived — runs to the mound and then quells the threat. Bats splinter as hapless professionals engage in a usually futile effort to center a ball bearing in on them at an impossible angle.

Nor does it seem as though there’s any limit to how often Rivera can do this, nor for how long. While other managers follow the robotic script of having their closers pitch no more than one inning, Rivera often pitches two, especially in the crucial play-offs, where — as a cascade of humbled relievers can attest — humiliating failures are the norm.

So, while Hideki Matsui and Derek Jeter led the team in offense during this World Series, with Matsui’s exploits triggering an unappreciated text to a Phillies fan (“Godzilla Destroys Philadelphia”), it was once again Rivera — now 39 — who put the clamp down on the final innings of two of the Yankees’ four wins.

He can’t do this forever. His velocity is down, and teams are starting to get hits (but, crucially, not runs) off him. But it’s still a marvel to watch, and Yankees fans will squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of it. Apparently, so too will Rivera. In the zany post-game celebration, he said that before the Series he “was going to retire, but now I think I’ll pitch for five more years.” Opposing managers, break out the anti-depressants.

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