During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, I wondered how much longer Mariano Rivera was going to last as an elite closer. He was still very good of course, though not dominant. Perhaps Rivera’s time was about up; after all, even the greatest relievers only have about a half-dozen peak seasons. But then Rivera rebounded with a terrific 2003 season, and has been even better in 2004. Over the weekend I was perusing through “The Sound of Two Hands Clapping,” a collection of essays by the brilliant critic Kenneth Tynan, when I ran across a passage that fits Rivera to a tee (from an unpublished 1970 interview for Playboy):
Anyone who is a performer, who, that is, communicates his whole personality with the minimum of visible strain and the maimum of precision, entirely fascinates me. Even if I don’t agree with his ideas. And this applies to bullfighters, conversationalists, ski-jumpers, footballers, cricketers, actors, playwrights, all those who communicate the essence of their gifts with the greatest conciseness. Those are the people I worship. I don’t think any public performer in Europe has given me greater pleasure in my life than Antonio Ordonez, the bullfighter. I’ve been more moved by him than by any actor–except Olivier–because he displays extreme relaxation and precision in the face of considerable danger, and has the genius to make out of that danger something quite effortless and quite perfect. I’d put him very, very high on my list of heroes. Who else? Gerard Philipe, Lennon and McCartney, Peter Ustinov, Bix Beiderbecke, Ethel Merman–all people doing their thing, if you like, but not just doing it: doing it with a total awareness of the audience and an instinctive sense of shape and form, and bringing it off without visible effort. What I once called ‘high definition performance’.
Nate Robertson out-pitched Jon Lieber on Joe Torre’s 64th birthday as the Tigers earned a split of the weekend series against the Yankees. They also won the season series from New York, 4-3. Lieber wasn’t terrible, but the Yankee offense just couldn’t help him out. Ruben Sierra launched a two-run homer, but the Yanks hit into three double plays. Jason Giambi and Jorge Posada had the day off, and Gary Sheffield uncharacterisitcally whiffed three times. The Yanks lead over Boston stands at seven after Curt Schilling and the Sox defeated the Angels.
The Yankees have an odd week. They play two games in Tampa Bay, and then are back in the Bronx in the middle of the week for two games against the Blue Jays. This will be the first time the Yanks see Toronto all season. But before they get a chance to really know each other, the Bombers are off to Boston for a three-game weekend series. While the Yanks won’t face Pedro Martinez, the Sox certainly won’t face either Kevin Brown or Mike Mussina, and if my figuring is correct, they won’t see Javier Vazquez either.