The lips of third baseman Alex Rodriguez summed up the baseball world’s feelings when caught on tape as future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera fell to the Kauffman Stadium warning track and didn’t get up again.
“Oh my God,” Rodriguez said as the great Mo went down and didn’t come up again. “Oh my God.”
From the New York Yankees clubhouse to the streets of New York City to places like Boston where the even the biggest of all Yankee haters reside, there was profound sadness for the what could be the end for the greatest closer to ever play the game.
“Mo's a vital part of this team, on the field and off the field” his longtime teammate Derek Jeter said. “He's going to be missed. There's no other way to put it. Nobody's going to replace him.”
Rivera was not just a great ballplayer. He was also a great teammate and a great man. And that’s why the Yankees locker room was as quiet as it would be if the Bombers were blown out 10-0 in Game Seven the World Series on Thursday.
"You lose a Hall of Famer, it changes it a lot,” a somber Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We'll have to find a way to get through it.”
Right now from Broadway to Bay Shore, the injury to Rivera seems like a nightmare. The Yankee great was hurt shagging fly balls – something he’s done thousands of times in his 18-year Major League career.
And the uncertainty of whether the great No. 42 will ever make it back from what could be a career-ending injury, had many grown men from White Plains to Wantagh teary eyed.
Their hearts sunk further when the once indestructible Rivera fought back tears when asked if he’d ever pitch again.
“At this point, I don’t know,” he said. “At this point, I don’t know.”
The Yankees know that as much as opposing fans and players share in the devastation that may have taken the greatest reliever away from doing what he does best prematurely, no one is going to pity the Bronx Bombers.
They will have to pick themselves up, get over Rivera’s injury, fill the void and march onward to their 28th World Championship – even if it’s difficult to do so in the short-term.
“It's hard even to talk about tonight,” Rodriguez said. “Mo means so much to us on a personal level. Bottom line is we're the New York Yankees. No one is going to feel sorry for us. Guys have to step up.”
Perhaps no one is going to have to step up more than setup man David Robertson, the Yankees right-handed eighth-inning specialist that was being groomed to take over for Rivera when he retired.
Robertson has been impressive, compiling a 0.93 ERA over 81 games bridging the last two seasons. But the one constant for most of those 81 games was that Robertson was pitching with the safety net that was “the Sandman.”
Robertson was in the outfield shagging balls near Rivera when the misstep happened. At first he laughed at his teammate fell down. But as the injury appeared more serious, Robertson, like the rest of us, got that same miserable feeling in the pit of our stomach. That feeling that everything is not going to be OK.
“It's tough because he's the anchor of our bullpen,” Robertson said. “He's always there, he's always consistent. For something like this to happen it is tough. It’s very tough.
“It's like snapping fingers and he's out.”
And in the snap of your fingers, Robertson suddenly has some huge shoes to fill.
“I don't know if I'm prepared to do it,” a candid Robertson admitted. “I'm not Mariano Rivera. I'm not going to be able to go and down what he does. All I can do is say I'll try real hard.”