Mariano Rivera redefines "valuable"

Drew Hallowell

FLUSHING, New York -- Look, I would have given the Corvette to Chris Sale. Not because he can't afford to buy his own; if he can't now, soon he'll have enough coin to purchase an entire flotilla of American-made muscle cars. Rather, because I thought he deserved the All-Star Game's Most Valuable Player Award. In a game devoid of truly big hits, Sale was the only pitcher who tossed two perfect innings, and for the winning team. He's the guy.

In another sense, though, Mariano Rivera was the guy. And so he wins the muscle car. Of course, there's simply no precedent for something like this. Rivera's not just the first relief pitcher to hurl an eighth inning and win the award; he's the first relief pitcher to win the award. This was a Lifetime Achievement Award, and on the whole I'm opposed to Lifetime Achievement Awards because baseball's already got one of those, and it's so fantastic that you don't need another. Rivera's All-Star Game MVP Award will be forgotten tomorrow; his plaque in the Hall of Fame will be there long after we're all gone.

But maybe this time, it's okay for Most Valuable Player to mean something a little different. If you were at the game -- as I was, sitting in Section 137, far beyond the left-field wall -- Rivera's appearance was what made the game. For the diehard Mets fans, of course, the game was already memorable for the two shutout innings pitched by Matt Harvey. But there were a lot of casual Mets fans in the ballpark, and a lot of non-Mets fans in the ballpark, and millions of non-Mets fans watching on television. And for all of them, what will they remember about this game?

They'll remember seeing Rivera on the video screen, standing in the bullpen and readying for his millionth jog toward the mound. They'll remember hearing "Enter Sandman" as Rivera parted Flushing's verdant sea. They'll remember wondering why Rivera was pitching in the eighth inning instead of the ninth. They'll remember wondering why none of Rivera's teammates were taking the field, then recognizing the tribute being paid to the greatest relief pitcher that anyone's ever seen. They might even remember that Rivera pitched a clean eighth. And even if those memories fade, we will remember that the 2013 All-Star Game belonged to Mariano Rivera, just as we'll always remember that the 2001 All-Star Game belonged to Cal Ripken.

This is basically what the All-Star Game has become: Big Stars battling for a few innings, and then Brett Cecil pitching to Domonic Brown. I would prefer, and probably you would prefer, to see David Ortíz not bat exactly the same number of times as Edwin Encarnacion. But this is the way that the players like it, and so this is the way that it's done. With fewer David Ortíz at-bats and more Edwin Encarcion at-bats, though, there are fewer reasons for the heart to race, fewer moments that will live forever. So we need something else; the best All-Star Games have something else. Tuesday night, we all got lucky and Mariano Rivera was something else.

Did Chris Sale get jobbed? Sure he did. But I'm going to take a wild guess, and figure that Sale wouldn't trade the Corvette and a crystal bat for the chance to be Mariano Rivera's teammate for just one night in New York.

More from Baseball Nation:

The 2013 All-Star Game: A brief (but comprehensive!) review

The best starting lineups in All-Star Game history

FanFest is the best part (and maybe says something about Chief Wahoo)

Tom Seaver seems to like butterflies

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