Thom Loverro: Mariano Rivera deserves MLB award in his name

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Nobody wants to say goodbye to Mariano Rivera.

The beloved and revered New York Yankees reliever is an oasis of grace and humanity in a sports world filled with embarrassment and shame.

Rivera, who just appeared at Camden Yards for the Yankees' three-game series against the Orioles, has said this will be his final season, and he has been making an unprecedented goodbye tour. Not like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Nolan Ryan, who received public parting gifts at every stop.

No, Rivera has been receiving the gift of giving -- meeting with ushers, workers and support staff at visiting stadiums who helped him over his major league career. It's not a press tour, it's a personal tour of thanks.

"It's something to give back," Rivera told reporters "That's all. We're just trying to give back. It's wonderful, though."

Why do we have to say goodbye? What can all of us do to recognize what Mariano Rivera meant to baseball? What can the game give Rivera in return?

How about the closer version of the Cy Young Award? To date, the Rolaids Relief Man Award has been given out by the Rolaids company to recognize the top closer in the game each season. Or the lesser recognized honor -- Major League Baseball's Delivery Man of the Year Award?

Why not call it the Rolaids Mariano Rivera Award? Or the MLB Mariano Rivera Award?

Closer is a position where there is much debate over the true value of the player. It is the position that many baseball writers struggle with in Hall of Fame voting. Lee Smith had more saves than anyone in the history of the game for a period of time, but no one really believed he was a Hall of Famer.

With Rivera, there is no debate, no argument. He is the gold standard for the position.

Rivera, 43, is baseball's all-time saves leader. He is a 12-time All-Star and has closed the books on five Yankees World Series titles during his 19 years in the game. He has already won the Rolaids award five times over his career, and the Delivery Man of the Year honor three times.

Everyone has been so touched by the humanity of Rivera in the game that they are struggling to find a way to tap into it, to keep it going. Baseball and union officials are trying to come up with a speaker series for other players to carry on what Rivera started.

Some writers have speculated that Rivera should be the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game.

That may be too much -- and probably something Rivera wouldn't be comfortable with.

No, just simply make it clear that Rivera was the best there has ever been, and show how much of an honor it would be for future generations of closers to win an award with his name.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner