How many more of these strolls does Mariano Rivera have left? (AP)
Mariano Rivera says he knows the future. He's just not telling.
Rivera dropped strong hints to reporters on Monday that this will be his final season and even said he's already made up his mind about playing beyond 2012.
So, that decision is?
"I won't say today," said Rivera, who claimed to have made his choice a few weeks ago. "During the year. It could be tomorrow, it could be August. I will definitely let you know ... I won't let you know now, but I know."
This is the reporter's equivalent of a broken bat chopper back to the mound.
But when you've racked up that many saves (a record 603 and counting), and have been playing so long that no one else in the league wears your uniform number because it was retired for Jackie Robinson 15 years ago, you're allowed time to make up your mind. And change it. And change it back. Rivera said he'll let the world know when it's time. But rest assured, he knows already.
"It doesn't depend on how I'm going to pitch," Rivera said. "I've made my decision already. The decision will be made on, 'I've had enough.' That's on what I'll make the decision."
He's slipping through tenses like H.G. Wells in "The Time Machine." Mariano really is the "Sandman." But it does sound like Rivera, who is 42 years old and entering his 18th season in the majors, has had enough.
Reporter Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger uploaded audio of Rivera's conversation at Steinbrenner Field in order to give us context and more hints. Here's what you might take away: Rivera misses his family more and more each spring training he's away. "It's still hard," Rivera said. "Definitely still hard. If you asked me if I were ready to go to spring training yesterday, I'd say, 'No. I don't want to go there.' But I'm here. I'm here and doing what I have to do.
"It's not because I don't want to be there. It's really all about separation from the family."
Rivera admitted to mentally going down the retirement road a few times before — perhaps seven or eight times — and changing his mind after being sure he would quit. And no amount of success or money will change his mind. This time.
"Even if I save 90 games," Rivera said. "Even if they want pay me much more than I want. Anything. This one is different. This is it. It's — how do you say it? Irrevocable."
So, he's retiring for sure!
Not so fast. But he'll let us know when he does.
- Mariano Rivera