Too early for even Rivera to know if retirement is right
Stop it. Just stop it. I'm referring to those who keep wanting Mariano Rivera to reveal -- you know, right now -- whether 2013 is his last season, and I'm also referring to the man himself.
For the record, Rivera announced Wednesday in Tampa during the opening of Spring Training for the Yankees that he would give his thoughts on retirement to the public before Opening Day.
Why? We don't need to know.
Chances are, Rivera does not really know what he wishes to do. And no, it does not matter what he said after his first full workout when a bunch of nosey types with cameras and notebooks asked the 43-year-old reliever with the surgically repaired right knee the following: Have you determined if this 19th Major League season will be your last?
"Yes, I have, but I won't give it up until I'm ready for that," said Rivera, before he quickly added: "Don't worry. The time will come. Another day or week won't hurt."
This also won't hurt: Having Rivera remain silent about his intentions to play or not beyond 2013 until after the season.
What's the hurry? This isn't one of those Willie Mays things, when the legendary center fielder went from running forever to catch a drive over his head during the 1954 World Series to stumbling while chasing a sinking fly ball in vain during the 1973 World Series.
It was time for Mays to leave.
The same was true for Mickey Mantle at the end, with his crumbling knees, and Tom Seaver, when his fastball was no longer fast.
Then there were the examples of Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski, both Hall of Famers and both letting the world know during the 1983 season that they were finished by the end of October.
Both were done by then, because both had spent the previous two or three seasons looking less than their Cooperstown selves.
Six years later, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought "The Farewell Tour" to a different level for all professional athletes of high regard. That's when he announced he was ending his two decades in the NBA at the end of his 1988-89 season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
City after city, Abdul-Jabbar received stuff -- a yacht, a rocking chair, an Afghan rug and things in between -- but you know what?
He was also done by then.
As for Rivera, prior to his freak injury that occurred last May while he was shagging fly balls during batting practice for the Yankees in Kansas City, he was far from done. He was still resembling the guy who had become the greatest reliever ever.
He was still baffling hitters with his cut fastball.
He was still entering games and leaving with a bunch of zeros next to his name. (For instance: After blowing a save on Opening Day 2012, he pitched eight scoreless innings with five saves).
He was still showing no signs of decline.
No wonder that Rivera told the world, on the same day he dropped to the ground with his knee twisted and aching, "I'm not going down like this," and he spoke the truth. He worked diligently after his ACL surgery to come into the Yankees camp this spring looking fit and trim.
Like the old Rivera.
Until proven otherwise, this is the old Rivera.
That's "old," as in the reliever whose 608 saves are the most in baseball history. Rivera also ranks among the primary reasons why the Yankees finished their most recent dynasty producing four world championships.
"I'm definitely expecting good things," said Rivera, with a light weight-brace on his right knee while he contemplated his role with the Yankees this season. "That's what I demand of myself. I'm looking for that, or else I wouldn't be here."
Doesn't sound like a guy who is ready to retire.
You should not make these decisions too quickly. Otherwise, you'll become Brett Favre. Remember?
One moment, Favre was a retired NFL icon for the Green Bay Packers, and the next, he was back, first with the New York Jets, and then with the Minnesota Vikings.
There is also the NFL's Tony Gonzalez, considered the greatest tight end in history after 13 trips to the Pro Bowl out of his 16 seasons. He announced his pending retirement last summer, and he was hugged around the league, from training camp through the playoffs.
With much help from Gonzalez, the Atlanta Falcons even reached the National Football Conference title game.
Now Gonzalez may return.
Oh, and don't let star NFL linebacker Ray Lewis change his mind about retiring from the Baltimore Ravens. Several of his teammates said their catalyst for winning the Super Bowl this year was Lewis' announcement during the season that 2013 would be it.
You should announce your retirement as a professional athlete only if you really and truly know you can't go anymore.
There is Chipper Jones, for instance. He mentioned in the spring of 2012 that he was beginning his Farewell Tour, and he got more than a few gifts around the Major Leagues along the way. Courtesy of creaky legs, feet and toes, he spent just three of his final nine years of a 19-season career in the Major Leagues playing at least 134 games.
He's not coming back.
Then again, Jones ended last season hitting .287 with 14 home runs and a respectable .377 on-base percentage in 112 games. He remained as clutch as always. Plus, Hall of Famer Barry Larkin noted that Jones had lost zero bat speed, and that means that, even at nearly 41, Jones could DH a while in the American League.
So maybe Jones announced his retirement too soon. Which brings me back to my message to Rivera: Shhhhh.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.