When Roger Clemens put on the pinstripes, he was dead to me, despite the fact that he was arguably the best Red Sox pitcher in my lifetime up to that point.
When Johnny Damon cut his hair, shaved his beard and joined the Evil Empire, he was public enemy number one, despite his pivotal role in the Red Sox' incredible 2004 World Series run.
Once Kevin Youkilis started playing his home games in the Bronx, his unorthodox batting stance went from quirky and unique to deplorable and laughable.
No matter how great or well-respected a Yankees player is, I can find a way to hate him. Even the great Derek Jeter, whom everyone seems to adore, is just a punch line to me. If he weren't a Yankee, I probably wouldn't mind him. But he's a Yankee, so I'll argue to the death that he's one of the most overrated players in baseball. And I'm sincere.
But there's one Yankee that I just can't bring myself to hate. No matter how hard I tried, it's simply impossible to dislike anything about Mariano Rivera.
From his demeanor on the mound to his interaction with fans, media and team personnel, there's nothing that anyone could possibly dislike about him.
Also, he's the greatest closer that has ever toed the rubber.
Last night's All-Star game in Citi Field was one of the great moments in baseball history.
Most people expected Rivera to take the mound in the 9th to pick up the save in what will be the final All-Star game of his career. AL manager Jim Leyland didn't want to take the chance of a potential NL rally in the 8th negating the bottom of the 9th, so he had Rivera pitch the 8th instead.
In the end, it was the most fitting sendoff possible for a man who will go down as not only one of the greatest players, but also the greatest humans ever to play the game.
Rivera took the field to his classic intro music, Metallica's "Enter Sandman," a nod to his nickname. The ovation was immediate and sustained, as every single fan and player stood and cheered for Rivera as he took the mound. Every seat was empty, from the stands to the dugouts, where even the players rose to acknowledge one of the greatest players of all time. The scene was truly surreal.
Rivera took the time to tip his cap to every corner of the ballpark, and then set to work. Rivera set down Jean Segura, Allen Craig and Carlos Gomez in 16 pitches, exhibiting his legendary cut fastball that has confounded hitters for almost two decades now.
It was fitting that Rivera pitched the 8th, getting the hold before Rangers closer Joe Nathan came in for the save. The first time most of us ever saw Rivera, he was a masterful setup man for John Wetteland, who would later become the Rangers closer. At that time, much like Tuesday night, the 8th inning was taken care of once Rivera took the hill.
The respect that Rivera gets from his fellow players is all the evidence that anyone needs that he truly is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. After years of being handcuffed by his devastating cutter, the entire American League All-Star team filed out of the dugout to stand and applaud him as he took the mound.
After the game, he won the MVP award. Could that award have been given to someone else? Probably. Would anyone have accepted it? I would think not.
Last night was Rivera's night. While it will be his last All-Star game, there are still 67 games left on the Yankees' schedule. Appreciate it while you can, baseball fans. We'll never see another Mariano Rivera.