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'Like NY without Statue of Liberty'

Not much could shake a Yankees fan more than the

thought of Mariano Rivera leaving as a free agent after this season. Fans

reacted in disbelief yesterday to the possibility.

"No. Mariano can't leave the Yankees," an upset Carrie Fix, 35, of

Manhattan said. "The ninth inning without Mariano is like New York without the

Statue of Liberty."

No fan would want Rivera to leave, said Keith Paradine, 32, a vice

president at Inside SEG, a sports marketing company based in Manhattan.

"He is an integral part of the franchise," said Paradine, a resident of

Rockville Centre and a Yankees fan since he was 5 years old. "Rivera deserves

to end his career as a Yankee no matter what it takes. He should have his

number retired and his jersey placed in Monument Park."

Some fans didn't take the idea of Rivera leaving seriously.

"Mariano is the epitome of the New York Yankees. It wouldn't be the same,"

said Justin Shukat, 32, of Roslyn. "It is his dream to pitch in the new Yankee

Stadium, so to me this feels like a negotiation tactic, so I don't think I'd

put much stock in it right now."

Others, although not wanting Rivera to leave, were more pragmatic.

Rona Woldenberg, 44, a radiologist at North Shore Hospital in Manhasset,

said she couldn't imagine the Yankees, "and certainly not a postseason,"

without Rivera.

"When the pitching staff has been in disarray, the Yankees could always

rely on the greatest closer of all time," she said. "But baseball is a

business, and [they] have to make a decision that looks forward to the future."

Almost all the fans called Rivera the greatest closer ever and had trouble

envisioning the Yankees without him.

"I think the Yankees will step up to the plate, [because] he is an

invaluable tool. Everyone is entitled to a couple of mistakes," Shukat said,

referring to Rivera's Game 7 loss to the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series.

"But he's as close to automatic as we have in baseball."

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