Monday, June 29, 2009
Not even close.
He's one of my favorite baseball players of all time. He's been a fixture for the NY Yankees for as long as Derek Jeter. He's been the most dominant and reliable closer for the last 13 years, and at the same time, one of the more humble players ever.
On the night when Mariano Rivera got his first ever RBI, the Sandman became the second player ever to reach 500 career saves. And by the way, MO really has a nice swing.
The all time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman with 571, is still a good two seasons ahead of Rivera, but we can hardly compare the two. Hoffman pitched most of his career in the NL West. Rivera will pitch his entire career in the AL East. Rivera has kept his composure and dominance throughout his entire career while playing on the sports' biggest stage.
Of course what puts "The Great Mariano" ahead of everyone else is his career post season performance. To go along with his 4 championship rings, Rivera holds the record for most post season saves with 34. Coming in second, Dennis Eckersley with 15. His 9 World Series saves are also a record.
In his post season career, Rivera is 8-1 with a 0.77 ERA to go along with his before mentioned record of 34 saves.
In an injury bug era, we rarely encounter a player who reaches double digits in years played at the same time never showing signs of fatigue or diminishing skill. This is the same era where the closer's role was changed to pitching only the ninth. Rivera's 500th save last night was his 110th save of more than 3 outs.
Rivera has shown great durability in his 15th season while showing tremendous consistency. Since being named the Yankees' closer in 1997, Mariano has recorded at least 28 saves in each season. And yet he's done this entirely with one single pitch, the cutter, which starts out on one side of the plate and cuts across it at the last second. A total thing of beauty.
So it came as no surprise last night when manager Joe Girardi called to Rivera with 2 outs and 2 on in the 8th inning with the Yankees clinging to a one run lead. It was Joe Girardi who was behind the plate for the Yankees when Mariano recorded his first save ever on May 17, 1996.
When asked if Rivera was the greatest he has ever played with, Derek Jeter replied,
“Yes, No question,” he said without a moment of hesitation. “There has never been anybody more consistent. Mo is great in the regular season, the postseason, even spring training.”
Rivera has been a fixture for the Yankees and their fans for 15 years now. And for those 15 years, when the Yankees have the lead late in a game, MO is all everyone needs to know. I can't imagine the Yankees without him.
OK, so more recently, Rivera might be more remembered for his blown save in the 2001 World Series. Or the blown save in Game 4 at Fenway in the 2004 ALCS. But really, those are two small blemishes on a Hall of Fame career. Remember, the Yankees would not have won 4 World Series's and would not be in position to win ever year without "The Great Mariano."
The clock is ticking. He probably has at least two magical seasons left, seeing Mariano pitch in person is a sight every sports fan should experience. Try to see him at Yankee Stadium because when he comes out to "Enter Sandman," the moment is almost as breath taking as seeing Rivera pitch.
Is Mariano Rivera the best closer ever? Not even close.
Congratulations Mariano Rivera! You are one of the best players of all time.
For more on Mariano's milestone achievement check out Peter Abraham's post.
After Rivera's 500th save, ESPN had a Sunday Night Conversation with MO and Tim Kurkjian did a really nice piece of Mariano's career thus far.