Rivera Retires

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera

I see that New York reliever Mariano Rivera is retiring. He’ll ride off into the sunset as the greatest ever relief pitcher. So here’s a few thoughts on him.

He has the most saves of any Major League pitcher in both the regular season and in postseason (to include the World Series). I’ve never been too fond of the “save” stat because I think it’s way to broad (three innings in a not overly close game equals the same as coming in with two out in the ninth, up by a run with the bases loaded and striking out the clean up hitter). But it’s the best measure we have for a “closer” and no one ever did it better than Rivera. As someone who thought he’d seen the greatest ever when he saw Dennis Eckersley, that’s hard for me to say. Of course I should have known different because I once thought it couldn’t get any better than Bruce Sutter.

As good as Rivera was (and still is) in the regular season, he was better in the pressure cooker that was the playoff system. He has 42 postseason saves (11 in the World Series). As a setup man his team won a World Series (1996). As a closer they won three in a row (1998-2000), then another in 2009. He’ll be remembered as one of the most important members of those teams. The Yankees also lost two World Series’ on his watch (2001 and 2003). Game 7 of 2001 is one of the most famous of all game sevens and the one time Rivera failed to come through in a critical situation. I’ve always faulted him for trying to shift the blame for his failure to Scott Brosius (Hey, Rivera, Brosius didn’t throw the ball away, you did.), but it may be the only time Rivera didn’t handle himself with total class on the diamond.

So he heads off to a sure date with Cooperstown in five more years. His position in the Yankees pantheon is secure. Among Yankees he is a top 10 player. Only players like Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Berra are ahead of him (and maybe Whitey Ford depending on if you want a starter or a reliever) and he’s sure to see his number retired (that will make two retirements of 42 for the Yankees, same as with number 8) and see a plaque in his honor on the wall in left field. I wish him good luck (but not enough luck to win this year’s World Series) in his future. You were the best, man.


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