So we now say farewell to the finest of all relievers, the second greatest Yankees hurler (behind Whitey Ford). As a Dodgers fan I find it difficult to say anything good about a Yankees players, but mostly there is only good that you can say about Mariano Rivera.
He started as a setup man for John Wetteland, holding that position through in 1996 World Series. Then he took over the closer slot and became the greatest ninth inning pitcher ever. He’s a full season of saves ahead of number two on the list (Trevor Hoffman). He has 42 postseason saves, 11 of them in the World Series. His WHIP is 1.002 (and he’s still got a week left to lower it).
Rivera was so good that in some ways what you remember are the failures. What I mean by that is simple. His successes are so common, so expected that most people couldn’t tell you a specific moment of greatness, But his failures are so few that they jump out at you and you remember them. The blown save in the 2004 playoffs against Boston was mentioned when Rivera last played in Fenway Park. I remember the ninth inning of game seven in the 2001 World Series when Rivera threw away the ball and Arizona ended up winning the Series. But name another Rivera failure. They’re hard to find.
I remember that immediately after the 2001 Series Rivera blamed the loss on Scott Brosius. Why do I remember that? Well, it’s the only time I remember Rivera not being a class act. That’s another thing to remember about him. He was always a classy player (so the odd time he wasn’t sticks out). Try and think of a modern player who did 19 years and was, with the one exception, entirely classy. Not many are there? That may be as important a thing to recall about Mariano Rivera as his pitching statistics.
So now Rivera rides off into the sunset and sits on his porch in his broken bat rocking chair (one of the great gifts ever) and enjoys his retirement. In five years he’ll make the trip to Cooperstown for enshrinement. I hope he enjoys his retirement. He was better than we non-Yankees fans wanted. He was greater than we baseball fans could have ever asked for. Simply the top of the line. Enjoy your time off, Mo.
Tags: Mariano Rivera