For those fans lucky enough this summer, I would say do whatever you can do to try and see Mariano Rivera pitch one last time. The Yankee great and future hall of famer will hang up his spikes at the conclusion of this season, his 19th in MLB. He is without a doubt the greatest reliever of all time, and he has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees. In the era of free agency, this is both a testament to his team loyalty and sustained longevity. Not too many pitchers strike fear into the hearts of a professional hitter, but armed with his cutter, Rivera has been a force to be reckoned with.
After a brief start to his career as a starter in 1995, Rivera was moved to setup man in 1996 and then closer in 1997. The rest is history. Rivera is the all time saves leader in MLB by a wide margin. He has well over 600 saves; only one other person in history has over 600 saves, Trevor Hoffman with 601. He holds countless major league records, most of which are a testament to his longevity and success. Some of the most impressive, but sides the saves, are his 15 consecutive years saving at least 25 games. Also, he has finished over 900 baseball games in his career. His most impressive regular season record may be one he shares with hall of famer Walter Johnson. In 11 seasons, he has recorded an ERA under 2.00; go take a look at the league leaders in ERA for a full season to gain some perspective of this accomplishment. What has made Mariano a legend is his post season success. No pitcher in the history of the game has had as much success in the post season as Mariano Rivera.
Long time Yankees manager Joe Torre said that the regular season was fun for Rivera, but the post season is where he separated himself from the rest of baseball. In helping the Yankees win 5 world titles during his tenure, Rivera has set countless post season records. His 0.70 ERA is a record, made all the more impressive when you consider his 96 appearances are also a record. No pitcher has saved more games in the post season or pitched more consecutive scoreless innings. In an era of 1 inning closers, Rivera made the multiple inning save a specialty of his. During 1998-2008, Rivera made 26 saves lasting more than 1 inning. To compare, the rest of baseball combined during that time only had 33. His success helped the Yankees shorten game to around 7 innings, giving them a distinct advantage. When he would come into the game, you could bet money that the game was over. Only most occasions, it was.
As he gets ready to ride off into the sunset, I hope everyone will take a moment to cherish what he meant to the game and how good he really was. Playing for the Yankees, he has made his fair share of enemies among baseball fans. People love to hate the Yankees, and Rivera was a big part of that. His success brought titles back to New York, and a swagger that people either embrace or detest. While I may not be a Yankees fan, I am a baseball fan. I can appreciate what it took for him to be such a dominating force. Hopefully, us fans will be lucky and the Yankees will make the playoffs this year. Then, we can give Mariano the proper send off, perhaps a final save in a 6th championship season.