It’s always a debate in baseball as to who is the best all time at their respective position.
One position that doesn’t warrant any debate is the position of closer, where Mariano Rivera is universally viewed as the greatest ever to get those final outs in a game.
But all great things must come to an end. Rivera, after spending 19 seasons in Yankees pinstripes and winning five World Series titles, is calling it a career and retiring from the game.
Rivera leaves the game as the Major League all-time leader in saves with 652 to his name. Rivera attended 13 all-star games, posted a 2.21 ERA in 1283 and 2/3 innings pitched, while striking out 1173 batters.
The only thing that’s more impressive than Rivera’s regular season stats are the numbers that he put up during the postseason.
In 141 postseason innings, Rivera has a 0.70 ERA. No, that is not a typo. He has 47 postseason saves, and has only blown five save opportunities.
One stat that really sticks out to me is the fact that only 11 earned runs have scored on Rivera during his postseason career.
Good Morning America host, Robin Roberts, brought up a good point when she stated that more people have walked on the moon, 12,than have scored on Rivera during the postseason.
Rivera’s teammate, David Robertson, gave high praises to Rivera, stating he’s “the most consistent human being to ever play the game of baseball.”
All of these accomplishments and success can be attributed to one pitch, Rivera’s cutter.
The ball looks like it’s right there, ripe for the picking, but then darts inside on your hands, producing countless broken bats and soft dribblers to the mound.
“No one else throws a 94-mile-an- hour cutter. It’s like bird watching in a foreign land. You can’t understand it,” said former Met’s manager Bobby Valentine.
I could go on and on about Rivera’s ridiculous numbers forever, but what further sets him apart as a baseball player is his outstanding personality and his love and respect for the game.
In the media wasp nest that is New York City, Rivera avoided the limelight and simply did his job. When asked about what his job was, Rivera was straight and to the point. “I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower.”
It’s the respect that teammates, other players and current and former coaches show that really paints a picture as to the respect that Rivera earned from the game.
“He’s the most mentally tough person I’ve ever played with,” saidRivera’s teammate and Yankee captain Derek Jeter, arguably one of the most mentally tough players to ever play the game.
“When Rivera takes the mound, the other team is sitting in the dugout thinking, ‘We’ve got no chance. It’s over.’ This guy walks into the game, and they are done,” said Hall of Fame closer Rich Gossage.
“Mariano was always very humble, with great family values,” said former teammate Jorge Posada in an interview with Tom Verducci. “Just a person you wanted to be around.”
Rivera’s career can’t be described without his prolific entrance song, Metallica’s Enter Sandman.
Never has a song, in baseball, represented such dread in batters minds. As a hitter, when you hear this song, you pretty much know that the game is over.
Rivera’s final appearance came on Sept. 26, at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. Rivera retired all four batters he faced.
After retiring his final batter, teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter came to the mound to usher out Rivera from his final appearance.
Rivera hugged Pettitte on the mound, shedding tears. For once, there was crying in baseball, and everyone was fine with it.
The Yankee faithful cheered Rivera for a good five minutes, bringing him out for a curtain call. Rivera’s final appearance is what can only be described as a great send off to a perfect career.
Years from now, when we are all old, we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we lived when the greatest closer of all time pitched.
I hope that we never forget just how lucky all of us were to experience the greatness that was Mariano Rivera.