New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera announced Saturday he would not pitch again in the Majors, with his final appearance coming against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. 2013 marks the first time since 2008 in which the Yanks have failed to qualify for the playoffs.
More and more athletes from my childhood and those whom I watched growing up are leaving and Rivera is the latest one. His postseason dominance is unquestioned and despite his blown save in game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks or in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, there may not be a more clutch pitcher, or player, for that matter, in the history of the postseason, having converted 42 out of 47 of them.
He also converted an additional 652 of them in the regular season, which is good for the all time record. Those 694 saves total in his legendary career may never be broken. In addition, the 44 saves he has converted this year are the most all time for any closer in their final season, and the scary thing is, he probably could’ve kept going in 2014. Many athletes are over the hill by Rivera’s age of 43, but he showed no signs of slowing down whatsoever.
One of, if not the greatest moment of the season may have been his final All-Star game at Citi Field in which he received a rousing standing ovation, with nobody else on the field and a brilliant bottom of the 8th inning performance that earned him All Star Game MVP honors. The Rivera farewell tour showed to be a big success, with perhaps the most prevalent being September 15 against the Boston Red Sox. Rivera did not appear in the game, but he did get a video presentation and was honored by Red Sox nation with a standing ovation. If that is not respect, then what is?
We look at the Core Four of the Yankees – Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. These four won five World Series championships with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009. Posada retired in 2011 and Pettitte is joining Rivera in retirement in 2013, thus leaving Jeter by himself for 2014.
Four great teammates winning five championships over a 14-year span is something we may never see again not just in baseball but in sports in general and it goes without saying Rivera’s dominance is a big reason why that happened and perhaps his brilliance was best exemplified in 1999 in which he won the World Series MVP in a sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
It’s unknown how many Hall of Famers played a Major League game in 2013. Some of them are still young and off to a great start in their career and are writing the draft right now, others may emerge later in their careers and some of those players may be up for debate as we speak. Then there are the surefire no doubters, which only a handful of players can make such a claim and perhaps none of them exemplify the no-doubt-about-it category like Rivera has, and while a player may never get elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously, he’ll have no trouble getting in, as he has 100% established himself as the greatest reliever in the history of the game.
From the bottom of my heart, Mariano Rivera, thank you so very much.