Growing up watching the New York Yankees throughout their dynastic runs of the mid-late 1990′s and run of 17 playoff appearances in the last 18 years, there has been one constant at the end of games: No. 42 Mariano Rivera.
It’s fitting that Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera have both worn the No. 42, as the number symbolizes ultimate class and dignity. Five championships later, along with the core four – captain Derek Jeter, longtime catcher Jorge Posada and postseason hero Andy Pettitte; Rivera has been an irreplaceable piece of Yankees’ success for the better part of two decades.
You just have to go to Mo’. No one in recent years was as distinctly aligned to Yankee lore better than Mariano Rivera. At the peak of his powers, No. 42 left an indelible mark of triumph in pressure packed and tension filled situations. Whether it is a 3-pitch or a 6-out save, Rivera always had the ability to alleviate the worries of fans at the stadium until Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” blared upon the final strike.
In baseball, heroes come in all shapes and sizes and here Rivera bids farewell before us as a 43-year-old that has amassed a MLB record 608 saves. Baseball Reference tells us, since Rivera entered the MLB in 1995 he has earned a remarkable stat-line in the playoffs of 140 innings pitched, 0.71 ERA and 42 saves. He has allowed fewer earned runs in the playoffs than there have been people who have walked on the moon. So good for so long, Rivera has built a Hall of Fame career primarily off of his deadly cutter and being a pillar of five World Series championship teams.
Time and time again by shutting the door on opponents in the 9th inning, Rivera’s greatness speaks for itself. Rivera has shown no signs of slowing down until fate decided that the venerable one would succumb to an ACL tear . Rivera has always remained as humble as he is dominant. When asked if he was the best closer of all time, he once responded “You know me, I’m not like that.” I like to be under the radar, do my job.” With an 89.4 save percentage rate and conversion numbers of 608 saves in 680 chances; Rivera’s place in history is set aside. Statistically, Mariano Rivera in his prime was as close to dominant a reliever as baseball will ever see, thus making him without a doubt the greatest closer in MLB history.
As a fan, introduced to the game of baseball in the mid-90′s, I think we can all concur that Yankee fans are fortunate to have a godsend from the Yankee heavens pitch in our lifetimes. We hoped the day should not come where there would be a looming void in need of filling when enter the sandman called it a career. Ode to you Sandman – you are truly the center of Yankee universe in the ninth inning and beyond.