I think saves are overrated and “the closer” would often be more valuable in the seventh or eighth inning. But Rivera has no control over that. He is sent out to get three outs in the ninth inning and if he doesn’t dominate the opposition, it’s a surprise.
Look at his career splits on Baseball Reference.com. They’re staggering. No matter what situation, Rivera gets the job done.
In 10 or 20 years, when there is a better perspective of what the Yankees accomplished from 1996-2007, it will be Rivera who stands alone as the most valuable player of that period. How many starting pitchers do you think were able to pitch confidently knowing that Mariano was behind them? How many times did the hitters know in a tight game that one run was all they needed? You can’t statistically measure what a lock-down reliever means to an entire team, or how much easier it makes the life of a manager.
Meanwhile Rivera has been a good teammate, a friend of young pitchers and unfailingly polite and accountable to those around the team, including the media.
I remember a game a few years ago when Mo blew a save (it happens on occasion) and he could not stick around to talk to us because he had to attend to a family matter. He sought out the writers the next day to apologize. That’s the kind of man he is. Believe me when I tell you, that is not a common occurrence.
So happy birthday, Mo. Here’s hoping Enter Sandman plays on April 16 when the new Stadium opens. Right after CC Sabathia goes a strong eight innings, right?