Last spring, Mariano Rivera arrived in Tampa as a 40-year-old closer in the final year of his contract. There were, of course, early questions of how much longer Rivera planned to keep playing.
“If I know, if I’m sure, 100 percent that I can do it, I will do it,” he said.
Yesterday, Trevor Hoffman answered the retirement question for the final time. The 43-year-old had 10 saves and a 5.89 ERA last season. He was no longer sure he could do it.
“I expect to pitch at a certain level,” Hoffman said. “And I had to be honest with myself that I wasn’t certain I could maintain that anymore.”
With Hoffman’s retirement, Rivera has become the active saves leader, 42 away from Hoffman’s all-time record of 601.* There’s no other active closer within shouting distance of that mark, so it will be a very long time before another closer approaches Hoffman’s total. Assuming he stays healthy and productive, Rivera’s new two-year contract gives him time to break that record and further establish a legacy that quite honestly needs no further accolades.
I’m sure Rivera will say time and again that he’s perfectly indifferent about the record, but it’s going to be a fun to watch him go after it. And when he decides he’s finished, Rivera will do exactly what Hoffman has done and walk away.
“One day that will happen, and that day I will go,” Rivera said. “This is not mine. I will go and the baseball will not stop because I don’t play any more.”
* Seriously, how perfect is it that Hoffman has retired when Rivera — the last No. 42 in baseball — is exactly 42 saves away from the record? Obviously it’s nothing but a coincidence, but it’s a pretty cool coincidence.