Mariano Rivera is the best closer in major league baseball history, and he was even before he recorded his record 602nd save yesterday afternoon. He’s also been one of the Yankees I’ve respected the most over the years, and he’s everything you want in a closer – he’s dominant, consistent, and has incredible longetivity. I had intended to write a very favorable article about Rivera until I had a discussion yesterday with some Yankees fans who absolutely refused to acknowledge any blemish on Rivera’s record throughout the course of his career. My intention here is not to discredit Rivera whatsoever, but to show that even Rivera has had some major flaws. Hey, I mean even Tiger Woods lost a major to Y.E. Yang. I think most people would agree that Yankees fans have been calling Rivera the best ever for seemingly a decade. I consider that a bit of a knock on Trevor Hoffman, and I generally think that for as great at Mo has been Yankees fans need to take him off of the he’s an untouchable mountain of perfection pedestal they’ve built him up on.
First off, there’s the matter of #602. Yesterday was a celebration of Mariano’s record, which deals entirely with his regular season outings. Rivera should be celebrated for having more saves than anyone else, absolutely, but it’s not like he’s in a class of his own. Trevor Hoffman recorded 601 saves in 677 opportunities, in contrast with Rivera’s 602 saves in 674 opportunities – any way you cut it those are eerily similar numbers, and saw very few people putting Trevor Hoffman on an untouchable pedestal. But we all know that Mo’s career is defined by the playoffs, where he’s been at his best (see a .71 ERA). That is, however, also where some of his biggest chokes have taken place.
So what’s my point in all this? You can acknowledge the man’s mistakes – no need to avoid them – without tainting his legacy. It’s OK, I promise. It’s sort of like the Michael Jordan missed way more game winning shots than he ever made argument. But in the light of my discussion yesterday, open your eyes Yankees fans. It’s not taking anything away from your boy. Here are the 3 biggest knocks on Rivera’s career…
3) Mariano Rivera is at his worst against the Yankees’ biggest rival. Mariano has blown 16 saves in his career against the Red Sox. That’s 21% of his total blown saves, and he’s blown 40% of his blown playoff saves against the Sox. Sure, they play a lot and the Red Sox are typically a good offensive club. But you’d want your closer to be at his best versus your biggest rival, no?
2) Mariano Rivera blew games four and five of the 2004 ALCS. We all know what happened there, with the whole David Roberts stealing second ordeal and David Ortiz delivering walk-offs in both games. If Rivera had been able to save either of these games, we’d likely be looking at an ongoing 93 year curse in Boston. We all know Yankees fans would love that.
1) Mariano Rivera lost the 2001 World Series. Mo pitched one of the worst innings in World Series history in the 9th inning of game 7 during the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Luis Gonzalez singled to win the game, a walk off that left a dejected Mo to crawl back to the dugout. The blown save cost the Yankees a title and signaled the end of their dynasty – it would have been 4 straight titles. The Yankees would make it back to the World Series in 2003, only to lose to Josh Beckett’s Florida Marlins.
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Sorry Mo. I know that you’ve come to terms with these moments, or else you would never have been able continue to pitch as well as you have. I will write a favorable post about you, but we’ll save (no pun intended) that one for when you retire.