In the midst of the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought last week, the New York Yankees and their fans received some good news. On Thursday, relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, the best closer of this or any other generation announced he was coming back for (presumably) his 19th season in the Bronx. Details of a contract have not been worked out but we are all hoping for a quick resolution so we can resume watching one of baseball’s true legends.
When I first heard this news, Spring Training could not get here fast enough for me. That and the fact as I look out my window, I see the first snow of the Fall/Winter. Anyway, it would have been a real shame to have Rivera’s career end due to a freak knee injury and the last image of Mo on a field is him being loaded onto a cart in Kansas City. While Rafael Soriano pitched great in Rivera’s absence, better than anyone could imagine, it wasn’t the same Yankees without Rivera standing on the mound in the 9th inning getting ready to wrap up another victory. On a personal note, Mo began his big league career in 1995, the same year I graduated college. There aren’t too many players left whose playing days extend back that far. I suppose his continuing to play allows me to think back to the days of darker hair and less responsibility.
2013 will give us at least one last look at a pitcher the likes we will never see again. No one has had the dominance of Rivera and to have done it for so long is truly remarkable. Sure, guys like Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dan Quisenberry and Lee Smith may have had better seasons relative to their workloads but their period was shorter than the soon-to-be 43-year-old hurler. More recently, Dennis Eckersley, John Smoltz and Eric Gagne had a dominating individual seasons, better than any of Mo’s but their runs were much smaller. Even Trevor Hoffman, who was great for so long, has a career ERA a half run higher than Rivera’s. Think about this. In a nine-year span from 2003 to 2011, Rivera’s ERA was under 2.00 eight times. Now that is an impressive stat one that should be repeated many times as opposed to one showing how many saves Mo had for guys whose last name began with an “S”.
144 days until Opening Day
Follow me On Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com