Sports Commentary 3/8/13
Mariano Rivera, Baseball’s Greatest Closer to Retire at the end of the season
MO TO SAY IT’S SO
Some eras come to an end. Some are so legendary they live forever, in the memory and in celebration. The announcement is expected to come tomorrow that one such era will make that transition at the end of this baseball season. Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, who earlier in spring training told the New York Post, “It’s only a rumor until I say it’s so”, will reportedly say it’s so tomorrow. The Yankees have called a 10 A.M. news conference at their training facility in Tampa. A year ago in training camp Rivera announced last season would be his final bow, but a torn right ACL suffered while shagging fly balls in the outfield in Kansas City brought the season to an early, inglorious end, not the way for the final chapter of a Hall of Fame career to be written, and Mariano announced he’d give the retirement tour one more try. In spring training camp in 1996, under the watchful eye of manager Buck Showalter, a young Mariano Rivera, a piece in “Stick” Michael’s puzzle for rebuilding the Yankees from within, worked out on a back field. It soon became evident Mo wasn’t a starting pitcher. He didn’t have enough of a repertoire. So he went to work on developing one pitch, perhaps the most devestating pitch in Major League Baseball history, a nasty cut fastball. Every batter he would face over the next seventeen seasons knew it was coming. They’d step up, more often than not, he sent them down. Never in the history of the game has one pitch been so important to one team. Arguments would be hard to come by if you said Mariano Rivera was the most important of the “core four” players that brought the Yankees five World Series championships. With 608 career saves he’ll just be setting a new record to take with him every time he successfully closes out a game this season. The career earned run averages he crafted with his one pitch are all time lows, 2.21 in the regular season, 0.70 in the post season. His 42 post season saves eclipses second best by 24, 28 of them requiring more than three outs. No other reliever has finished in the top five in the Cy Young voting as many times, five, and his strikeout to walk ratio is the fourth lowest of all time. Based on accomplishments and importance to his team Mariano Rivera may be the greatest player in Major League Baseball history. Legitimate arguments can be made over the best ever at every position except one. There is only one greatest closer of all time, that no one will ever argue. If ever an argument could be made for a unanimous first ballot hall of famer, it would probably be on behalf of Mariano Rivera. It would be difficult to believe any single voter could not recognize his status. If ever the five year waiting period were to be waived, and I am not arguing here that it should, it should be for Mariano Rivera. He’ll be just as much a hall of famer the day he notches his final save, forging a record that will never be approached, as he will be five years from now. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.