As the 2013 regular season is winding down and the Yankees are making a playoff push, the reality is really sinking in that Mariano is retiring. The Mariano Rivera farewell tour has been – if nothing else – extravagant. Mo announced before the season that 2013 would be his last, ensuring that everyone around MLB would get one last opportunity to soak-in the greatest closer of all time and show their appreciation for a man who has done so much for the game of Baseball. It’s old news at this point, but every team the Yankees have visited this season has done something for Mariano – whether it be meeting with local fans or giving him a retirement gift (my personal favorite was the rocking chair of broken bats the Minnesota Twins gave him… my least favorite was the awkward sand castle Tampa gave him).
Mariano Rivera is in his 19TH and final season in Major League Baseball.
No matter what he’s received though, Mariano has appreciated every minute of it. And one thing you have rarely heard is that he doesn’t deserve this treatment – which I’m honestly very surprised about. No matter the player or person, there are contrarians who feel the person doesn’t deserve the accolades. But it’s different with Mariano. Why? Because he is the classiest and most respectful and respected superstar of our generation.
Over the next few weeks some of the best moments of Mariano’s career will be highlighted on BronxPinstripes.com. It’s hard to rank them, because there are so many, but we have done our best to capture the best. Let’s kick off with one of my personal favorite Mariano moments.
June 28, 2009: 500TH Career Save & RBI Walk vs. Mets
First, the obvious – 500 saves is a huge milestone. Only Trevor Hoffman had accomplished that feat before Mo; and the two of them stand alone in the 500 saves club (and the 600 saves club, but more on that later…). In fact, Mariano is one of five to ever get 400 saves – a testament to how rare a feat 500 saves really is. I know, the closer position has changed over the years making it easier to tally high save totals. Closers no longer pitch 2+ innings for a save and the game has evolved to feature more relievers. But then answer this, why do none of the “best” closers of a closer-heavy generation have 400 saves (with the exception of Hoffman)?
Troy Percival – star closer for the Angels in the late 90s and early 2000s has 358 saves to his name
Joe Nathan – dominant closer for a great Twins team and now the Texas Rangers has 336 saves
Jonathan Papelbon – longtime closer of the Red Sox has 281 saves
Percival, Nathan, and Papelbon are some of the best closers during Mariano’s reign, and none of them are sniffing 500 saves, let alone 400.
Now, what made Mariano’s 500TH save extra special was what happened in the top of the 9TH inning, not the bottom of that June game against the Mets. Mo came to bat in the top of the inning with two outs and the bases loaded. Rivera had come into the game to get the final out of the 8TH as the Yankees were clinging to a one run lead. Girardi was not going to pinch hit for Rivera since it was still a save situation. Facing fellow closer Francisco Rodriguez, Mariano worked the count, fouling off the 2-2 pitch to stay alive. On the seventh and final pitch of the at bat K-Rod’s fastball sailed up-and-in and Mo had his first career RBI. As he jogged down to first he couldn’t help but smile, a feeling I’m sure Rivera will remember forever.
You can check out Mo’s great at bat here.