Ah, the best laid plans of mice & men.
For the past two seasons anyone who either follows Major League Baseball closely or is a fan of the New York Yankees heard countless reports of the teams plan to work its way under the magical “luxury tax threshold”, undoubtedly rolling their eyes each time they heard it.
But alas, with the recent signing of Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka to a 7 year/155M dollar deal said plan went right out the proverbial window.
That isn’t to say the team won’t revisit the strategy at some point down the road, doing so certainly has its merits, but for the here & now the Bronx Bombers have decided that protecting the brand by putting a better product on the field was the way to go.
The team also surprised a good deal of people by selling a large chunk of its stake in the Yes Network to 21st Century Fox recently, a move that will yield a reported $150M per year, before they even get around to negotiating their new deal with Time Warner Cable.
In the big scheme of things, what exactly does this mean?
Well, for starters it means the team that is usually flush with cash will have even more chips to play with moving forward.
While that certainly doesn’t guarantee much, it is in all likelihood a fairly safe bet to say that barring another season with a record level of injuries they’ll score quite a few more runs because of the return of Jeter and Teixeira, coupled with recent acquisitions Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran & Brian McCann.
But beyond that not much is certain.
No, winning the off-season doesn’t guarantee much more than owning the headlines for a while.
More to my point, amidst all the talk, all of the yammerin’ about the Yanks newfound purchasing power there hasn’t been a whole lotta solid analysis.
It seems like most folks have just tended to go for the glossy stuff, the easy byline then moved onto the next “flavor of the moment” story.
That being said, there have been a couple of solid observations, most notably from ESPN contributor Buster Olney.
Olney recently pointed out that while the same injury bug that hit the Yankees big league roster also depleted their farm system (not even kidding, it seemed like just about every big time prospect the team had got hit with an injury lasy season) we should look for the Bombers to be big players at the trading deadline this summer.
Simply put, come mid-July you need one of two things to make some moves.
You either better have some Grade A trade chips or you best have the cash to absorb some contracts other teams are looking to unload. And now that the Yankees have both flown right by that luxury tax threshold and increased their revenue stream they fall squarely in that latter category.
An obvious area of concern for the Yankees is there infield.
Jeter, as great as he has been is on his way out. If he stays healthy he’ll continue to be productive, providing a solid bat for his position, but the Yankees do need to think ahead & second base is just a mystery in the post-Robinson Cano era.
So if somehow the Rockies, Phillies, Blue Jays or Brewers find themselves out of the mix and looking to shed some money come late July then Tulo, J-Roll, Jose Reyes or Rickie Weeks could find themselves being made available.
Granted a lot would have to fall into place for one of these scenarios to take place, but as we’ve seen over the years, stranger things have happened.
Another area where both the front office and the fans are both at least mildy concerned is the bullpen.
Let’s face it. One does not simply lose the greatest closer of all time and not see some sort of a regression.
David Robertson may very well be up to the task. He’s been one of MLB‘s premier relievers for a few years now and has all the tools to handle the job.
But in the end, ya just don’t know if he’ll hold up, either physically or mentally.
So once again, this is where the fat pockets come into play.
Come trading deadline if the Phillies are scuffling or the A’s are feeling bold (as they are prone to) one could easily envision Papelbon or the recently acquired Jim Johnson being dangled on the market.
Additionally, right-handed bats like Billy Butler, Michael Cuddyer & Josh Willingham all have the kind of contracts that team could easily absorb in order to provide financial relief to the small market teams that currently hold them.
If either scenario plays itself out you can rest assured that the “Evil Empire” will, at the very least, be keeping a weather eye on things, ready to pounce if need be.
Obviously it’s all just pie in the sky stuff right now, but some times the moves you make at the trade deadline aren’t just the difference between making the playoffs or missing them, but rather play a sizable role in determining who exactly is the last team standing.
This year, more so than the last few, the Yankees seem positioned to be major players at the July 31st deadline and that always makes things a little more interesting.
As rare as a blown save from Mariano Rivera was the freak accident last week that put him on the disabled list for the first time since 2003, ending his season and perhaps his career.
I was a Yankee once, so I came to understand the power of a legacy in baseball. In 2005, I walked into the team’s spring-training locker room in Tampa, Fla., with a lot of preconceived notions about what that environment might contain. I grew up in Teaneck, N.J., and for years watched the bravado, the tantrums, the embarrassment of riches, the controversy, from Billy Martin to Reggie Jackson to George Steinbrenner to Dave Winfield.
Still, at that moment, the Yankees represented my new possibility, the team I was trying to make by the end of camp. Free agency had thrust me into uncertainty.
I arrived carrying a red Philadelphia Phillies bag — my previous employer. But once inside the Yankees clubhouse, each passing moment made that red look more and more out of place amid the elegant, unified and ubiquitous blue palette of the Yankee logo. My bag was whisked away as if some sort of alarm had gone off — the clubhouse assistants ran over, disarmed it and disappeared only to reappear with a more appropriate Yankee bag. I rolled my eyes, discreetly.
But then I began to see my new teammates. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui. And Mariano Rivera.
Before this encounter, I had known him only in the context of staring him down from the batter’s box. Yet he immediately welcomed me as if I were his brother, and every day during the six weeks I was part of the Yankee camp he asked me how it was going, how I felt about being there, if there was anything he could do. His warmth never wavered, his smile never dimmed. It was never about him; it was always about something considerably bigger than a win or a four-for-four performance. What he helped us all focus on was something that couldn’t fit into a Yankee equipment bag.
In fact, I was surprised by the humility that coated that entire locker room. Matsui broke through the paparazzi to say hello; Sheffield offered to schedule a haircut for me; Posada made sure I had enough room next to his locker; Giambi, far from being defensive or silent on the topic, apologized for having used performance-enhancing drugs.
I assumed it had something to do with the fact that, as players, they were following some of the giants of the game and had standards to uphold. Besides, many of those giants hadn’t exactly gone away: Reggie Jackson was there, showing off his new ab workout in the weight room; Ron Guidry talked shop around the batting cage, teaching and watching; Yogi Berra cruised around on a golf cart. Yet I could not help noticing that even the greatest of this group gravitated to Rivera. He sat in his chair, holding court, surrounded by listeners.
Even then, he was considered the best in the business and of all-time. As is well known, he has dominated the sport for nearly two decades with just one pitch. The best hitters in baseball know exactly what is coming — when he will enter the game, what his plan is, what he’ll throw and how fast — and still they can do nothing to counter it. He has thrived despite having the ultimate disadvantage: the lack of an element of surprise.
On the field, trying to hit his fastball, something I had tried one summer as a member of the Phillies, makes you understand what people mean when they say “the gods gave him a lightning bolt for an arm.” Hitting him — or, again, trying to — made me wonder whether my hitter’s eyes were still working. The ball danced, it seemed to accelerate and defy gravity.
Off the field, you immediately noticed how the greatest closer of all-time was still humble, disarming any clubhouse tension, adding perspective to the most trying of times with a pat on the shoulder or a grin. I have been in locker rooms where the tension could be cut like a knife, and also in locker rooms so fulfilling that you couldn’t wait to be there. But never before had I experienced one that seemed to have a cloud of divine inspiration hovering over it. With his remarkable statistics, Rivera has been the personification of that cloud year in and year out. But he is also the big brother who makes sure that everyone gets to the family reunion or that you don’t forget to call your cousin Glenda on her 50th birthday. Everything he does feels as if it’s for some sort of greater good.
I would not play for much longer after the Yankees released me at the end of that 2005 spring training. But I came out of that locker room a changed and completed man. Something about the way baseball is constructed reinforces the idea that life (not just baseball) can change in the blink of an eye. There is a beauty to that understanding, because its earthy grounding allows you to relate to everyone around you, on the team and in the organization, no matter what their role.
It’s a lofty concept, and hard to find in one place or one person. But Rivera has that kind of soul. And it was no surprise that when news came of his injury, all of baseball wanted to fly its flags at half-mast. He is more than a pitcher you can’t hit. He embodies the spirit of the game, and the game, we all feel, cannot possibly end on this note. Mariano Rivera seems to agree.
Three games, two shaky saves & one meltdown.
That has been what life in a post-Mariano world has looked like so far.
While I am ecstatic to hear that Rivera is coming back next season and very confident the Yankees bullpen will move forward & remain one of the best in the league, this video I found via The Bronx Goblin is a nice tribute to the man simply known as “Mo”:
I don’t remember the year, but I remember it was in Minnesota at the Metrodome.
As was his daily custom, Mariano Rivera was shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice. Running from gap to gap, he looked like a major league outfielder, not a relief pitcher.
Alex Rodriguez was in the cage and three times in a row he drove balls to the wall in center field and three times in a row Rivera made unbelievable catches, leaping up and grabbing the ball before it cleared the fence.
The third catch was as good as any you would ever see and A-Rod laughed out loud. As he walked out of the cage, he gave Mariano a “I’m not worthy” bow with both hands. You could see Rivera’s smile from there.
Some pitchers get their conditioning work in on a treadmill or by running from foul pole to foul pole. Mariano shags flies, always has. It must work, too. The man hadn’t been on the disabled list since 2003.
Rivera later told a few of the beat writers that he hoped to play the outfield for at least one inning before he retired but knew that was impossible because of the risk of injury and his immense value as a pitcher.
Now we learn tonight that Rivera injured his right knee while trying to make a leaping catch in the outfield during batting practice in Kansas City. He has a torn ACL and is done for the season.
Obviously this is major news in baseball and particularly for the AL East. It’s hard to imagine the Yankees without Rivera.
Plenty of people hate the Yankees, but Rivera has earned respect even in Boston. He transcends the rivalry in a way few have.
Rivera is one of the best people in baseball and is nearing the end of a remarkable career, having hinted in spring training that he planned to retire. He deserves to go out throwing that cutter, not on the disabled list.
Here’s hoping we get to see to see him pitch again.
by Aaron Gleeman @ Hardball Talk
Seemingly every time Mariano Rivera blows an early season save the question of whether he’s finally going to cease being the most dominant pitcher in baseball becomes a discussion topic for a couple days. And then he goes back to shutting everyone down and it’s forgotten.
Until now, as Deadspin has gone digging through the archives to find a decade worth of Yankees reporters and New York columnists speculating about and, in many cases, predicting Rivera’s demise:
These columns should be easy to write by now, since they’ve been written for at least a decade—often by the same writers. Going back to his blown save in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, the ever-vigilant columnists of the Tri-State Area have been watching for signs that the once unhittable Rivera is succumbing to the ravages of age. And every time he strings a few shaky outings together, the death knell is tolled.
Here, a few of our favorite Mo pre-obituaries from the past 10 years:
Andrew Marchand, New York Post, May 5, 2002:
When “Enter Sandman” plays throughout the Stadium, the game is supposed to be over.
“My stuff is there,” Rivera said. The results have not. Nobody at the Stadium is worrying. Yet.
Pat Borzi, Star-Ledger, May 7, 2002:
Rivera has been so good for so long that anything remotely resembling a slip brings the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for a Bob Mackie gown on Cher. Rivera’s throwing error and blown save in World Series Game 7 in Arizona were shocking reminders that Rivera is as human as any other closer. But three times already in the Yankees’ first 32 games Rivera has blown a save or a tie, and any baseball fan who can find the Bronx on a map is wondering what’s up with Mo.
“His cutter is not as sharp and as late as in years past, and he’s throwing a lot more sliders and two- seam fastballs,” said one major-league scout. “I’m not saying he’s schlock, but he’s just not as dominating as he used to be.
“Is it just early-season doldrums, or years of wear and tear finally wearing and tearing? That’s the question for me.”
Wallace Matthews, New York Sun, August 5, 2003:
Sometimes, it is readily apparent when something special comes to an end, and sometimes it takes years to realize it. For the Yankees, it has been a nearly two-year process, and it can no longer be ignored or denied. Remember the date – November 4, 2001 – because on that date, Mariano Rivera went from automatic to merely great.
Over the past two seasons, there have been nagging injuries, trips to the DL, weeks of inactivity, all routine for a pitcher pushing 34 years old. All of last season, Mariano Rivera threw just 46 innings.
Mariano Rivera is not an automatic anymore, and hasn’t been since Nov. 4, 2001.All things, great and small, come to an end, even for the New York Yankees.
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News, August 22, 2003:
Rivera has blown six saves this season, which puts him one behind Armando Benitez for the New York City Blown Save Lead. Rivera has blown five saves in the last month. That is a lot. It isn’t all just seeing-eye ground balls or bad luck. Maybe that’s why a Yankee fan I know, a smart one, asked me this question yesterday:
“Remember when the Yankees went after Goose Gossage even though they had Sparky Lyle? When does George start giving Eric Gagne the eye?”
Nobody pitches like that forever. Maybe the best late-season guy of them all is starting to move into the late innings himself.
Wallace Matthews, New York Sun, July 28, 2004:
The case can be made that over the past seven years, there has been no more valuable Yankee than Rivera, more than Jeter or Posada or Bernie Williams or Joe Torre or even The Boss. But what if that is all changing now? Four months from now, Mariano Rivera will turn 35. As a closer, he hasn’t thrown a lot of innings – 702.2 entering last night’s game against the Blue Jays – but nearly every one of them has been intense and pressurized. And sooner or later, everything, good, bad and indifferent, comes to an end.
Mike Lupica, New York Daily News, March 6, 2005:
Rivera is the greatest pitcher the Yankees have ever had. He is the greatest postseason closer in baseball history. He is also 35, going on 36, and has now had nine full seasons as an extraordinary power relief pitcher. As great as he has been, he is not going to get any better at this stage of his career. He knows. The Yankees know. They just want him to maintain. If he doesn’t, they don’t win, even with the world’s first $200 million payroll.
Maybe Rivera will just continue to bust that cutter of his in on righthanded batters forever, maintain this level of excellence to the end of his current contract and beyond. But you have to know that he isn’t just trying to break bats and hearts and everything else against opposing batters now. He isn’t just trying to show he can get the last three outs against the Red Sox. Or the last three innings he got off them in the Aaron Boone game, Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Rivera is going against time now.
Bob Klapisch, Bergen Record, April 7, 2005:
Is this the beginning of the end of an era? If it’s too early to officially start tracking Rivera’s decline, the Yankees will be monitoring him with unprecedented scrutiny if he faces the Orioles this weekend. Only then will the Bombers know if it’s just the Red Sox who’ve cracked the code on Rivera, or if his diminished cut-fastball is vulnerable to the rest of the American League, too.
“It’s part of the game,” he said with a gentle smile. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
Rivera fooled no one, of course. His crisis is everywhere: on the mound, within the clubhouse and on the corporate hot line from the Bronx to Tampa. Fingers crossed, prayers mumbled fast and furious, the Yankees wonder if they’ve taken their first step into an unthinkable place called the post-Rivera era.
John Harper, New York Daily News, May 20, 2006:
In big-picture terms, there surely is only one sight more frightening to Yankee fans these days than Randy Johnson continuing to sink in some sort of middle-age quicksand: That would be Mariano Rivera, Mr. Automatic, not just getting beat in the ninth inning by the Mets last night, but continuing to look surprisingly hittable of late.
Johnette Howard, Newsday, May 9, 2007:
The bigger curiosity, as Reggie Jackson conceded as he stood by the Yankees’ batting cage last night, is whether Rivera’s demonstrative reaction to Monday’s loss betrayed that Rivera’s mind is not as impenetrable as it used to be, not after a month-long slump that has included two dramatically blown saves, a 1-3 record, and an ERA of 8.44.
Over the years, Rivera’s aura as the game’s greatest closer was built on his apparent immunity to pressure, and his unflinching stoicism even in the postseason or the worst of times. He’s spent most of his career insisting one of his primary aims is to never let the other team see him sweat. Now we get this? The legendary Mariano Rivera screaming “Oh my God” on the mound in a game the first week of May?
“What he could have been reacting to the other night was a lot of things,” Jackson said. “It could have been ‘Oh my God’ because of the situation in the game. Or the location of the pitch that got hit. Or the sound of the bat as soon as the guy hit the ball – as in ‘Oh my God, I got hit again?’
“Or” – here Jackson paused for emphasis – “what we might have seen could have been doubt.”
Rivera always says he permits himself no such thing. But Jackson says it’s an inevitable career stage that happens to every big leaguer, especially if they last long enough. “There’s even a phrase for it: ‘Once a man, twice a boy,'” Jackson said.
“At first there’s that early stage in your career when you’re still young, you first make it in this game, then you level off for the first time and think to yourself, ‘Uh oh – they found me out.’ Then you have your middle years when you’re a full adult and you attain your full greatness like Jeter or A-Rod are now. Then all of a sudden you get to 35, 36 and you have a bad slump like Mo is in, and you’re back to saying to yourself, ‘Uh-oh . . . I know the end is coming sooner or later. Is this it? Is this it?”‘
Ian O’Connor, Bergen Record, August 16, 2007:
The greatest closer of them all spent his Wednesday doing a fairly good impression of a 56-year-old coach throwing a productive round of BP, this only two days after blowing his first save since April, and only three days after nearly doing the same in Cleveland. The moment moved Rivera to come clean in the losing clubhouse. He is no bloodless automaton. He is a man – a quiet and dignified and flawed man.
He’s a man who’ll turn 38 in November. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, maybe a couple of years from now, Rivera will likely look as human as he did against Baltimore on a far more regular basis. The cruel forces of age will conspire against him, just as they ultimately conspire against any Hall of Fame athlete. It’s a sobering thought to any Yankee fan conditioned to believe that Rivera’s presence on the mound is as comforting as Phil Rizzuto’s voice had been on the air.
Bill Madden, New York Daily News, August 16, 2007:
A leadoff double off the wall in right-center field by Nick Markakis, another long double to left by Miguel Tejada and finally a towering home run into the right-field bleachers by Aubrey Huff and suddenly the Stadium was hushed. And you could almost hear the questions: “Uh, oh. What’s wrong with Mo? This is three straight times now. There must be something wrong. What do we do if there is?”
Peter Abraham, Journal News, June 7, 2009:
The version of Rivera who jogs in from the bullpen these days is not the infallible closer the Yankees have relied on for so many years…Troubling signs surround the 39-year-old Rivera, who has allowed 26 hits in 23 1/3 innings.
Joel Sherman, New York Post, October 31, 2009:
The price of greatness this year for Rivera is a higher level of duress on a right shoulder that was operated on 56 weeks ago and turns 40 years old in four weeks. The Yankees are running a race here, trying to get to the Canyon of Heroes before Rivera’s arm surrenders.
“We have gotten near the red flag area, but not reached it,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said.
Joel Sherman, New York Post, May 23, 2010:
Mariano Rivera had permitted runs in three consecutive outings, even before doing so again in the last week. It had happened four times, in fact, including as recently as 2007. But three of the four previous times it occurred was in August, or at a point that it could be explained, to some degree, by the fatigue of a long season. It also never happened when Rivera was 40…It is a reminder that every athlete – even those that defied age more than most – have expiration dates.
John Harper, New York Daily News, September 16, 2010:
Rivera’s third blown save of the season, against the Rangers, was notable mostly because it was the rare night when he didn’t have anything resembling his pinpoint command. He looked so off his game that he walked free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero, which is no small feat, and later hit Jeff Francoeur with a pitch to force in the winning run.
It seemed only logical to conclude that Rivera’s ineffective outing was an indication that his days of pitching two innings, as he had Friday night in Texas, and being able to bounce back the next night were over. Hey, there has to be some concession to being 40, right?
Mark Feinsand, New York Daily News, September 28, 2010:
You can argue that Mariano Rivera has been the most important player during each of the Yankees’ five championships since 1996. Is this the year the future Hall of Famer finally shows his age?
Kevin Kernan, New York Post, August 10, 2011:
Rivera is not concerned. There is no cooler customer in baseball history than Mariano Rivera. He said this is the way the game goes. Rivera is 41, though. Even baseball gods get old.
Rivera is Yankee gold. Still, in a season of questions, the biggest question is staring the Yankees in the face: Is the Great Rivera finally showing his age?
Tyler Kepner, New York Times, August 11, 2011:
Even the most impatient fans and reporters are right about one thing: the end will come. Everybody dies. No career lasts forever. Even Mariano Rivera’s.
Rivera, who turns 42 in November, has 29 saves. Only one pitcher has had 30 saves at that age: Dennis Eckersley, for St. Louis in 1997. Eckersley played one more season, as a middle reliever with Boston. In the last inning of his career, in a playoff game against Cleveland, he served up a homer to Manny Ramirez that might still be going.
Nobody wants to see Rivera end like that. Or like the great Goose Gossage, bouncing to seven teams in his final seven seasons, picking up a stray save here or there. There is nobility in pitching as long as you can, in making summer last as long as possible. But it would not suit Rivera, a career Yankee who defines athletic grace.
Against Abreu on Tuesday, it did not, and Scutaro also handled the pitch. Rivera is signed through next season, and he reacted calmly to the defeats, as always. But such moments remind us of the uncomfortable reality that Rivera, the Yankees’ indispensable closer, is reaching an expiration date, as all players do.
Joel Sherman, New York Post, August 13, 2011:
Through it all, Mariano Rivera felt safe, felt like he had immunity from the athletic ravages of age. He was the Robo-closer. A cutter Terminator. Indestructible. Eternal.
His genius was so long-lasting that it has become conceivable to believe the inconceivable: Rivera essentially could go on forever.
However, if nothing else, Rivera’s last week heading into last night was a shot of sanity that all things – no matter how brilliant – end. Was this the beginning of Rivera’s end?
Ian O’Connor, ESPN New York, April 7, 2012:
One of these seasons, the New York Yankees will get the old Mariano Rivera, not the Mariano Rivera of old. It will happen. As sure as his case for Cooperstown, the greatest closer of them all will fall to the undefeated forces of time.
Maybe it will be this season, maybe not. But long before Rivera came undone in a 7-6 defeat Friday, even the most optimistic Yankees fans had to concede that 2012 could be the year when hitters start crushing the cutter the way the Tampa Bay Rays crushed the one-and-only’s one and only pitch.
Joel Sherman, New York Post, April 8, 2012:
One of the worst parlor games in major league history has been trying to guess when Mariano Rivera will lose his dominance.
He has 78 blown saves between the regular season and playoffs – see he is human – and after a fair amount of them, especially in recent years, you begin to do the mental calculation of age to wear and tear to reality. Of course, Rivera always has defied age, wear and tear, and even reality. That means none of the blown saves led to anything more than a temporary annoyance – OK, something a little longer than temporary on some, like Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. But none actually has turned out to be a true hint that the beginning of the end was upon Rivera.
And the likelihood – if history holds – is that his Opening Day implosion was a blip and nothing more. But, you know, the parlor game never stops. Because Rivera’s age and uniform number match at 42. So we will watch. Wait. Wonder.
I’m sure some of the writers quoted in the Deadspin collection will take offense, but it’s really more a tribute to Rivera’s incredible longevity and unwavering greatness than anything else. He’s a cutter-throwing machine.
One day after all the idiots who make respectable Yankees fans look bad had a collective conniption because of a blown save by the almost always reliable Mariano Rivera one of my favorite websites delivers the goods…again.
From that crazy mother f***** the Bronx Goblin:
The Yankees dropped the season opener yesterday when Mariano Rivera coughed up the game in the 9th inning. Pessimists are spouting off already.
“Mo shoulda retired.” Said one drunk guy at a bar. “They shoulda went after Papplebon.”
“I knew it.” Said another drunk guy. “0-162. You watch.”
“Never shoulda traded Burnett.” Said a guy with a Burnett jersey. “This thing cost me 20 bucks. That should have been my first clue something was up.”
But one fan, Marco “the perspective” Donomoni of south Jersey is really upset. Marco was running his mouth as he usually does on Friday morning. A friend dared him to get a Yankees opening day tattoo which he did.
“Man, that was whack. Them Rays musta cheated. This is bull. They was supposed to win, now my ink looks stupid.”
Hopefully all these fools will rethink their statements after tonight.
Couldn’t have said it better haha.
It goes without saying that Mariano Rivera will go down as the greatest closer of all time. Anyone who tries to argue different needs to get off the crack pipe, to put it bluntly.
From Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated comes this (which most of us already knew, but it’s incredible every time we read it):
Here are Rivera’s rate stats for the last 16 years combined:
2.03 ERA (224 ERA+), 0.97 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 8.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 4.32 K/BB
Rivera has averaged 71 innings pitched per season over those 16 years (including the current, incomplete campaign). Over that span, only three pitchers have equaled or bettered each of those rates in a single season of 50 or more innings pitched: Pedro Martinez in 1999, John Smoltz as a closer in 2003, and Jonathan Papelbon in 2006. Rivera has put those rates up over 16 seasons.
To be fair, he hasn’t had a single season in which he has matched or beaten each of those marks, but he hasn’t strayed far from them either, and he has only become more consistent over time. Since 2003, Rivera has had an ERA+ below 200 in just one season and has put up these rates over the last nine years combined:
1.88 ERA (237 ERA+), 0.93 WHIP, 0.4 HR/9, 8.4 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 5.47 K/BB
Yes, that’s a 1.88 ERA over 588 games by a pitcher in his age 33 to 41 seasons.
Well, Rivera’s career ERA+ of 205 is the all-time record among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. Pedro Martinez is second at the list at 154, not even close, and the next relievers on the list are Wilhelm and Dan Quisenberry at 147. One could counter that by pointing out that Rivera hasn’t had his decline phase yet, but he’s 41 years old.
At this point, he’ll either retire without declining (a possibility seeing as he’s only signed through 2012), or retire at the first sign of decline. Meanwhile, he is on his way to his 12th season with an ERA+ of 200 or better.
Using a minimum of 50 innings pitched, the next two men on that particular list are Martinez and Joe Nathan, both of whom did it five times, or less than half as many times are Rivera. He is also the only man ever to have two seasons with an ERA+ above 300 in 50 or more innings, doing so at ages 35 and 38.
How about this: according to bWAR, a cumulative stat, Rivera has been almost as valuable in 1,206 career innings as Dennis Eckersley was in 3,285 2/3 career frames (55.8 wins above replacement to 58.7), and exactly as valuable as Sutter (25.0) and Hoffman (30.8), two other Hall of Fame closers (one already in, one a shoo-in), combined.
Then there’s the postseason.
That’s right, Rivera dominates his field that completely without even factoring in the 139 2/3 innings of a 0.71 ERA that he has contributed in the most important games of his career. That’s the equivalent of two more seasons of some of the best pitching of his career against some of the stiffest competition.
In 94 postseason appearances, 58 of which have lasted more than one inning, Rivera has posted a 0.77 WHIP, a 5.19 K/BB, and allowed just two home runs (and, considering the milestone that prompted this piece, saved 42 additional games).
Included in those 139 2/3 frames are a postseason record 34 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings compiled from 1998 to 2000, three seasons which ended with Rivera recording the final out of a Yankee championship.
Rivera’s 2012 spring debut was a 1-2-3 inning against the Phillies Sunday in Tampa. He threw a total of 14 pitches, but only because Luis Montanez somehow managed to wrangle up a 10-pitch at-bat.
Rivera summed it up best. “Just trying to get people out, and go home,” said the greatest closer of all time.
Couldn’t have said it better.