11/12: What Mariano Rivera Means to Me

Posted by: Patrick
Mariano Rivera
Creative Commons License photo credit: themikelee
Now that the baseball season has completed, Mariano Rivera's farewell tour has concluded, the sea of tributes has passed and things have quieted down. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Mo's career and what it means to me, having run MarianoRivera.com for more than 9 and a half years.

I was born a Yankees fan - my dad is one. I would say that when I really started paying attention to the Yankees was around 1992, when I was 7 and 8 years old. I was certainly aware of them before that, but those years are where I started to become more and more aware of the rosters, the players and the games.

That was when we hadn't been particularly good in quite a while. I can remember watching random players on WPIX, with Phil Rizzuto and Bobby Murcer. Players like Roberto Kelly, Danny Tartabull, Randy Velarde, Mike Gallego, Dion James, Gerald Williams, Spike Owen and others. Of course, they were slowly getting better and building the foundation for what would become a dynasty.

Don Mattingly was my first favorite player. It was sad to watch him struggle in his final season with injuries. But he put on a show in the ALDS. I can still remember Ken Griffey Jr. coming around to score in game 5, like it was yesterday. Devastating.

After Mattingly retired, I looked for a new favorite player. I had heard a little bit about Derek Jeter. Prior to the 1996 season, my family attended Yankee Day at the Florida State Fair. At this event, you could meet current and former Yankees, as well as members of the coaching staff. Security was lax, you just had to get in line. It seems crazy now. The Yankees would never do it again because there would be too many people. But back then, they did it and it was awesome.

That day, I met Joe Torre, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Jim Leyritz and Derek Jeter. From that point or close to it, Derek Jeter was my favorite player. He homered on opening day and he's still my favorite player.

Mariano Rivera was not at Yankee Day, but 1996 was when he would become a household name. I remember watching him start the July 4, 1995 game against the White Sox at my grandparents' house. They were also Yankees fans. He pitched 8 innings of 2 hit ball, picking up his second career victory. Outside of it being a great start, I didn't think too much of it at the time - just a young pitcher who had a great day.

The more Rivera pitched, the more there was to like. Many closers are special for a few years... but he just kept stacking the years up, one after another, until it became clear: he wasn't like any of the other closers. He just kept getting better.

Being a Yankee, you can be the best in the regular season, but if you don't perform in the postseason, you won't last. Rivera didn't have that problem. Somehow, he was even better in the postseason than he was in the regular season. He managed to pitch in 32 postseason series - 96 games and 141 innings. Far and away, he is the greatest reliever in the history of the postseason. It's more than that, though, because he threw enough innings to be ranked 7th on the all-time list of postseason innings pitched. The other 9 people in the top 10 are all starting pitchers.

He was 8-1 in the postseason with 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA. He won 5 World Series titles, including the World Series MVP in 1999 and the ALCS MVP in 2003.

It is that 1 postseason loss that illustrates one of the most impressive things about Mariano Rivera: his mental toughness.

The loss came in game 7 of the 2001 World Series. He began the ninth with a 2-1 lead in the biggest game of the baseball season. And he blew the save and lost both the game and the World Series. Moments like this have ruined the careers, and arguably the lives, of professional athletes. Rivera lost in the worst way possible.

But it didn't define him. It didn't ruin him. He came right back and went on to become better. If you look at the 2000 through 2002 seasons, you see that he had ERAs of 2.85, 2.34 and 2.74, respectively. Those are great ERAs. But if you were to go into the future, to the final 5 or 6 years of his career, those ERAs would have been considered bad years.

Following those numbers, he went on to pitch 11 years and only once did he touch the lowest ERA of those three - when he had a 3.15 ERA in 2007. Every other year he was lower. In fact, he held an ERA under 2 for 8 of those 11 seasons.

To say that Rivera's personality is endearing is to fail to do him justice. He was a consummate professional, in victory and in defeat. Respectful to his opponents and to the game. No matter the situation, he was the same - at least outwardly. He acted like he had done it before. No theatrics, no grand standing, just good baseball. And that's not to say that I think less of players who celebrate loudly, but just to say that I appreciate the way that Rivera went about his job.

Rivera was a smart distributor of praise. When he did well, it was the organization, the coaches, his teammates and God who were responsible for his success. He played the game the right way and, in the end, that is why he was honored in every stadium he visited this season.

Without Rivera's personality, I never would have started this website. It is his performance and who he is as a person that made him special and that drew me to him and while Jeter will always be my favorite, Mo gave it a great run.

I'll miss him.


Moises Young Diaz wrote:

Great write-up, Patrick. I really enjoy your commentary about Mo. You described him perfectly; awesome.

Take care and thank you for this wonderful website. Hope that this website stay on line because there is so much info/news/video, etc about the Panamanian Sensational, Mariano Rivera, No.42, NYY.
11/13 14:58:39

Patrick wrote:

Thank you, Mr. Diaz. :) I appreciate your support.

11/13 18:47:05

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