For anyone who watched Mariano Rivera pitch over the years, his selection to the Baseball Hall Of Fame is anti-climactic. Behold, the best reliever ever…
He Did It – Unanimous! Congratulations Mo.
Sometime shortly before 3:00 PM EST on Tuesday, Jane Forbes Clark, the Director of the Baseball Hall Of Fame (HOF), will place a call that will be answered by Mariano Rivera on the other end, probably from his home in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City.
That call will verify what everyone in the world of baseball already knows – Mariano Rivera is a hand’s down electee to the HOF. A few minutes later, the MLB Network will be on hand to interview Rivera and to possibly break the tension by announcing that Mariano Rivera is the first ever to be installed in the Hall unanimously.
Or, maybe not. After all, it took Joe DiMaggio two tries even to be elected to the HOF. Joe DiMaggio!
The humbleness of this great man – and ballplayer – will shine through as he deflects the honor to his managers, teammates, family, and God. Nothing in his words, though, will sound hollow. Mariano Rivera has been this way for his entire life, and especially for two decades when we had the privilege of watching him destroy hitters and bats, game after game after game.
We remember too sitting there numb when Luis Gonzalez blooped that pitch from Rivera into short center field in Game 7 of 2001 World Series, waiting for the replay that would show otherwise. It must have been our lyin’ eyes…
The stats, and we’ll run through them in a minute, only tell part of the story about Mariano Rivera. The better part is the way he went about his business, all the while in the shadow of his teammate, Derek Jeter, who will join Rivera in the HOF next year.
A family man from the very beginning, ever loyal to his homeland of Panama, Rivera never sought the attention and lure of playing in the Big City. All he did was show up at the ballpark every day to close out games for the New York Yankees.
And the detail that all he accomplished as a big league pitcher emanated from just one pitch makes his story even more remarkable. Every batter he faced knew that cutter was coming, with the same delivery and precision of a modern day robot – it was coming. On time, every time. Here’s a closer look:
To close the argument that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer who ever lived, you can start with his thirteen appearances in the All-Star Game, or maybe his record 652 lifetime saves, or maybe his off the charts career WAR of 56.2. But you’ll never get to the core of his separation from all others until you look at his numbers in the playoffs.
Over 96 games and 141 innings, Mariano Rivera, had an ERA and a WHIP under one (0.70 and 0.759 respectively). His only loss over that remarkable span came in that WS mentioned above in 2001. Almost spotless, save for one bloop single just out of Derek Jeter’s reach.
And so it is fitting that baseball fans everywhere pause for a few moments tomorrow afternoon to declare what Mariano Rivera (remember Rickey Henderson and his “I am the greatest” proclamation on second base) won’t say himself – that he is the best reliever and one of the best pitchers to ever play the game, and he is now where he belongs – in the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
Thank you, Mariano Rivera.