All good things must come to an end. This is certainly true right now for the New York Yankees. Mariano Rivera recently announced that the 2013 season would be his last. Now while Major League hitters not on the Yankees will breathe a big old sigh of relief, for the Yankees and their fans it is a sad, sad thing. Rivera is the best closer of all time. I am not even going to say “arguably” on this one, it is pretty much fact. Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time.
Now sure, he is the all-time saves leader with 608 of those bad boys and only Trevor Hoffman is even close to that number. This is quite a feat, if just for the fact that he has had the longevity to get to that total. Of course, he will be adding to this total this season, distancing him further from the retired Hoffman and it makes you wonder when someone will even be close to that number. There is not as much of a cache with saves numbers. Hall of Fame voters have never really mentioned a saves total that is a lock for the Hall, like 300 wins, or 3000 hits, but I would say 600 is above and beyond whatever number they would throw out there. Now, it should be noted that I see saves as one of those tremendously flawed baseball statistics, but I don’t think there is even a debate that 600 is quite something. 600! Think about that.
Among active relievers, none have more than 300. Let’s take Jonathan Papelbon for instance. He is at 257 career saves right now. Without even adding whatever Rivera gets this season, Paps is 341 saves behind Mariano. 351? Yikes! So, let’s say Paps continues to be a strong Major League closer and averages 40 saves a season. At that rate, which is a very good season I might add, he would have to go nine more seasons to pass Rivera’s current number of 608. That would be impressive. Rivera’s mark is not unbeatable at all, but it will be quite some time before anyone even approaches Mo’s final number. But Rivera is so much more then that gaudy, eye-popping number.
Rivera has not only closed games for a long time, but he has dominated hitters for a long time. Rivera’s career ERA is 2.12 and his FIP is 2.75 which, I shouldn’t need to tell you, is quite good. Only twice has he had an ERA over three in his career and one of those times was his rookie season. Rivera has posted a sub-two ERA eleven, count ‘em, eleven times! The Yankees have had the luxury of not having to worry about the ninth inning (with the exception of last season) since basically 1997. Just think about it, in the last 17 seasons, has there been another closer that made you groan as an opposing fan? Maybe Trevor Hoffman, who I think as we evaluate his career will seem like he was somehow underrated or overshadowed? The point is you would be very hard pressed to find anyone who can hold a candle to Mariano Rivera’s career. Is there anyone now who is even in Rivera’s category?
Sure Craig Kimbrel comes to mind as the most dominant closer, but speaking as someone who has had Big K on his fantasy roster, he can get wild at times. I am not saying Kimbrel is iffy, because he is most likely the best closer out there, but I am saying I don’t think he has that aura that surrounds Rivera. Sure, Kimbrel has a long road ahead of him and even Mariano had to build his aura over time. Aside from Kimbrel, there is really not one active closer I can think of that is that close to being a guy that makes me think the game is definitely over once he trots in from the ‘pen. Can you? That sort of dominance may not be seen for quite some time and I am sure we will here plenty about it as the season progresses, that is for darned sure.
The big thing you have to wonder is who will be the Yankees closer in 2014? It seems so far away at this point, but I am sure the Yanks are actively putting a plan into place, something they really haven’t had to deal with on over a decade and a half, a luxury any other major league teams would love to have. Some teams had more than one closer last season, let alone over the past ten or fifteen seasons. At such a fickle position with more turnover than any other in baseball, Mariano Rivera has thrived more than any other and that will be quite hard for the Yankees to replace. Well, you could argue he is irreplaceable, but you know what I am getting at here. Someone is going to have some pretty big cleats to fill for the Yankees in 2014, that we know for certain. So, while there is still a season left for Mariano, I am going to go ahead and tip my cap to his career thus far, despite my utter hatred and loathing for the Yankees. So here’s to you Mariano, and if you could finish your career without another World Series ring, that’d be great, thanks!