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The Great One
2008-04-24 08:04
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Ten years ago, when the Yankees put together that dream season, I constantly reminded myself to stay in the moment, to appreciate what was happening because it wasn't likely to happen again. I tried my best to appreciate what was happening during the entire '96-01 run. Today, I love watching Jeter, Rodriguez and Posada, I loved Bernie and miss him, and I loved Joe Torre too, though I haven't missed him at all this year. With Bernie and Torre, it was time. But Mariano is extra-special, isn't he? Things really won't be the same when he's gone. Close games will be a different, more mortal experience.

Rivera isn't perfect. But he's still doing it and doing it and doing it well. The fact that his cutter is still nasty after all these seasons is incredible. And aesthetically, Rivera's motion is as fluid and smooth and beautiful as any pitcher that comes to mind. Last night, it took him 17 pitches to get five outs. He did it with that expressionless calm that we've come to rely on. I'm sure he'll get roughed up this year, even get hurt, but watching him yesterday just reminded me to stop and soak in the moment, to be thankful for his continued brilliance. It won't last forever. But the memories he's provided us certainly will.

Comments
2008-04-24 08:41:57
1.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
Well put. We'll miss him dearly, no two ways about it (and yes, I mean even if Joba becomes our closer).
2008-04-24 08:51:58
2.   tommyl
Of all my experiences at Yankee stadium, I think watching Mariano Rivera pitch will be among the greatest. I still get chills up my spine when I hear Enter Sandman at the stadium and see him purposefully jogging in from left field. Its one of those things I can see myself telling my (hypothetical) children and grandchildren about in the same way other people tell me about watching Mantle.
2008-04-24 08:53:25
3.   tommyl
The thing that makes Mo so special is that he's not just a closer, he's a true stopper. The other elite closers are rarely asked to pitch more than the ninth. Last night, up a couple of runs, two men on, only one out, as soon as Mo came into the game, I just knew we were going to win. He's the only pitcher in baseball I can say that about.
2008-04-24 09:14:21
4.   Alex Belth
Well, Paplebon is pretty damn tough right now too. But let's see if he's still doing it in ten years. Hard to compare Rivera to the relievers of the 70s because they threw so many more innings per season. Still, Mo's been averaging roughly 75 a year for the past 4-5 years which is more than he pitched the previous five (96 being the exception but that was when he was a set up guy not a closer). The longevity is what is remarkable to me.
2008-04-24 09:21:10
5.   Schteeve
He represents Panama, I was raised out in Brooklyn.
2008-04-24 09:22:59
6.   horace-clarke-era
Mo threw a break down and RIGHT pitch to a righty last night, and I have only seen it a handful of times. It was brutal. Unfair. Could get someone kneecapped, too, as they all lean in to chase the cutter across.

Papelbon, if he stays healthy and where he is (closing), will possibly have the saves record with years to still pitch ... Health is obviously a wild card, but starting at closer in early 20s ... no one DID that once upon a time. K Rod, maybe, is similar.

2008-04-24 09:24:18
7.   Adrian
It's funny to read all the comments by older fans and to realize how little of the Yankees I've actually seen. In 1995 I was 13 and just starting to get really into baseball, so in a very real way Bernie, Jeter, Posada, and Rivera ARE the Yankees to me. And, while I'm very happy with Joe G, firing Torre was less about firing an underperforming manager and more like putting grandpa in a hospice.
2008-04-24 09:26:56
8.   Schteeve
Papelbon isn't in the same conversation as Mo yet. He's been dominant for what, a year and a half? If that? How many closers have been awesome for a couple of seasons, and then either they get hurt, or the league figures them out, or something and they flame away.

Five years from now, if Papelbon is the premier closer in the game, it will be an interestin conversation, but it's a huge if.

2008-04-24 09:31:24
9.   a O
Yes, Mo's easy motion, explosive cutter, and utter professionalism are truly amazing. And they are a nice reminder of the great teams from years past. He is no doubt one of the greatest Yankees ever, both in performance and character.

Hopefully someday (relatively) soon we'll have Joba to carry on the legacy - an opposite in form, but equally effective in substance.

2008-04-24 09:44:24
10.   JL25and3
0 Your title brings to mind a most bizzarely incongruous image: Mariano Rivera holding a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, lifting one leg in that exit-stage-left pose, saying, "And awaaaaay we go!"
2008-04-24 09:45:52
11.   Alex Belth
Almost as incongruous as Mo's theme song from Metallica, a song he claims to not even like...
2008-04-24 09:51:59
12.   JL25and3
11 True, that.
2008-04-24 09:52:18
13.   Rob Middletown CT
Mariano Rivera's delivery is poetry in motion. I love watching the man work.
2008-04-24 09:55:31
14.   Rob Middletown CT
As for Papelbon, or F. Rodriguez, or Putz...

Those guys are excellent. If they remain excellent for 10+ years, then they get into the conversation. That's what sets Mo apart. In any given season, there is usually a closer or two who have better years than Mo. But he's always there, and those guys come and go.

2008-04-24 10:08:04
15.   Shaun P
14 Exactly. Of all the guys closing today, the only ones who have been doing consecutively since 1998 are Mo, Trever Hoffman, and Billy Wagner.

Three other guys come close. Isringhausen started closing in 1999. Percival retired in '06 and pitched in middle relief in 2007. Todd Jones pitched middle relief from 2002-2004. Jones hasn't exactly been lights out either over that time, high save totals aside.

2008-04-24 10:16:01
16.   pistolpete
Waaaaay too early to put Papelbon anywhere near Mo, lest we forget guys like Billy Koch and Eric Gagné when he first started.

My advice to Private Pyle? Do it consistently for 5 years, then do it 5 more, then about 3-4 years more after that. Then you're in the same class as a Mariano.

I appreciate Mo every single time he pitches now. There'll just never be anyone else like him. Amazing career for such an unassuming guy with only one pitch. ;-)

2008-04-24 10:22:09
17.   standuptriple
I don't know what it takes to throw that nasty cutter, but if I were anywhere near Mo, I'd do whatever he asked to learn that pitch. It's been his bread and butter for a long time and still sends guys back to the dugout with stinging hands and frustrated looks. As a pitcher, I can't imagine many things as satisfying.
2008-04-24 10:31:05
18.   tommyl
17 I think in the Q&A Hughes did with PeteAbe he was asked something along those lines (i.e. why don't you ask Mo to teach you his cutter). The answer was basically that lots of guys throw cutters but there's only one Mo. Something about his delivery is unique. One guess is his wrist action, its often a total blur when he releases and his hand is also at a somewhat unorthodox angle iirc. Its hard to teach that.
2008-04-24 10:35:47
19.   vockins
Is there any doubt about what is the best pitch in the history of baseball? It's not even debatable anymore.
2008-04-24 10:37:28
20.   Alex Belth
I don't know, Walter Johnson, Nolan Ryan and some others had pretty good fastballs. Ryan and Bert B had amazing curveballs. But you could probably say that Rivera is one of the best one-pitch pitchers that has ever been.
2008-04-24 10:42:06
21.   tommyl
19 20 Don't forget Hoyt Willhelm's knuckleball.
2008-04-24 10:44:17
22.   rbj
18 Might also be that his fingers seem a bit longer than usual.

IIRC, there's an interview with Keith Richards asking about his early influences and he mentioned that all of the guitarists in England at the time were wondering how Chuck Berry did those chords -- turned out that Chuck had longer fingers than most.

2008-04-24 10:46:52
23.   vockins
Remember that Bobby Kielty AB a couple of years ago when he jumped away from the plate six inches when Mo started his delivery?

Remember when A.J. Pierzynski knocked himself on his ass trying to bring the bat in on the cutter?

Beautiful.

2008-04-24 10:49:29
24.   Shaun P
22 IIRC, longer fingers than usual for someone his size are also Pedro's "secret" to success for the movement on his pitches.
2008-04-24 10:55:00
25.   Mattpat11
Its one of the reasons I had no problem with the Rivera contract. If I had to watch Farnsworth or Hawkins or Jose Veras in the ninth I'd rip my hair out.
2008-04-24 11:12:43
26.   Just fair
[15} And who would you want closing today? Hoffman, Wagner or Mo.? HMMMMMM. Incredible. I didn't see many of thoes other guys' saves, but it's a no brainer. Mo started off last season a bit shaky, and Hoffman is at this year. Blew his 2nd of 6 last night already.
2008-04-24 11:18:16
27.   Just fair
26 I blow more reference thingy's than Mo blows saves.
2008-04-24 11:28:37
28.   3rd gen yankee fan
I love that title, "The Great One." That's how I think of Mo. He still awes me, every time he comes in.

I love when fans of other teams try to argue against Mo for best closer of all time. All due respect to Trevor Hoffman, you don't hear anyone calling him The Great One. It probably has something to do with Mo's graceful delivery and his humility as well.

We might complain but we really do have a bunch of great talent on our team!

2008-04-24 11:34:33
29.   bp1
I've run out of things to say or think about Mo. I just shake my head in wonder. There was one pitch last night - 8th inning but I forget which batter. Posada set up low and outside, and Mo hit his glove dead center like it was the easiest thing in the world and the batter had no chance at all. Might have been Dye at the plate then. Simply poetry in motion. Effortless. I remember it clearly - and shook my head in wonder - wishing I could have that feeling just once in my life (Mo's - not Dye's, lol).

There's nothing else I can say at this point. I agree with Alex 100% - gotta treasure these moments. We're witness to something special.

I can only imagine how the legend of Mariano Rivera will grow after he retires.

2008-04-24 11:58:48
30.   SG in ATL
Mo is 38 innings away from being the all-time leader in ERA+ on Baseball Reference. No pitcher has prevented runs relative to his era as well as Mo has for as long as he has.

It's been a pleasure to watch him.

2008-04-24 12:05:20
31.   weeping for brunnhilde
29 Oh, I know. Sometimes I just point at my screen, start grinning like an idiot and utter a manic, "Aaaahhhh!!!"

Like it tickles, it's so perfect. Rapier-like.

Other times, especially when he's carving them up and got them at two strikes, I start stomping my feet like a bloodlusting Roman at the circus.

What is there to say, really?

2008-04-24 12:31:57
32.   horace-clarke-era
JL ... VERY funny Gleason image. I actually laughed aloud. I also thought your courtesy yesterday in the O'Neill debate was exemplary, even above and beyond what was required in the context of that quote. You can be on my team any time.

Guys, guys, I was NOT linking or comparing Papelbon to Mo on a large scale (or K Rod or anyone). I was making a comment about closers and how a few exceptional ones (they are) have taken that role EARLIER than was the case before. The geriatrics among us do remember Mo setting up John Wetteland. Ahem.

I'd be aghast and appalled (both!) if anyone thought I was equating Pap with Mariano in any significant career way.

And I agree with Alex: the sheer aesthetic joy of that one ridiculously effective pitch, thrown easily, with grace, over and over, year over year is ... pretty well unmatched in my experience of the sport.

We touched on grace, seeming easy and relaxed out there awhile back. Mo on his game (95% of the time) is at the apex of that pyramid.

2008-04-24 12:46:31
33.   RZG
I thought this was going to be a narrative about Jackie Gleason getting a haircut in Brooklyn. That's a thought to ponder but I like me some Mariano.
2008-04-24 12:49:47
34.   Chyll Will
I was too young to see Bob Gibson pitch, even in his last few years. Nevertheless, the way people talk, you'd think you were going up against an angry bolt of lightning when he was pitching. Guidry in his prime elicits a certain wonder.

That said, being able to see Mo pitch in person throughout his career (and I mean at the Stadium, not just on TV) is something unforgettable. His motion, and the movement on his cutter (not to mention the resulting explosion of splinters) are something that is beyond what even TV can encapsulate (sorry). Will Smith should just hand over the title of his latest movie to Mo when he retires...

Ahh, it's good to be a kid every now and then. And, sadly, Joba will be the heir apparent to Mo, simply because he probably would make an excellent starter, but the way he's been and apparently will be used, he's close to being locked into the reliever role for the foreseeable future, and there's currently no one close to being able to replicate the kind of magic, aura and results that Mo brings to the ninth inning than he.

2008-04-24 12:50:57
35.   tommyl
30 Wow, that's pretty amazing. I hope he gets it.
2008-04-24 13:04:33
36.   Alex Belth
Bottom Line: 117 post season innings, 0.77 ERA. Nuff said, end of story, hello Hall of Fame.
2008-04-24 13:16:02
37.   Knuckles
30 It's not even gonna be close, either. His career ERA+ is 196. Pedro is atop the all-time leaderboard (>1000 IP) at 160.
2008-04-24 13:18:30
38.   Raf
Something else that bears mentioning, if you're into that sort of thing, is the quiet dignity of Mo. He's a great ballplayer, but he seems to be an even better man.

It has been a joy to watch him pitch. And to watch his career progress from prospect to starter to setup man to closer.

Gossage was brute force. Righetti never really seemed to be in control. Steve Farr was effective for a few years (and has seemed to be forgotten among Yankees fans). Xavier Hernandez? Don't make me laugh. Wetteland seemed to always make things exciting. Mo is, by far, the best of the bunch.

2008-04-24 13:21:09
39.   tommyl
37 Man, that Cy Young, only coming in at 16th, tied with the Unit. No pitcher he.

Maybe they can rename the Rolaids Relief award the Mariano Rivera. Then we can log on here when we're all 70 and debate which young kid might get the Rivera this year.

2008-04-24 13:27:19
40.   JL25and3
32 Thanks for the kind words, Hoss.
2008-04-24 13:32:44
41.   Shaun P
38 The Beast! He was actually quite effective as the closer for some of those bad Yankee teams of the early '90s. I remember Farr quite fondly. He was originally signed by the Pirates in 1976 (!) and didn't make it to the big leagues until 1984. Then he pitched until the strike hit.

Anyone remember who else (besides the X-Man) bridged the year gap between Farr and Wetteland?

2008-04-24 13:35:04
42.   Travis08
37 Joba's ERA+, after the run he gave up Tuesday, is now 785.
2008-04-24 13:47:57
43.   Schteeve
Speaking of pitchers...I'm going to see The Frachise tonight. I'm gonna try to bring him some luck.
2008-04-24 14:34:33
44.   JL25and3
41 Steve Howe, in between suspensions.
2008-04-24 16:12:13
45.   nemecizer
Every time I got to the stadium, every time I see him pitch on TV, every time I read his line, I realize how amazing Mo is. I was 26 when he started to close. I am 38 now. Not including the first 10 years of my life, where I really only remember flashes, he has been front and center for well over half of it.

I feel the way you feel, Alex: I will never see this again.

2008-04-24 22:54:02
46.   cocorn
"I was too young to see Bob Gibson pitch, even in his last few years. Nevertheless, the way people talk, you'd think you were going up against an angry bolt of lightning when he was pitching. Guidry in his prime elicits a certain wonder."

Please take guidry out of the equation. He's not comparable to rivera, gibson, or pedro for that matter. If he isn't a yankee he's just a good pitcher.

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