Marc Carig, The Star-Ledger’s Yankee beat writer, is never lacking for interesting tidbits. During a slow Saturday, Carig checks in with an item on Mariano Rivera.
Over the years, says Carig, Yankee fans have never really understood what type of elbow surgery Mariano Rivera underwent in 1992. I always assumed it was Tommy John surgery, but the Yankees media guide has always just said “elbow surgery” for Rivera. Here’s how the story ends:
“No, sir,” Rivera said, when I asked him the clubhouse on Friday whether he’d ever undergone a TJ.
Rivera then held up his right elbow, and showed me the scar, which will soon be 17 years old. Rivera then explained that when he went under the knife, doctors originally expected to perform a Tommy John procedure. But, as the future Hall of Famer tells it, when doctors got a chance to check out the ligament, they determined that — surprise! — it did not need to be replaced. The way Rivera described it, doctors simply “moved” the ligament.
Moving that ligament created one of the best players in baseball history. Last night’s nine-pitch save was the 516th of Rivera’s career. It was also his 900th career appearance.
A glance at Rivera’s Baseball Reference page reveals just how dominant he has been. His 1.015 WHIP is 1st among active pitchers and third lowest in baseball history. His K/BB rate is 2nd best among active players and fourth best all time. His HR/9 IP — a meager 0.495 — is first among active pitchers.
To me, though, the most impressive number is his ERA+. Right now, Mariano Rivera has a career ERA+ of 200. Not only is that the best mark ever in that category, but the guy in second place — Pedro Martinez — has a career ERA+ of 154. Rivera has been arguably the best pitcher ever in terms of run prevention as compared to the rest of the league.
As the 8th oldest player in the game, Rivera is heading down the home stretch, but he’s still the best. It will be sad day indeed when he retires, but until then, I’ll love watching him head out there every time the Yanks need to save their lead.