Anticipating and dreading Mariano’s last dance

The Tough Get Tougher
Reports: Gonzalez, Sox fail to reach extension deal
Dreams of wars and liars or a nice cashmere sweater.

Mariano Rivera throws one pitch, and he throws it exceptionally well. He throws a cutter that he can control with pinpoint precision. He can bust a lefty in on the hands, and he can bust a righty in on the hands. He breaks bats; he keeps the ball down; and since becoming a reliever, he’s allowed just 51 home runs in over 1000 inning pitched.

Earlier this week, Rivera, who turned 41 a week ago, celebrated that birthday by signing a two-year, $30-million deal to re-up with the Yankees. He still has to take a physical before the deal is official, but Rivera, a Yankee since 1990 when he was 21, will star in the Bronx for two more years.

Of course, the logical question for Rivera concerns the end. Is this the end? Is this the last contract he’ll sign with the Yankees and will he retire afterwards? That question seems to come up every time Mo’s contract does, and while he once said in 2000 that he would retire after he re-upped with the Yanks that year, talk of retirement has slowed.

This week, though, the question came up again. After all, baseball is not replete with 43-year-old pitchers of any stripe. While speaking with reporters at the Last Licks in Rye Brook yesterday, Rivera talked of his future. “I think maybe that might be the last two years,” he said. “Maybe, I don’t know. I’ve been saying that since 2000, I think. But I’m glad that everything went fine and got done.”

Today, nothing screams out “the end” for Mariano. His velocity has every so slightly declined over the last decade, but he’s still throwing 92-mph cutters. He hasn’t lost the control, and while the strike outs dipped to a four-year low of 6.8 per 9 IP after hovering close to 10 for a few years, his ERA clocked in at 1.80 and his FIP held at 2.81. He keeps the ball in the park, and he generates ground balls. Five hundred and fifty nine times, he has saved a game.

When the end comes, Yankee fans will be in for a shock. My dad, a Yankee fan since the late 1950s, says Rivera is his all-time favorite and probably the best he’s ever seen. No one does his job better than Rivera and with as much ruthless efficiency as Rivera. The Yankees will try to find The Next Mariano, but despite what everyone thinks, that’s next to impossible. Greatness doesn’t come around that often.

So for now, I’ll kick back and go along for the ride. I’ll listen for the strains of Metallica and cheer as Rivera comes in to throw that cutter. One day, he’ll be gone, back home in Panama to start his post-baseball career. But we still have at two more years before that happens, and I’m going to enjoy every Mariano Rivera appearance until then. You just don’t know which one will be his last.

The Tough Get Tougher
Reports: Gonzalez, Sox fail to reach extension deal
  • Matt DiBari

    We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it fifteen or twenty years from now.

  • Plank

    Mo is a great pitcher but he seems like a piece of shit in real life. Whenever stars are heralded for being great members of the community, I always think of Kirby Puckett. He was marketed as a sweet cartoonish teddy bear. But he was a monster.

    (Page 50)

    • Kiersten

      I think this is serious…

    • Benjamin Kabak

      What are you talking about? That excerpt you highlighted was about Jose Mesa’s legal troubles, not Mariano’s. As far as I’ve heard, Mariano is nothing but a stand-up person who is deeply religious.

      • Plank

        It’s page 47 and 48. I didn’t know how to link to a specific page.

        He terrorized some guy by regularly calling him a faggot. I don’t know any good guys that would do that.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          The case against the Yankees and the three defendants was eventually dismissed. It wasn’t even settled. Take that for what you will.

        • Evan

          Yeah, I read that when RAB posted about not allowing the Creatures’ version of YMCA…sad news.

          To be honest, the dissonance in my head said that he was:
          A. young and ignorant, and in reality didn’t really know what he was doing
          B. is a strictly religious individual, and actually hates gay people for the same reasons that tons of ignorant people hold prejudices against gay people…which I don’t want to admit or even believe to be the case.

          Everything I’ve seen since then portrays him as a really great guy, who does tons for charity, so maybe it was him just being young and caught up with two dudes, who, when given the eye-test seem like the sort of people who would be homophobic/very intolerant.

          But yes, you’re right…lawsuits for anti-gay slurs are generally not a good sign when it comes to a person’s true character.

          • Not Tank the Frank

            It seems to me like the major complaints were against Wickman. At only one point does it mention that Rivera called him a name. That’s say that it’s 100 percent true; I would hardly call that “terrorizing” someone or “regularly” calling him that name.

            I don’t think you can assume to know anything about anyone’s character because of what they once may have said. I’ve said that word before, regrettably, as I’m sure many have, but it doesn’t make me a bad person.

            And you’re also assuming that these allegations are true. It would be different if there were multiple allegations, but it’s only this one instance against a truly positive reputation built over long period of time.

            • Plank

              Obviously I can’t say for certain whether it happened or not. The only thing I would say is that I agree you can’t believe everything you read about sports stars.

              The player who abruptly brushes off the reporters after a game to rush home and kiss his kids good night will get portrayed as surly and not a clubhouse guy. The guy who hangs out a drinks a few beers and gives great quotes to the beat writers will be considered a great clubhouse guy. Mickey Mantle comes to mind.

              Also, the allegation was that it was repeatedly done over a period of time.

              I like that Mariano is on the Yankees because he is a really good pitcher. I’m inclined to believe what was said about him because it would take a lot of nerve for a guy to file a suit against only a few players and include someone who was completely innocent. I realize this is not conclusive proof one way or another.

              • Zack

                So basically you hijacked the thread because you don’t believe all athletes are good people and you found one unproven claim against Mo? Good job.

                • Plank

                  This is a thread about Mariano Rivera’s greatness. How is that a hijack?

                  • I Voted for Kodos

                    You called him a dick and failed offer anything resembling adequate proof.

                    • Plank

                      I apologize. Mariano Rivera is an upstanding member of the community. He should be lauded for his years of community service and devotion to his church. I hope one day I become one tenth the man Rivera is. Not only is he strikingly handsome, he is incredibly virile and a strong yet gentle lover.

                      I apologize for having a differing viewpoint and opinion. I will make sure not to offend you in the future.

                    • I Voted for Kodos

                      No one said that you didn’t have a right to your own opinion and I am in no way offended by anything that you’ve said. But if you’re going to insult a Yankee player in the comments section of a Yankee website, you better have more to support it than a ten year old lawsuit that was dismissed, especially when your opinion flies in the face of everything that has ever been written about the man.

                      Perhaps if you had something else to support your claim, it wouldn’t have been met so negatively.

                    • Zack

                      Where did anyone said you can’t have a different opinion? Love when people take things to the extreme to defelct attention.

                    • Plank

                      In an article about Mariano Rivera I linked to a book that talks about a lawsuit filed against him relating to his character. I felt it was apt to bring up in a discussion of him. If it helps, I’m sure the lawyers of the publishing company gave their okay to include the content and that there was enough merit that it wouldn’t be considered slanderous.

                      I don’t know what to tell you. I can’t provide any more “proof.” I can find a bunch of articles that also mention the allegations.

                      I have a feeling if I had the same level of “proof” about a viewpoint you agreed with, you wouldn’t even question it.

                    • Zack

                      Yeah, that lawsuit relating to his character was thrown out and without settlement.

                      How is that proof of anything? Do you judge people strictly on allegations?

                    • I Voted for Kodos

                      If it helps, I’m sure the lawyers of the publishing company gave their okay to include the content and that there was enough merit that it wouldn’t be considered slanderous.

                      This literally does nothing to give any merit to the allegations, since there is no situation in which mentioning that a lawsuit was filed could be considered slanderous.

                      Again, if you want to consider him a piece of shit because some guy 10 years ago says that Mo called him names, go right ahead. But how did you expect your comment to be taken on a Yankee website? Did you really think that a dismissed lawsuit would be enough to convince us all that he’s a bad dude and that you would encounter no resistance?

                      I have a feeling if I had the same level of “proof” about a viewpoint you agreed with, you wouldn’t even question it.

                      Do you spend a lot of time questioning and arguing with people who agree with you?

                      Also, show me where I’ve said that I think Mo is a saint. I said that I’ve heard he’s a nice guy, but that’s about it. I just don’t find the piece to which you linked to be compelling proof, and I think calling him a piece of shit based on that is extreme.

                    • Plank

                      The lawsuit was thrown out because the state law says the employer wasn’t responsible for the harassment by its employees. It was thrown out on appeal so there was obviously enough merit to the case to survive one round of litigation.


                      But besides all that, it’s not my job to convince you that it happened. I think it did, you disagree, that’s fine.

                      I’ve already said many times here I don’t have more proof, the only people who know what happened are a gay guy dying of AIDS and Mariano Rivera.

                  • JerseyDutch

                    Maybe next time if you don’t start by calling someone a POS, you’ll get a more even-handed response. Just a thought…

                    • Plank

                      But I think he is a POS. I believe the allegations against him and anyone who would do what he did is a monster.

    • Not Tank the Frank


    • JerseyDutch

      Get off the crack, son. It’s bad for the brain cells.

    • I Voted for Kodos

      Right, because the fact that he was once named in a lawsuit (that was completely dismissed) by some guy out for money proves that he’s a jerk.

      If that’s your only piece of evidence, your evidence sucks.

      • Plank

        That is my only evidence. FWIW, I googled to find that excerpt and found it through a RAB link. I guess it was believable enough for the writers here.

        • Benjamin Kabak

          If I recall correctly, we linked to the book to highlight the Bleacher Creatures’ homophobic version of the YMCA. That was just a verbatim transcript of their song. His decision to use Nick Priore as a source was controversial at the time, made even more so by the dismissal of the lawsuit. I’m sure Mo has some skeletons in the closet like the rest of us, but one alleged incident from 1997 doesn’t make him “a piece of shit in real life” when most accounts say the opposite.

        • Not Tank the Frank

          Again it was about a lawsuit brought against the Yankees organization that the writers here thought important enough to post. Not allegations made against any particular player.

        • I Voted for Kodos

          Their post does not in any way mention the lawsuit and is entirely focused on the version of YMCA that the Bleacher Creatures sing.

    • bexarama


      Was this also the guy who said he saw Jeter and Posada doing stuff in the showers?

      Anyway, Mariano is too good for dumb speculation like this. Mo <3

    • Jerome S

      Who the hell devoted all of their time to write that book?

    • mike c

      was he mean to a-rod too? also, he’s great at baseball, therefore he’s a terrible person
      /jeterhater logic

      • JobaWockeeZ

        So A-Rod hate is perfectly a-ok but if you do the SAME EXACT thing to Jeter it’s an insult?

        Inconsistent much.

        • bexarama

          Let’s all just agree to hate everyone.

          • ROBTEN

            I hate lamp!

    • Nancy Cincotta

      What are you talking about? I went to meet Mo on Dec. 4th at last licks and he was nothing short of lovely.
      A gentleman and great person to meet.

  • seimiya

    blessed is mariano rivera, our lord and savior, greatest of all time, ruler of the bullpen, who strikes you out with his cutter and gets you ejected. amen.

    • Carlosologist

      That series against the Dodgers in June instantly comes to mind. Everybody on Torre’s bench was going apeshit.

      • Not Tank the Frank

        That was hilarious. Because then it just snowballed and the ump started giving him every call.

  • smurfy

    Ben, I saw an occasional two seamer this summer, aimed at the right corner, knee height, maybe 4 inches of break right. Seemed like a nice seed to plant in hitters’ minds.

  • Nathan

    I consider it an honor and privilege to see Mariano play. We’re looking at one of THE all-time greats in bsaeball here. I’ll be telling my grandkids that I got to see Mariano Rivera play in person…and they will be in awe. =D

  • vin

    I just can’t wait until he starts busting out the changeup. Rumor has it that he used in ST a couple years ago against Ryan Howard. Howard could do nothing but laugh it off because it was so unfair. Don’t recall where I read that, but would love someone to corroborate the story.

  • Jerome S

    Hey, if Jamie Moyer can throw until he’s 150 or whatever he is now, Mo can keep it going too. I don’t think it’ll be his declining skill that makes him retire but instead just needing to get out of a job he’s had for so long.

  • MikeD

    Last dance? Last dance?? He’s the new Satchel Paige. Ageless!

    I did tell my friends three years ago who were concerned with the three-year contract the Yankees gave Rivera not to worry, and that the Yankees will be faced with re-signing him yet again past 2010. I didn’t see a rapid decline for him. I think the odds are decent they will be faced once again with signing Mo to a new contract after 2012, if he wants to continue pitching. He’s not as durable as he once was, and I do expect some loss in effectivness, but not substantial enough that he can’t pitch for another three or four seasons if that’s his desire. They can probably move to one-year deals after the upcoming two-year deal expires.

  • mike c

    soria would be a good replacement. hopefully he stays in KC for the next 2 years

  • bexarama

    I am not one of those people that thinks Mariano is the most important member of the championship teams. That said, he is definitely the Yankee I feel absolutely the most privileged to have seen in my life. I’m really psyched to tell my kids that I got to see him pitch.

    • MikeD

      Andy? : -)

      • bexarama

        I love Andy and he is my favorite. That said, there is no player I enjoy watching more than Mariano Rivera. Just – he’s so, so awesome. I’m really spoiled I’ve got to see his awesomeness all these years.

        • MikeD

          I was kidding on Andy. I know he’s your favorite, but you had said someone is more important than Mo to the championships, so I was trying to get the answer. I’m guessing it’s Jeter.

          • bexarama

            Haha, yeah, probably Jeter. I don’t have a problem saying Andy was more important than pretty much anyone else in 1996, though. That’s about it – certainly wasn’t the case in 1998-2001. Honestly, maybe Bernie was the most important – at least the first four, he obviously had nothing to do with 2009.

            (FWIW, here’s PI’s WAR from 1996-2001, not that WAR is 10000000% gospel:
            1. Derek Jeter (31.7)
            2. Bernie Williams (30.2)
            3. Andy Pettitte (24.3)
            4. Mariano Rivera (22.6)
            5. David Cone (16.3)
            6. Paul O’Neill (15.0)
            7. Tino Martinez (13.1)
            8. Jorge Posada (13.0)
            8. Roger Clemens (13.0)
            10. Orlando Hernandez (11.6)

            So, yeah, Bernie and Derek are well above anyone else, as I thought. h/t to JGS who looked this up for me. :D)

  • the other Steve S,

    One of the two or three best relievers ever in terms of effectiveness and has carried it longer than anyone else ever. You won’t see his like again. Sad day when he goes.

    • Jerome S

      he’s the best reliver, without question. Who’s gonna be in front of him?

      • the other Steve S,

        Bruce Sutter had a couple years when he was magical. Paps in 06 and 07. Nobody has has a career of sustained excellence anywhere near Mo though. Hoffman has the Saves record but is not really in Mo’s class and this contract should get him over 600.

  • RL

    Have to agree, Mo will be one of the ones we speak about having seen play in the future. How someone can be so great as to through basically one pitch and dominate as he has is nearly unbelievable. However, you’ve got to admit, as Yankee fans, we’ve been treated to many great players over the past 15 years or so. Is Mo the greatest of them? Hard to say, but he’s put up a really strong case for himself!

  • Jim Walewander

    Hope this isn’t too off-topic, but has anyone published a “What If Mariano Rivera Had Remained a Starter” piece? I am really curious how the Mariano Rivera of 1996 and afterward would project in the rotation.

    I say this as a strong advocate of “The Yanks should still try Joba as a starter”. Since I hold that position, it’s led me to wonder if Mariano’s stuff would hold up three times through a line-up, how durable he would have been, how amazing (or not) he would have been.

    Anyone know if there’s a well done piece on this subject?

    Thanks for a nice post, Benjamin.

  • cheddar

    “My dad, a Yankee fan since the late 1950s, says Rivera is his all-time favorite and probably the best he’s ever seen.”

    This. I’m in my mid-40s, and the guy has been exceptional for a third of my life. At this point, when he saves a game I don’t cheer – I laugh. It’s surreal.

  • RobinsonKanoWinsFatality

    How unbelievable is it going to be when I tell my kids that a pitcher threw one pitch for 14 years and wasn’t simply the best in his era but hands down consensus the most dominant closer ever? Will they look at me like I look at my dad when I think he’s exaggerating?