Breaking News: Mariano Still The Greatest

Friday Open Thread
YES, DirecTV stave off blackout for now
Last name: Ever, first name: Greatest. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Opening Day has come and gone and there’s lots of serious baseball in front of us. It goes without saying the the Yankees have a terrible team that will in no way make the playoffs and will certainly finish in last place and go under .500, whereas everyone else will have a surging year. Wait, sorry, I was just reading Keith Olbermann’s blog again. Whoops. Anyway, Thursday’s win was, as Mike put it back then, textbook: score runs, have good pitching, hand it over to the shutdown bullpen. While the amazingness of the bullpen may have only gone up over the offseason (despite the price tag involved), there’s one part of that pen that’s been around for a while now. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell this audience who.

Mike posted this graph on Thursday, but in baseball you have to use both a combination of your eyes and the numbers to get a complete feel of the team. This Opening Day is just another example on the 15-year pile of examples of why the Greatest Ever’s name stretches across the top of that graph and no one else can get a lock on the closer role quite like the Yankees. Relievers are volatile creatures, as we all know, and it’s weekends like these where we remember that most closers are just relievers who were good enough last year to close the ninth this year.

Dan Bard, of the Red Sox, was the go-to closer in case of continued meltdown by Jonathan Papelbon. Bard was extremely good in 2010, making 73 appearances and posting a 1.93 ERA, a 3.37 FIP, and a K/9 over 9. Not bad for a 26-year-old, and certainly deserving of a shot at keeping Opening Day tied, right? Bard’s line from yesterday looks something like this: .2 IP, 4R, 4ER, 1BB, 1K. He took the loss in the top of the ninth. Somewhere, Papelbon was feeling just a tiny bit more secure in his job. Or let’s look at John Axford, who inherited the closer roll from Trevor Hoffman: last year, he picked up the job early due to Hoffman’s inability to not blow a game, and showed he deserved it with ERA of 2.48, a FIP of 2.14, and strike out to walk ratio pushing three – with almost 12 K/9. In 2010, he picked up 24 saves in 58 IP. In 2011, he’s already managed to blow his first save of the year, giving up a 3-run last-licks home run to Ramon Hernandez and taking Edison Volquez off the hook for the three homers he himself allowed. Then there’s Brandon Lyon, in the second year of his three-year contract (what have we said about multiyear contracts for relievers?) starting the Astros off to another cellar-dwelling year. He helped out the Phillies’ push to 162-0 by getting only one out and allowing six singles, giving up the game-winner to John Mayberry Jr.

While all these other guys were running around blowing games for their teams, our guy, the guy, if I may, is coming in and getting it done. Thursday was a perfect Mariano performance, a 1-2-3 topped with strikeout looking of Alex Avila. Yes, I know there’s some obvious narrative bias going on here. Yes, I know it’s one save out of what will be many. Yes, I know that this is only one game out of 162, most of which have yet to be played. Yes, I know Mo will almost certainly blow a save at some point during the year even if I’m loathe to admit it. Yes, I know the fact that Mariano Rivera is amazing isn’t breaking news. But there’s a difference between knowing how amazing Rivera is (among other things, he’s all-time ERA+ leader with 205), and having your belief re-affirmed for yet another year. While other teams’ closers melt down, Mo’s presence effectively ends the game in the 8th. While other teams’ rotate through closers, Rivera is the go-to guy every year for the Bombers, and every year he shows everyone – including the fans – why he’s the greatest of all time.

And come on, who wants to say they blew the save on Opening Day?

Friday Open Thread
YES, DirecTV stave off blackout for now
  • Hannibal Lectus

    Thanks for the save on this one.
    Out of TP, I printed out this article and used it.

    • Guest

      You’re at the wrong blog. Go away.

    • Stephen Rhoads

      Smart. Whenever I’m out of TP and I have to use paper I like to get ink all over it FIRST. Then I’m good to go. Great minds think alike.

    • steve (different one)


    • First time lawng time

      What’s wrong with the article? Why don’t you like it?

  • CS Yankee


    Seems like a few trolls have hit your work hard. IMHO, this is your best stuff to date…I like the ERA+ and the mingle of other RP, but can’t one single article be written about this historic bullpen without the mention of money? Let the non-yankee writers beat that to death and stay focus on the stats, situations, etc.

    • CS Yankee

      I like your tag for the awesome picture above.

  • Guest

    The thing I love about Mo, that I will always remember, is how he handle defeat.

    And I’m not talking kinda sorta defeat. I’m talking crushing Mitch Williams, Ralph Branca, BH Kim ruin your career type defeat.

    1997 Division Series.
    2001 World Series.
    2004 ALCS.

    All crushing defeats. My most painful moments as a sports fan (well the 1997 division series wasn’t that bad) and Mo was at the center of it all. As bad as I felt, at least I wasn’t the one who the ball.

    And how did he react, he got back up, brushed himself off, and moved forward. No counter-productive self-loathing, no “what if?” or “woe is me.” Just moved forward. On to the next one.

    Kipling must have met Mo before he wrote “If.” More so than any other athlete I have ever seen, he reacts to both triumph and disaster with the same level of grace, dignity, and steely confidence. Win or lose, on to the next one.

    • boogie down

      I heard of a story where Mo was actually thankful that he lost Game 7 in ’01 because, had they won, Ruben Rivera would have been on a plane that wound up crashing, killing all those on-board. I’m not sure of the exact details (i.e. the date and destination of the flight), but I do recall Mo saying he was glad he lost the game because, in the end, while he lost a game, he kept a friend/cousin.

      • rb

        Half right. Enrique Wilson would have been on flight 587, which crashed in Queens.

        • steve (different one)

          Ruben Rivera, Juan Rivera, Enrique Wilson, what’s the difference?

          /Michael Kay

  • Tank the Frank

    Does Keith Olbermann…smoke crack watch baseball?

  • Bob Stone

    Great post – Keep up the good work.

  • Tom Gaffney

    Actually, if there’s a time when Mariano the Great struggles, it’s typically now When he is settling in (or during a middle late season dead arm period). i think in 07 or 08 he posted a 10+ ERA in March/April. Even he is mortal – just less so than the rest of us.

    • Bob Stone

      As Hannah points out, this whole discussion is based on only ONE appearance. Talk about small sample size.

      Despite that fact, I believe Mariano has at last one more year as THE GREATEST.

  • thurdonpaul

    very good article, thank you !

  • Steve H

    It’s funny you mention Bard as a closer in waiting to replace Papelbon, who was Rivera for 4 years. Yet, at just 29 years old his stuff has slipped considerably and he’s gone from lights out to just a good closer. How Mo hasn’t slipped is insane. There have been a ton of closers to put together a 2-3 stretch of greatness, but they always fall back. Somehow Mo hasn’t. Seeing Papelbon decline at 29 while Mo still dominates into his 40’s is just awesome.

    • Guest

      Wow, all kinds of this. The list of “next big things” that have come on gone while Mo keeps trucking along is quite extensive.

      It just goes to show, if there is one thing you should ask G-d for as pitcher, it would be the ability to locate just one pitch exactly where you want it, time after time.

      • Angryankee

        Agreed, I watched him in spring, he was just nonchalant about every outing and torching batters… Quick innings, bat boys retrieving bat pieces…

    • Bob Stone


  • bexarama
    • Bob Stone

      Great link Bex. Torre was famous for blowing out the arms of pitchers he liked through over use. Look at Scott Proctor as an example. Joe probably took a year off Mo’s incredible longevity.

      But Mo is so incerdible that he even outlasted Torre. That’s really accomplishing something in itself.

    • Zack

      2nd straight debacle vs. Boston proves Yankee closer is finished


  • kosmo

    Did Trevor Hoffman retire ? I think he did ???

    This season Rivera will surpass Hoffman in games finished.
    Rivera has the lowest ERA post World War 2-2.23
    5th alltime 6.93 hits per 9 innings.
    Ranks 3rd alltime walks and hits per 9 – 1.00
    1st alltime adjusted ERA – 205
    WPA 6th alltime 50.78 1st among relievers.
    of course 2nd in saves and will soon eclipse Hoffman´s total.
    Postseason totals Rivera is somewhere in the stratosphere .

    • Bob Stone

      The most amazing thing is that he is still lights out at his age.

      • tom

        Mo has maintained his peak value for, essentially, his entire career. How many other players in history can make that claim (without, say, Bonds-ian assistance)?

        • Bob Stone

          LoL – exactly.

  • CMP

    This post is as original as saying the sky is blue. Not to be rude but at least try to put some thought into it.

  • cano is the bro

    haha im loving that picture caption