The Mariano Rivera Appreciation Thread

Mariano makes history as Yanks win again
Yanks get six vs. Braves, DC trip in 2012

Fifteen years, three months, and 28 days after he recorded career save number one, Mariano Rivera notched career save number 600 last night. It came with very little fanfare given the historical significance, as he became just the second man in history to compile that many saves. An individual save, or even a collection of saves over the course of a season is generally meaningless, but racking up 600 of them over a 16-year career indicates durability and longevity in a job known for the exactly opposite. Of course, there’s a chance that all of this might not have been.

It seems like every all-time great has an “almost traded” story, and Rivera is no different. He has several, in fact. The Yankees tried to swap him for David Wells in 1995, and two years later they were willing to put him in packages for Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Mo already had one year of closing under his belt by the time the last two deals were discussed, and the team’s plan was to acquire a high-end starter and sign a free agent like Roberto Hernandez to close. Even before the trade talk, Rivera successfully came back from major elbow surgery, a Tommy John surgery-like procedure that reinforced the elbow ligament. That’s an obstacle we often understate.

Criminally underutilized by Buck Showalter in the 1995 ALDS, Joe Torre took the reigns the following year and used Rivera in a way that would have caused most men to crumbled. Mo threw 107.2 IP over 61 relief appearances in 1996, a workload completely unheard of these days, but he excelled. A 2.09 ERA and a career high 10.9 K/9 earned Rivera both Cy Young and MVP votes (finished third for the former, 12th for the latter). The Yankees went on to win the World Series with Rivera’s help, then installed him as their closer the next year.

That first year in the ninth inning went very well (1.88 ERA), but a blown save (in the eighth inning) of Game Four of the ALDS ended his season on a sour note. As silly as it sounds now, that homerun by Sandy Alomar had people wondering if a quiet fisherman from Panama was a viable closer for a perennial contender. Rivera proved all the doubters wrong in subsequent years, and his postseason track record is the stuff of legend: 139.2 IP and a 0.71 ERA. He’s allowed four postseason runs in the last nine years.

Of course, Mo has had some pretty high profile blow-ups as well. Years after the Alomar homer, he blew the save and took the loss in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series, in part because of his own defensive miscue on a would-be sacrifice bunt. Ironically, the finishing hit was nothing more than a weak little broken bat looper, one of Rivera’s trademarks. He also blew back-to-back saves in the 2004 ALCS. When you make that many appearances in the playoffs, slip-ups are bound to happen, but thankfully Mo’s slip-ups have happened with great irregularity.

“I think people will realize it when he’s no longer here,” said Derek Jeter after last night’s game, speaking about how important Rivera is (and has been) to the Yankees. “Yankee fans have been spoiled, baseball fans watching him, us as teammates. You don’t see this. We don’t take him for granted, but I think a lot of people may.”

Whether you realize it or not, we’re all part of the group that takes Rivera for granted. It’s human nature, he’s been so automatic for so long that we can’t help but expect greatness. That’s why when he goes through his annual struggles in April and August, people are quick to question his greatness or even call him finished. At 42 years young, Mo is as dominant as ever. His strikeout rate is close to a whiff per inning (8.5 K/9) after a drop last year, and his walk rate is the second lowest of his entire career (1.1 BB/3). With 3.0 bWAR to his credit, he’s already surpassed last year’s value (2.9) and figures to pass 2009’s value (3.1) before the end of the season.

The Yankees are close to clinching yet another playoff berth, and once the postseason begins, they’ll have one advantage over any team they face, the one advantage they’ve had for the last decade and a half. Rivera is unmatched in the ninth inning and has been for basically his entire career. As unfair as it seems, we expect greatness from Mariano, but only because he’s delivered time and time again. Six hundred saves is a nice round number, but he didn’t need that milestone to validate his greatness.

Mariano makes history as Yanks win again
Yanks get six vs. Braves, DC trip in 2012
  • MannyGeee

    Mo’s alright and all, but he should really fist-pump and celebrate more.


    • Benjamin Kabak

      I’m waiting for the Mariano Rivera dance, a thing that can rival Jose Valverde’s twitchy thing he does after he nails down a 3-run lead against the 7-8-9 hitters on the Twins.

      • Pete

        We should at least get that for the record-breaker, no?

      • Stratman9652

        Hey Mo, why don’t YOU have a dance?

  • Benjamin Kabak

    Trading Mariano for Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez represents a conundrum. On the one hand, those two are far more valuable than a closer and would have been amazing additions to some Yankee clubs that needed pitching. On the other hand, Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee to watch since 1996, and I have a strong emotional attachment to him. So there’s that.

    Anyway, here’sa fun little thing via Twitter:

    When Rivera recorded his first save, on May 17 1996 gas was $1.30. The most popular song in the United States was “The Macarena.”

    • JP

      I know I’m wandering into a minefield in daring to argue about the value of a closer versus a starter to the modern generation of Sabermetric fans, but…..

      I think you can argue pretty effectively that having Mo for his career is pretty comparable in value to having either RJ or Pedro for their entire careers.

      Obviously, the argument has to extend beyond WAR and similar numbers. The WAR gap is closed somewhat by the magnification of significance of the high leverage innings, and the higher leverage such innings have in playoff baseball. That still wouldn’t close the WAR gap completely.

      But there is “off balance sheet” value to Rivera as well, that far exceeds that of either of the other two pitchers.

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        The only problem I can see with the leverage argument is there’s no proof(either way) that pitchers or hitters perform differently in either high or low leverage situations. So it’s a fantastic narrative and is a fun way to look at the game(WPA graphs make me smile) but I’m not sure you could necessarily use it to talk about value.

      • Now Batting

        I love Mo.

        But I would take the careers of Pedro or RJ over him in a heartbeat.

        • Cris Pengiuci

          However, we’re not talking about the entire career of either. We’re talking a portion of it (and we had a portion of RJ). This is a really difficult comparison. All I can say is that I have thoroughly enjoyed Mo’s entire career.

    • Dan

      Rivera has been one of my favorite Yankees as well, but it is interesting to think about what might have happened had the Yankees made one of those trades. Maybe the Yankees win the 2001 World Series since the Diamondbacks probably would not have had Johnson, or maybe the Red Sox would not have won the 2004 ALCS and World Series without Pedro. Granted its all speculation, and maybe trading Rivera for one of them would have cost the Yankees at least one of their World Series.

      • Kevin

        That’s up in the air. Johnson was a free agent when he signed and there is nothing to say he would have stayed.

  • Nuke Ladoosh

    I bowed (out of reverence)

    • Woodrow Sweats

      it’s hard to read this article with my eyes averted in reverence…

  • Plinko Chips


  • Yankeegirl49

    I have said it before and it shall be said again…I do NOT want to imagine life without Mo!

    • Rich in NJ

      Neither does Girardi (or did Torre). He reduces the level of difficulty of managing a game by several orders of magnitude.

  • B-Rando


    • DCBX

      Though you gotta love Goose saying that him and Eck coulda made 600 if they pitched during the same era. Possibly true in both cases.

      I knew he was special when watching that 10K/5IP start in 1995, but damn, who knew just how special??? Hats off to the best.

      • B-Rando

        I think the postseason performance will be what sets him apart from everyone else in the future. I don’t know how feasible it is for anyone to have that kind of sustained success at the highest level of competition in their respective sport.

        • jsbrendog

          problem is no one else in the elite category really had the opportunities because they didnt play in the wildcard era of expanded playoff series. too hard to compare

          • B-Rando

            For me, I don’t care. Mariano played for the Yankees, and the situations that came along with that he played through at an elite level. I don’t think you need a comparison to label him as elite at that level. The pitching metrics alone, had they occurred during the regular season are far above elite. Add in the fact that they occurred against the best teams with the highest stakes, and it only enhances that view.

            Just my opinion on the matter.

          • MannyGeee

            also talking about an era where pitchers went the distance more often. Apples and kiwis.

            • JimIsBored (Jim S)

              I love kiwis.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, very hard to compare across eras… especially for a role that’s evolved so much over time.

  • Monteroisdinero

    A lot of baseballs have been signed at that ST “autograph fence”. I’ve had a few.

  • Chris

    This might go down as one of those records that may never be broken…

  • Reg

    Is this achievement overlooked due to the fact that he was expected to break the saves record throughout his career? In any case he’s a class act and an incredible athlete.

  • Chris

    “once the postseason begins, they’ll have one advantage over any team they face, the one advantage they’ve had for the last decade and a half. Rivera is unmatched in the ninth inning and has been for basically his entire career.”

    -This is why I put him over Jeter in my list of greatest Yankees. When was the last time Jeter was a trump card to anything? Rivera actually changes the way games are/were managed. He is one of the greatest players of all time.

    • MannyGeee

      I agree. of all the active ‘Yankee Legends’, which of them would you trust the most in a ‘clutch’ situation in the playoffs?

    • Yankee Fan 1

      I love Mariano to death. But ranking him over a HOF SS is just silly. It’s just the nature of the position. I agree that he has been our “secret weapon” in the post season. But as for overall body of work? No way.

      • Esteban

        I agree that Jeter has been more valuable overall, no doubt, but Mariano relative greatness compared to other closers is more than Jeter’s relative greatness to other SS. Either way, I’m happy they were both on the Yankees.

  • Mickey Scheister

    …but he didn’t need that milestone to validate his greatness.
    Amen! For 15 straight seasons, nobody in MLB saved it, quite like Mo saved it, if they saved it, he saved it before. Got rings from it, then he saved it some more. The Hova of the Diamond, Mo.

  • Bronx Byte

    Certain records will never be broken. Mariano’s record will be secure not to mention how many saves he’s had in postseason games.

  • Pounder

    Just read Lupica in the DN,and while praising Mo he could not resist from taking some sly shots at him.He says the bloop single Gonzales beat him with was the greatest WS moment,better than Mazeroski in ’60,he buried that tidbit and another not worth mentioning at the tail end of his article before he signed off favorably.He can’t resist spewing his bile on the Yanks.Red Sox and Met fan,he should not be writing for a NY paper.

    • Kevin

      There’s a reason he doesn’t allow comments on his columns. He couldn’t handle the stuff that would rightfully be tossed his way.

  • Ed

    Obviously, the game 4 blown save in the 2004 ALCS was completely on Mariano (seeing eye singles are still hits). However, I refuse to blame him for the game 5 one. He was forced to come in and clean up Tom Gordon’s mess (the one he left on the field, not the one he left in the bullpen), and “blew” the save by allowing a sacrifice fly. I still hate that Gordon got credit for a hold in that situation, whereas Mariano gets a blown save. What a joke.

  • Paul Proteus

    As was displayed last Sunday in Indianapolis, the true value of a player is not fully known until that player is gone. When Mo retires it will become clear to everyone how good we had since 96 and the HOF will skip the 5 year eligibility window and admit Mo on the first ballot the year after he retires.

    • JT

      but but but, a closer has less value than a #5 starter

      • JimIsBored (Jim S)

        A closer, generally speaking, has less value than a good #5 starter.

        But Mariano has been the exception to basically every rule, both SABR-y and old-timey.

        As much as I wish I could see him play forever, I hope he leaves before his decline. I don’t want any tainted memories(not that they’d be overwhelming by any stretch).

        • CP

          A closer, generally speaking, has less value than a good #5 starter.

          I would guess (without actually checking) that no more than 1 or 2 teams in baseball have 5 starters that are more valuable than their best reliever. Typically, a teams best reliever will slot in as the 3rd or 4th most valuable pitcher on the team.

          • JimIsBored (Jim S)

            Fair enough, I should have done a bit of research first.

            That being said, I think it speaks to teams’ lack of optimal pitching staff organization more than anything else.

            • Ted Nelson

              Optimal pitching staff organization??? I think it speaks to relievers pitching valuable innings and giving strong performances in short outings.

              • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                Not what I meant at all. And please, enough with your “level of disbelief question marks” I didn’t say anything worthy of that and already I don’t want to respond to you.

                First, valuable innings have zero effect on WAR. Leverage is not included in the calculation.

                Secondly, ff a team were to actually put it’s 5 best pitchers in the rotation, where they would pitch the most innings, the WAR #s would reflect that. IMO That would be optimal use of a staff. Of course circumstances mean this doesn’t always happen, whether it’s because you have pitchers who pitch well in short bursts but don’t have endurance, or pitchers who have a lot of good pitches but nothing overwhelming which suits them better for a rotation spot.

                This whole argument is why the Joba situation caused so much ruckus.

                • Ted Nelson

                  Please, enough with your telling me how to comment. I’ll comment how I like, and if you don’t feel like responding… it’s really simple: don’t.

                  And enough with your condescending attitude in general.

                  I understand how WAR is calculated, which is why I specifically say below that there is an argument WAR undervalues relievers. By “valuable innings” I meant that a reliever will pitch 60, 70, 80, 90 innings in a season. That’s a good chunk even before weighting leverage.

                  I understood perfectly well what you meant by “optimal pitching staff organization,” and it caused a level of disbelief that led me to put three ?s. Why? Because relievers and starters overlap in many cases, but in many other cases there are two different skill sets. Relievers tend to use two pitches and come in for short-bursts of an inning or so. Starters tend to see a line-up several times if they have success, and it is unusual for a starter to effectively get through a line-up several times with only two pitches. Some guys who are successful relievers would not necessarily have the same success as starters.

                  So, in many cases it is not actually optimal to put your best reliever in the rotation on their performance alone. That’s before we even get into the value of having a reliever impact the outcome of 60 or 70 games rather than 30 or 35.

                  • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                    You are an ass. I’m done responding to you, as so many other RAB’ers have realized was the smart thing to do.

                    tl;dr, good day.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      I’m an ass, and you’re the one condescendingly telling me how I should and shouldn’t comment? Good one.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      And if you really want to talk about being an ass… why bring up what other commenters do or don’t do? I can link over a dozen comments from over a dozen commenters saying they respect my comments or even that they feel I am among the strongest commenters on here. I have not seen one person saying that about you. Stop trying to create an imaginary consensus, ass.

                    • Benjamin Kabak

                      Guys, please no nasty name-calling. Disagree respectfully.

                    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                      You’re right Ben, I overreacted, my apologies.

                      Ted, you’re a smart guy who writes well and has a lot of good ideas. I’ll be happy to sit on the sidelines from here on out when you’re a part of the discussion.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      I did not need to react the way I did, but there was no need to Jim to make it a personal thing. I disagreed with his comments (there is a contradiction inherent even in the explanation Jim gives for his own stance: optimal allocation of pitchers would lead to starters having higher WAR than relievers, but actually a lot of those relievers wouldn’t be optimal as starters so they belong in the bullpen where they are out-WARing starters…), and he felt the need to disagree with my commenting style and call me an “ass” rather than account for the contradiction in his argument. There’s no need for that at all on an anonymous blog.

                • Mickey Mantle’s Outstanding Experience

                  First, valuable innings have zero effect on WAR. Leverage is not included in the calculation.

                  That is completely untrue.

          • Ted Nelson

            This seems to be pretty true (without checking), and there’s also an argument that WAR doesn’t even properly account for the value of a reliever.

            • JimIsBored (Jim S)

              Or that no proof has ever been provided that higher leverage innings are any more or less difficult to pitch than low leverage innings.

              There may be an argument, but I haven’t seen one I believe yet.

              • Ted Nelson

                Instead you believe that it would be “optimal” for good relievers to just be moved into the rotation, and they will maintain their same rate performance going through a line-up several times? Great for you.

                • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                  Yup. That’s what I said. Glad we cleared that up.

                • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                  And just for the record, as proof that you didn’t read shit about what I wrote:

                  “Of course circumstances mean this doesn’t always happen, whether it’s because you have pitchers who pitch well in short bursts but don’t have endurance, or pitchers who have a lot of good pitches but nothing overwhelming which suits them better for a rotation spot.”

                  –me, like 3 comments up.

                  Seriously man.

                  • Ted Nelson

                    For the record: you said that and still claim that with “optimal pitching staff organization” the highest WARs would belong to starters. Then when asked what the hell you were talking about you said making relievers starters, but maybe not. You fucking idiot. What you quote above directly contradicts your original theory.

                    • JimIsBored (Jim S)


                    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                      Do you disagree that an optimal rotation would have its 5 starters with the 5 highest pitching WAR on the team?

                      That’s really all I’m trying to say here. It’s possible I’m wrong, but no one has run any studies to prove it either way. I just get frustrated when you act like I’m making some be-all and end-all statement, I’m just throwing out ideas. Just an opinion, not fact.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      “Do you disagree that an optimal rotation would have its 5 starters with the 5 highest pitching WAR on the team?”

                      Your original point was that the 5 highest weren’t starters because the allocation wasn’t optimal, which is distinct from that point.

                      In terms of the original point I disagree in terms of the practicality of moving relievers into the starting rotation and having them succeed at a high rate.

                      In terms of the new point about what would be the optimal team… Probably not. You don’t need 5 starters in the playoffs. You could move your 5th starter to a closer role I suppose, but I’d rather have a really lights out closer and set-up man with 3 or 4 top starters I’d say.

                      Fair enough. A lot of comments on here (not just from you at all) come across to me as be all and end all statements, and I personally wish people would be more clear about the degree of certainty they mean to express in their comments (because a lot of people argue points as if they are certain, even if they are uncertain or blatantly wrong). I should also stop assuming people are 100% certain and being so oppositional.

                    • V

                      Gawd, Jim, you -are- an ass.

                    • JimIsBored (Jim S)

                      I would say there are probably cases where the allocation of pitchers isn’t optimal, but that’s team dependent, more than likely.

                      Definitely didn’t mean to generalize across all of baseball, which I did.

                      I also realized after posting that yeah, your point about the 4 vs 5 starters definitely affects things, and there is something to be said for having a full-time closer instead of making a post-season transition.

                      I’ll try to be more clear about when I’m just throwing opinions out there vs making points that I want to defend. I hadn’t intended on defending this one, and I’m not sure why I started.

                      Especially since all I really know is that Mo is awesome and rooting for him has been a pleasure.

                    • Ted Nelson

                      Sorry for my role in escalating the situation.

                    • Mickey Mantle’s Outstanding Experience

                      Do you disagree that an optimal rotation would have its 5 starters with the 5 highest pitching WAR on the team?

                      I would disagree that that’s realistic. There aren’t enough good starters to have your #5 be better than your best reliever (barring something crazy like a downright awful bullpen or if Philly signed CC next year and Oswalt became a 5).

                      Unless you’re suggesting that if a reliever is better than your 5, they should switch roles. Which is fine, in theory, but one of the main reasons that a lot of relievers are relievers is that they can’t handle a starter’s workload.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t think many people doubted how good Peyton Manning is before last Sunday… One loss doesn’t show his value at all. His performance does. If Kerry Collins and the Colts beat the Texans last Sunday that would not have impacted Peyton Manning’s career performance or value.

  • Beantown Bombers Fan

    It is criminal how this man has been overlooked for post-season awards. 2005 Cy Young is the most glaring example I can think of.

  • Frank

    Very nice article about Mo by Verducci on the SI website.

  • MattG

    We need another stat. Saves suck.

    RAB, take the lead on this. It has to be simple, definable, and most importantly, mean something significant. I would say pitcher WPA would be part of it, but that’s probably already too complicated.

    If you invent this stat, you will finally have the fame you so crave.

    • mattdamonwayans

      Fangraphs has Shutdown/Meltdowns which is a neat way to look at relievers.

  • A.D.

    Given that the Yanks won a couple world series it after the potential Big Unit trade, they obviously didn’t need him, but a rotation of Unit, Pettitte, Cone, and Wells would have been ridiculous

  • joek

    the morons over at NESPN had to take away from mo moment the headline on a marchand article about mo’s 600th includes wakefields 200th win even thou the article says nothing about it

    • MannyGeee

      well in their defense, Mo only took like one day to overcome 599. Wakefield has been sitting on 199 for a minute!

      longer wait = better story.


    • Mike M

      It’s unreal how the picture on the ESPN homepage is Wakefield and not Mo. Rediculous

      • vin

        In fairness, only 111 pitchers have recorded 200 wins.

        It’s funny, the pitcher’s wins stats makes saves look like wOBA or WAR.

  • CBean

    I will bawl my eyes out when Mo finally retires. He’s been a gift to us and I’ll miss hearing the opening strains of Enter Sandman and knowing everything would be okay. Mo was coming out.

  • Andrew J.

    You have to take into account how high leverage these innings are by Mo. You can give up a run in the 1st inning as a starter because you have time to get your act together; 9th inning, up one run, you have to start pitching nigh near perfectly from the get go. And he has done so consistently for 15-odd years. They are all high pressure situations he’s in, never moreso than the playoffs.
    A joy and privilege to have him.

  • vin

    I’m still amazed how great he was as a 38 year old in ’08. 5.2 h/9, 0.8 bb/9 and 9.8 k/9. That’s a 0.665 WHIP. Unreal… definitely the highlight of that season.

    As great as Pedro and Randy where (and they were utterly spectacular), I’m glad Mo never got dealt. Of course that’s easy to say when you know the team won 5 rings with him. Watching Mo 3 or 4 times a week has been a pleasure, and his playoff performances have been off the charts.

  • Jesse

    Put him in the HOF right now please.

  • gehrig27

    At least for today, you should change your name to “rivera veblues…”

    • CS Yankee

      I think you meant…”Rivera venue Blues”

  • Jesse

    Can anyone make a reasonable argument that Rivera is the greatest pitcher to ever pick up a baseball? Sure he’s a closer and pitches 1 inning at a time, 2 max, but why not? Or is it just the fact he’s a closer thus that destroys the argument?

    • CS Yankee

      My thoughts are that;

      1) Riveria is the most desired matchup versus any one (to 5) hitters in baseball history. Meaning that I would rather have him face any 3/4/5 batters in any era or team created.

      2) Riveria isn’t the best pitcher to ever pick up a baseball and can never be considered for that as he is above any peer (closer/set-up) but is not a starter. a starter is expected to do it to the same batters three times an outing.

      Over the last 15-20 years closers have been mostly three out guys and the Goose’s complain that they could have done that is total BS & just being jealous. Goose clearly had tougher years (more IP) than today’s guys however he was a freak (big powerful dude), Mo is an athlete and a freak (small powerful gent).

  • Marsha

    Can Mo break the record at Tuesday’s game please? I have tix.

  • Monteroisdinero

    As far as dominance in baseball goes, I have a 5 year headstart on Mo.

    Jesus Montero

    • CS Yankee

      Montero might be dinero, but your love for him in bringing him into almost every comment is weirdo.

      You may need to realize this or change your handle to “Monteroisdineroweirdo”.

      • Monteroisdinero

        What about Golson? :-)

  • Monteroisdinero

    Is RAB coming up with a Mo-602 shirt or are the Yanks coming up with something to market along the lines of DJ3K?

    • Pete

      Screw 602 – start printing the Mo700 shirts. :)

  • YanksFanStuckInLA

    From 1996 to yesterday, Mo has saved 600 of the Yanks 1550 wins in that span. That’s an incredible ~39%! Simply astounding.

  • tommy cassella

    i finally did it, when the yanks were walking off the field for the 4th time on this road trip, i threw my remote through my see, from my point of view,walking off the field is the most humiliating thing in all of sports and the yanks have done it four times on this road trip alone. the yanks owe me a new television or should say boone logan owes me a new t.v. he is supposed to be a specialist against left-handed batters but it seems like lefties love batting against him .

  • tommy cassella

    how do you spell mariano-CLASS.

  • tommy cassella

    i can’t help it,but i keep thinking of the 1964 phils who needed just one win with ten to go and they could’nt buy a win and were over-taken by the cards, who beat the yanks in the world series.