What Went Right: Mariano Rivera

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Cross one name off the list: Freese traded to Angels
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

After 19 big league seasons, including the last 17 as closer, Mariano Rivera‘s Hall of Fame career is over. He announced his intention to retire during Spring Training, so this is no surprise. We all knew it was coming. Turns out the knee injury that wiped out almost his entire 2012 season extended his career by one year — Mo admitted he planned to retire last year before the injury. In a weird way, I’m thankful he got hurt.

As good as he was this past year, the 2013 season was actually a down year for Rivera. He blew more saves (seven) than he had in any season since 2001, including three in a row during one ugly early-August stretch. His 2.11 ERA was his highest in a full, healthy season since 2007 and second highest since 2002. His 1.05 WHIP was also his highest since 2007. Rivera allowed seven homers in 64 innings, the second highest total of his career since moving to the bullpen full-time. His 3.05 FIP was his highest since 2000.

Despite all of that, Rivera was still one of the best closers in baseball. Among relievers who saved at least 20 games, he ranked seventh in bWAR (2.4) and tenth in fWAR (1.5). That’s a down year. Forty-three-year-old Mariano Rivera coming off a serious knee injury was still better than two-thirds of everyone else out there. When the Yankees were making one last push towards the postseason, Mo threw multiple innings five times in September, more than he had in any full season since 2009. He did that despite pitching through what he called “tremendous soreness” in his arm. He left everything on the field for New York and was deservedly named the AL’s Comeback Player of the Year for his effort.

Throughout the season, teams around the league paid their respects to Rivera with gifts and donations to his charity. The Athletics gave him a surfboard, the Twins gave him a rocking chair made out of broken bats, the Red Sox gave him the never-again-needed #42 placard from the Green Monster scoreboard, the Rangers gave him cowboys boots and a hat, the Rays gave him … whatever the hell this is. During Mariano Rivera Day at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees enshrined their closer in Monument Park followed by a live rendition of Enter Sandman by Metallica. The farewell tour was one of the coolest sidebars of the season, hands down.

And yet, the thing I will remember most about the 2013 season was the goodbye. We all knew it was coming — Joe Girardi announced beforehand that Rivera would pitch in the final home game of the season no matter what — but it was still a surprise to see him exit before the end of the ninth inning. It was unscripted, it was incredibly emotional, and it was a moment Yankees fans won’t ever forget.

Rivera never did pitch in another game after that and he didn’t have to. It was the perfect send off, the perfect goodbye for a perfect Yankee. Mariano was more than the greatest reliever to ever live. He was a first class person who was kind and treated everyone with respect. He helped countless people through his charity work and always took the time to give some love back to the fans.

I am happy to have witnessed Mo’s career from start to finish and I will miss watching him pitch dearly. There is never going to be another like him. Not ever.

RAB Live Chat
Cross one name off the list: Freese traded to Angels
  • gageagainstthemachine

    “I am happy to have witnessed Mo’s career from start to finish and I will miss watching him pitch dearly. There is never going to be another like him. Not ever.”

    THIS to the end of time! Still odd to be able to say I saw Michael Jordan’s entire career and Mariano Rivera’s entire career. I feel like all other generations going forward simply can’t/won’t compete with that. Of course, I’m sure others have said that in generations before me. Whatever. We got Mo and the future won’t. Count us blessed.

  • I’m One

    Reading this made my weekend and at the same time saddened me. Even though Jeter, over the course of his career, is my favorite player, I think I’ll miss Mo more. Kind of odd.

    • RetroRob

      It’s hard to say for me until the Captain calls it a career.

      • Nathan

        Mo is my favorite Yankee though Jeter is a very close second.

        I think when Jeter retires I’ll be extra sad because it will offically be the end as Jeter is all that’s left from the dynasty years and the last of the “core four”.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I, however, am not as proud to say I saw the entirety of Hensley Meulens’s career.

    I really hope that, as 2013 becomes a more distant memory, this is what fans remember, rather than Bem Francisco and Reid Brignac. This was fucking once-in-a-lifetime shit.

    Remember the talk of replacing him in August with “Hypothetical Craig Kimbrel” on here?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Definitely never remember either Ben or Bem Francisco.

  • KeithK

    My only “regret” for Rivera’s 2013 season is that he just missed finishing with a sub 1.0 WHIP. One fewer base hit or two more outs recorded and we would have become the first guy in almost 100 years to finish his career below that level (min 1000 IP). He’s still #3 all time at 1.0003.

    We’ll miss you Mo. It’s been a pleasure.

  • Nathan

    When I first started watching baseball as a teen, Mo was already there setting up Wetteland. It’s sad that it’s basically just Jeter left from back then.

    Mo spoiled us Yankees fans with almost guaranteeing saving the game, many memories and being a class act. This past year was simply the cherry on top.

    He was easily my favorite Yankee and I’ll miss him. And now I’ll know what it’s like to have to worry once the closer comes in.

  • hey now

    I’ve thought about getting a tattoo of Mo at the moment he’s delivering a pitch.

    My wife says people will think I’m nuts, but she knows I don’t give a rat’s ass what people think. I’ll probably get it.

  • Darren

    What an amazing year. At his age, after the injury to still be elite. And what’s more amazing is that it really wasn’t surprising, knoiwng Mo.

    The “fans” who were calling for his head in August should be ashamed of themselves.

  • RetroRob

    I have three memories of Mo at the start.

    I remember clearly watching him start his first MLB game against the Angels in ’95. His minor league numbers were intriguing, but I knew the rep from the scouting community was he didn’t have enough to be a prospect of any note, perhaps a bullpen arm to absorb innings, but certainly not shut-down closer material, let alone a MLB starter. I had hoped the buzz was wrong, so I was disappointed when the Angels slapped him around seemingly confirming the reports.

    I remember his recall and the July 4th game against the White Sox, and how he was supposed to be greatly improved. I doubted it. How much could he change in a few weeks? What would be different for a pitcher already in his mid-20s? As much as I hoped the reports would be wrong when he first was called up, now I was on the opposite side, doubting the recent reports. Wow. I was wrong. Different pitcher. Happy Birthday, Boss. He got the best present possible, and none knew it at the time. I wanted to see more, but though most of July and August his appearances became less frequent. Never dominant as we saw against the White Sox, but there was something there that wasn’t there in May. That extra velocity.

    I remember game five of the ALDS. Cone struggled late and I was surprised with the season on the line Showalter called in Rivera. It really was out of necessity. Mo struck out the batter, yet what I remember was his demeanor. In the highest-of-pressure situations, he seemed like the veteran, in control. We’d end up seeing that for the eighteen seasons. I remember hoping the Yankees give him a chance to be the set-up man the next season, which of course they did. They saw what we saw. It wasn’t just what was in his arm, it what was inside.

    I missed most of the final farewell tour as I was out of the country, but watched as much as I could from afar.

    Great 19 seasons of memories.

  • Farewell Mo

    I gotta say the coolest moment of 2013 was watching Metallic play “Enter Sandman” live as Mariano walked to the mound that last home game of the season.

  • I’m a looser baby so why don’t you kill me?

    Fuck damn. For a franchise whose pantheon of chilling, awesome, incredible, unforgettable moments is chockablock, the scene of Andy, Jeter, and Mo on the mound zooms right to the short list of greatest ever.

  • EndlessJose

    You forgot to put that only two of those 7 blown saves were walkoffs on days that he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

    Even those 2004 blownsaves weren’t walkoffs and he always gives his team then hence to win.