In the next few weeks, Mariano Rivera will break the all-time saves record. We’ll make a big deal of it and so will the other members of the Yankees. Rivera will humbly accept all the congratulations and be thankful for his health and his great teammates that allowed him to rack up this many saves. He’ll be modest, but the modesty will not be false.
While we can whine about the save rule/stat and how it’s crude at best and misleading at worst, Rivera’s completion of this this feat is just a perfect blend of personal and collective greatness. Looking at Mo’s pages on baseball reference or FanGraphs is an act of baseball porn. That’s where we see the personal achievements come to light. In a full season as a reliever, he’s had an ERA over 2.85 just once. He hasn’t had a FIP in the 3′s since 2000. He’s been written off about once or twice a year every year, and he’s still there. We’re truly lucky to have watched him pitch for our favorite team for this long.
The save may be a stat assigned to one pitcher, but we must remember that it reflects a team accomplishment. If the team isn’t winning, there is no save. It should come as no surprise, then, that the closer for the team that’s been one of the best for his entire career is about to grab an all time record. Like Rivera has been for all of his career, this record is about the team first. The 600+ times that Rivera has walked towards the plate to shake the catcher’s hand indicate a Yankee victory.
I find it hard to really sum up what I think about Mo because his greatness is a relatively unique thing. We can recognize what great position players and starters do because there’s always a point of comparison. With relievers, Mariano Rivera is the gold standard and there is nothing else even remotely close. Though we could argue that he’s been overrated at times, I think it will take a bit of time after his retirement for his legacy to sink in. Relievers do not last that long; they’re not supposed to. Regardless of that, Rivera has done it and has given us something constant to look to in a sport that is about anything but constancy.
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