The New York Yankees suffered a tremendous blow last night, as Mariano Rivera torn his ACL while shagging fly balls during batting practice, and will be lost for the rest of the season. Rivera, undoubtedly, is the greatest closer in the history of baseball, and his absence will definitely be felt by the Yankees.
Just how much does Rivera mean to the Yankees? To put it bluntly, Rivera is the most important player on the Yankees over the last 17 years. Without him, the Yankees aren’t the dominant team in baseball. In fact, you could make an argument that if Rivera was with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, the Braves would have won 5 or 6 World Series Championships, and quite possibly been the greatest team of all time.
Rivera changed baseball. His impact on the game is immense. With starting pitchers on pitch counts, therefore rarely throwing complete games, the bullpen, especially the closer has become vital. Sure there were closers back in the day. Rollie Fingers, Kent Tekulve, Bruce Sutter, Sparky Lyle, Dennis Eckersley. All of these men were fantastic in the closer’s role, and made their mark in baseball. But Rivera stands above all of them. His impact on the Yankees, helped them to to 5 World Series Titles, and 7 American League Pennants.
Rivera is the all time saves leader with 608 saves. His 2.21 ERA is the lowest ERA of all pitchers since 1995. His save conversion rate is 89.28%, the highest of all relievers by a mile. He has 9 consecutive 30 save seasons, and 14 consecutive 25 save seasons. Both records. He was the MVP of the 1999 World Series, a 12 time All-Star, 5 time winner of the Rolaids Relief Man Award. When you need a pitcher to shut down the opposition with the game on the line, you call on Rivera.
What impresses me about Rivera is his demeanour. He’s like a sniper. Deadly calm, with a killer instinct. His steely eyed stare to the plate is just as intimidating to hitters as his 96 MPH cut fastball, that comes in on you like a buzzsaw. He never looks concerned or shows any type of nerves. Calm, focused and professional, Rivera is the perfect closer. He knows how to handle the pressure of tight game situations.
To me, Rivera ranks right up there with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson as a Yankee legend. Yes he is THAT GOOD!
Every team now searches for a Rivera type closer. The one man who can handle the pressure of closing the game out. It sounds easy, but rarely it is. Rivera made it look easy for 15 years. Now the Yankees are searching for Rivera’s replacement. But there will never be another Mariano Rivera. And the Yankees could be in big trouble because of it.
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