July 17, 2006

A run for the ages: Ten years ago, Bill Clinton was President of the US, cell phones were in their early stages of being discussed, Ken Caminiti was having an MVP season and a little known reliever for the New York Yankees was undergoing his tutalage to become one of the greatest closers EVER. A salute to Mariano Rivera, perhaps one of the best at his craft ever.

posted by chemwizBsquared to baseball at 06:13 PM - 21 comments

Yankee fans, arguably the most spoiled of all spoiled team-fans, are so largely because of this guy. Having had the pleasure of watching him through his career, seeing him blow a save is a shock to the system, like turning on your faucet and having no water come, or picking up your phone and having no dial tone. It's stunning, and it makes you angrier than you should be because you are totally operating under an assumption of what will happen. The funny thing about closers in general is that it seems the better they are, the more they are defined by their failures. The article about him doesn't mention any particular one of his 400 regular season or even his 34 post-season saves (although it admittedly remembers his confrontation with Ryan Klesko in '99). It does, though, recall his missteps against the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Indians. It's pretty much the same with Eck (Kirk Gibson) and Sutter (Ryne Sandberg).

posted by BullpenPro at 07:52 PM on July 17, 2006

Cell phones were in the early stages of "being discussed"? Dude, go watch early X-Files from 1993-94... People have been using cell phones since the 80's. (Those big honking brick type things that look so hilarious now.)

posted by Drood at 08:24 PM on July 17, 2006

As you can probably tell from my name i am a Yankees fan. Having said that i would agree that my opions might not always be objectional but i think without a doubt Mariano Rivera is one of the best closers of all time, will make first hall of fame ballot and should have his number retired. Also, not to take anything away from Mo but he is competing with less guys than any other position for the top spot of all time. That is because (and ppl seem to 4get this) closers weren't always around. the closer idea was basically thought up in the 50s and 60s and as a result there are less noteable closers in history than most position besides mabye middle relief/long relief

posted by bronxbomber at 09:09 PM on July 17, 2006

Rivera is an easy choice to make the hall of fame: 1) Numbers: 400 saves 2) Results: 197 ERA+ 3) Glory: 4 rings 4) Persona: respected 5) Media: New York athlete Is he the best "closer" (in the modern term)? Yes, he is and it's really not hard to make that statement. If you feel that closers deserve a spot in the hall of fame (like designated hitters), then he would probably be the best representation.

posted by grum@work at 01:22 AM on July 18, 2006

bronxbomber, Mariano's number is already retired. I agree with and heartily endorse all the superlatives listed previously, it will be very difficult to fill his shoes once he hangs 'em up.

posted by mjkredliner at 04:22 AM on July 18, 2006

As a New York Mets fan for the last 20-odd years, I also have to agree that Mariano Rivera is by far THE greatest closer of all time. No doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer but unfortunatly, he plays for the "other" New York team (what's their name again?) but I don't think people should hold that against him. The "Hammer of God" is the gold standard of closers and is the exact type of professional athlete that other professional athletes should and will compare themselves to. Congratulations on your 400 saves Mo but remember, no 5th ring for you this year...LETS GO METS!! Sorry guys, I had to throw that in there-

posted by BornIcon at 11:21 AM on July 18, 2006

Being a very biased Red Sox fan for 44 years I will say that Rivera is the best of all time. There have been some that have been more dominate for a season or two but none as consistant. Take him away from the MoneyBallers and they miss the playoffs 3 or 4 times during the last 10 years

posted by GOD at 11:25 AM on July 18, 2006

If you feel that closers deserve a spot in the hall of fame (like designated hitters), then he would probably be the best representation. Wha...wha...wha...designated hitters? I don't care too much for that comparison. If DH's batted only in the late innings of close games, maybe. DH's also are permitted prolonged batting slumps -- it's hard to remain a closer for 10 years, because if you blow three in a row your job is in jeopardy. Small margin of error. Grum, do you NOT believe closers should be in the Hall (leaving DH's aside for the moment)? Today's starting pitchers only work about 33 days a year these days -- should we keep them out, too?

posted by BullpenPro at 12:45 PM on July 18, 2006

HoF is almost irrelevant. Sandman is a legend. Tell you how much I think of the guy...when he blew the same vs. the Diamondbacks in '01, I wasn't even a little bit mad. I thought, everyone is entitled to blow one now and again, and no one can really complain, not even over this one.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2006

My heart fills with hate every time I see him come out of the bullpen, but damn...he is the very definition of the closer, and perhaps the human embodiment of the inscription at the entrance to Dante's Hell: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here

posted by The_Black_Hand at 01:10 PM on July 18, 2006

I'm not just amazed by his numbers or performances - I'm flat out floored by the fact that he is essentially a one-pitch pitcher. Always has been. His cut fastball has to rank as one of the all-time greatest pitches in baseball history. Everyone knows it's coming. Everyone basically has the speed down. It just doesn't matter. Just a no-brainer first ballot Pantheon top-o-the-pyramid closer. He is the epitome of the position - others have had better years, but no one has had a better career.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:23 PM on July 18, 2006

First Ballot...please...this is how closer should read in the dictionary... Closer (clo' sure) n. - Having to do with finishing a baseball game. Performing up to the standards of Mariano Rivera (Insert picture of Rivera)

posted by chemwizBsquared at 03:33 PM on July 18, 2006

It is no question wether closers should be able to make Cooperstown. Absolutely. As BullpenPro mentioned they usually participate in more games per season than starters do. And they are usually pitching in pressure situations. The only question left? Is Rivera the best ever? I am an Arizona native and big D Backs fan. As much as I loved seeing him blow that save in game 7 2001, I would still say no question, Sandman gets my vote for best closer ever. PS- Again agreeing with BullpenPro: Yankees fans are the most spoiled. I wish the D Backs had a $200 million+ payroll to spend each year. This year we have about 1/4 of that...

posted by cbed at 03:44 PM on July 18, 2006

I was watching the All Star Game and Saw Trevor Hoffman come in. No he isn't Rivera, but he has more saves then Riveral and NO ONE will ever mistake his stuff as overpowering. Rivera has one devistatingly good pitch, Trevor has...nothing... yet he seems to get it done. If Rivera is a no brainer to go in, Hoffman should be because he has done more with a LOT less

posted by blakrain at 04:30 PM on July 18, 2006

blakrain, I agree that Trevor is far better than the average bear, but, that little matter of zero rings doesn't help his HOF chances. (Although, it sure didn't seem to hurt Sutter, I'm guessing that is because Sutter kinda/sorta revolutionized the role.)

posted by mjkredliner at 04:41 PM on July 18, 2006

true dat. and even if he went to a contender, I suspect he would be relagated as a middle relieer becasue his stuff isn't "flashy" no 100 mph fastballs to impress folks. Which is too bad. we have all seen pitchers with supersonic arms that can't hit a salad plate much less the inside plate

posted by blakrain at 04:47 PM on July 18, 2006

After Mariano, Hoffman has the best ERA of closers with 400+ saves. He has been Mr. Automatic for the Padres for a long time. Rings or not, he's a top-five all-time closer. But if you'd like an emotional reason to root for him to get into C-town: in 2000, at the Padres annual banquet to honor their "Players of the Year" from the previous season, Hoffman was on hand to receive the club's Pitcher of the Year Award. Ted Williams, who had strong ties to San Diego, was also in attendance. In his acceptance speech, Hoffman acknowledged Williams' presence, and in doing so his voice broke and he needed a minute to compose himself. This is a guy who knows the history of the game and has great reverence for it. He's not a good guy, he's a great guy, a great baseball man, and a great pitcher. You only need to spend two minutes with this guy to see that he is the real deal, grounded, honored to be a ballplayer, just solid all-around. You can argue his merits all you want, but I'm telling you now he is a shoe-in. The writers love him, and they should.

posted by BullpenPro at 12:36 AM on July 19, 2006

Grum, do you NOT believe closers should be in the Hall (leaving DH's aside for the moment)? Today's starting pitchers only work about 33 days a year these days -- should we keep them out, too? I didn't say that I felt they shouldn't be in the HOF. I suggested there are some people that feel closers (and DHs) shouldn't be in the HOF because of their (very) limited contributions. Today's closers: 0 starts or about 75IP. Today's starting pitchers: 35 starts or about 260IP. "Old time" starting pitchers: 43 starts or about 320IP. "REALLY old time" starting pitchers: 60 starts or about 550IP. Closers (but only the truly elite) will get in the HOF, but comparing them to starting pitchers of ANY era is like comparing the best pinch-hitters of all time to the best designated hitters of all time.

posted by grum@work at 12:49 AM on July 19, 2006

I didn't say that I felt they shouldn't be in the HOF. You also haven't said that you feel they should. You have only acknowledged that some will. And I don't like your last comparison, so I will continue to argue my point... Top Four Reasons Closers Are NOT Pinch Hitters: 1) Most clubs have three or four bats to use off the bench -- there is no single guy they go to in every clutch situation. They often play the lefty-righty game. Closers (except for the occassional closer by committee, which never, ever include a Hall of Fame candidate) are called on in critical situations regardless of who is coming to bat. 2) Lenny Harris, I believe, has the most pinch hits in a career, and his pinch-hit average was about .264. That is, I would guess, certainly no higher than his team's batting average through his pinch-career. Closers are required to succeed at a much higher rate than any other pitcher on the staff. Starting pitchers with an ERA under 4.00 (these days) are likely to find themselves at the top of their rotations. If you have an ERA over 3.00 as a closer (and you don't work in Colorado) your job is probably in jeopardy. Of the four players with 400+ saves, only Lee Smith has a career ERA over 3.00 (3.03). 3) If a pinch-hitter was a really great hitter, he wouldn't be a pinch-hitter. There is no promotion from the role of closer -- it is a parallel role to starting pitcher in the eyes of most players and managers. (Certainly, some players prefer one role over the other, but nobody considers either role a slight.) If a closer isn't good, he gets demoted to middle relief. The only demotion for a pinch hitter is AAA. 4) Closers pitch about 1/3 the number of innings of a starting pitcher, but they make twice as many appearances. Their preparation for an appearance is more involved than that for a pinch-hitter, and they frequently have to prepare themselves in short order. To sum up, since closers work twice as many days as starting pitchers; are held to a much higher standard of performance; work exclusively in situations in which the balance of the game is in their hands (starting pitchers are often saved from bad performances by their offense -- closers are rarely afforded that same opportunity); and have such a small margin of error in their results -- often losing their jobs in a heartbeat, I put the closers who perform well over a long stretch of time far ahead of any pinch-hitter, and much, much more deserving of Hall of Fame recognition. Certainly as deserving as a starting pitcher.

posted by BullpenPro at 01:28 PM on July 20, 2006

Well said Bullpenpro- closers are definately more important to a team than a pinch hitter. Closers deserve a spot in the hall of fame, but pinch hitters dont. If your job is to come in just to pinch hit, more than likely you arent good enough to start. Moreover, games are won and lost by closers- oinch hitters are a trivial part of baseball.

posted by redsoxrgay at 07:27 PM on July 20, 2006

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