Home > Uncategorized > Mariano Rivera Notches Save No. 602

Mariano Rivera Notches Save No. 602

Along with the saves record, Mariano Rivera also has the prettiest signature in the sport. These sigs have faded some, but I got this ball at a Yankees-Angels game in Anaheim, circa 1996. I was sitting by the Yankees' bullpen, in the right-field pavilion. My mother had been yelling at Paul O'Neill all night to turn around so that she could take his picture. Someone down in the Yankees bullpen must have heard this shouting and notified an usher or somebody that they'll sign a ball for that young fan -- maybe just to quiet his mother. Sure enough, the entire '96 Yankees bullpen signed that ball. Upon its return to me, I looked down into the bullpen and Jim Leyritz gave me a thumbs-up. Whoever said he wasn't a nice guy??

Remember how Trevor Hoffman got to 601 saves? Like a tortoise working with a couple of sprained ankles during the final 50 feet of a marathon. (Why is a turtle in a marathon? Just go with the analogy)

Hoffman had 591 saves coming into the 2010 season. He blew four of his first seven opportunities, lost his job to John Axford and had an ERA of more than 13.00 in May. No. 600 came on Sept. 7. No. 601 came on Sept. 29 with a few days left in the season. It’s too bad that’s how Hoffman ended his career. Yes, he reached a milestone but he did it in agonizing fashion.

Everything today was standard Mariano Rivera. Efficient. Dominant. Bat-breaking. Simple. Rivera threw 13 pitches, nine strikes in his one perfect inning. The last at-bat had three pitches, all strikes, including a backdoor cutter that had Chris Parmelee frozen. He didn’t even get to use the new lumber he had to retrieve after fracturing his bat on the previous pitch. Parmelee was playing in just his 11th career game. Who knows where it’ll go from here, but Parmelee can always say that he’s the guy whom Mariano Rivera dominated to break the all-time saves record.

All of the Yankees came out to hug Rivera. Then Jorge Posada forced him to stay out on the mound and take a long, deserved curtain call. Rivera doesn’t shrink in the spotlight, but he’s not comfortable with being all alone in it, without seven teammates behind him. That’s how it was on Monday, and you could tell that there was a mixture of awkwardness and gratitude. In the end, he understood that the fans wanted to say “Thanks” for all of his years of consistent success. After a while, Rivera let himself soak it in and realize what he had just done. He heard how much the fans really love him. He got a little choked up. Jorge Posada got a little choked up in the dugout. It was quite a moment.

And hey, it may not have been possible without Nick Swisher grounding into a double play to end the bottom of the eighth and keep the score at 6-4. Never has a Yankee Stadium crowd cheered with more glee for a double play by their own team than then.

Now, of course there was some hyperbole. Michael Kay talked about how the Mariano Rivera is so athletically gifted, he is probably the team’s best center fielder, and some analyst on the YES Network compared him to Michael Jordan. I forget whom.

It’s obviously not excessive to say Rivera is the best closer in baseball history; he has been so for a while (I’d say since at least 2008 when he saved 39 of 40 games, held opponent’s to a .166 batting average and posted a ridiculous 0.67 WHIP at the age of 38). But it’s befitting that Rivera now has this number with everything he has accomplished. And with the way he’s still pitching, it looks like he’s going to accomplish a lot more and maybe move his total into the 700 club. In baseball, Mariano Rivera is truly the hammer of God.

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