Bottom of the 8th inning. Yanks have a 3-2 lead with two outs. Jorge Posada pops out to shallow right to make the final out of the inning. We head to the top half of the final inning where the opposing team has just three outs remaining to try to tie the game. Then a low guitar rift softly plays over the stadium’s speakers, followed by a drum beat. It is Enter Sandman by Metallica. This can only mean one thing. As the song progresses, a pitcher they call Mo slowly makes his way from the bullpen to the mound. As he warms up, me and you both know the game is already a formality. First pitch, cutter. 96 on the corner. “STRIKEEEEEEEEEE”. The umpire hurls. Next two pitches. Cutter low, two seamer running away, sit the hell down batter. Rinse, shine and repeat for the next two batters. New York, New York now plays over the loudspeaker as the Yankees have won another tight contest that has been shut down by none other than Mariano Rivera.
On Tuesday night it was announced that Rivera, a native of Panama, had become the first ever player to be unanimously voted into the hall of fame, appearing on all 425 ballots. This historic accomplishment has been a long time coming, as stingy baseball writers have been refusing to vote in obvious candidates for years. The accolade could not come to a more deserving person however, as Rivera is undoubtedly the best closer of all time. Since he made his major league debut in 1995, Rivera has dominated baseball’s landscape making the art of closing look like a hobby. After failing as a starter and finding his home in the bullpen, Rivera recorded his first career save on May 17, 1996 against the Angels. The one thing that stuck out about the save was the pure dominance of the cutter. When he threw it, it was as if these batters had never seen a pitch like this before, and although the cutter had existed, none had been more dominant than this. This cutter would carry on through Rivera’s carrer and be widely known as one of the most dominating pitches of all time.
One attribute that makes Mo the best closer of all time, is his ability to dominate in the postseason. One of the most shocking stats you will ever see concerning baseball stats is that more people have walked on the moon, than scored a run on Rivera in the postseason. That is absolutely mind-blowing. In his 19-year career, Rivera has a career postseason ERA of 0.70, has complied over 100 strikeouts, allowed just 2 HR’s and has only allowed 11 earned runs. When you truly look at these numbers and appreciate them, it is quite mind-blowing just how dominant of a pitcher he was. In my eyes, nobody will ever come close to this dominance again. If I haven’t littered him with enough accolades, Rivera is also a 5-time WS champion, a WS MVP, and an ALDS MVP,.
Now, let’s dive into Mo’s brilliance during the regular season. If you thought his numbers were impressive during the postseason, just wait until you see what he accomplished over 162 games a year. During his 19-year career, Rivera locked up a total of 652 saves, the most saves in the history of Major League Baseball. Rivera also has an extremely impressive career ERA coming in at 2.21 and compiled over 1100 strikeouts during his tenure at the Bronx. Mo has also pitched a total of 1283.2 innings and has only allowed 71 home runs. The most impressive stat of Rivera’s career however, would have to be that during his 19 years as a Yankee, Rivera only allowed 315 earned runs. To put that into perspective, this means that Rivera gave up on average, 16 earned runs a season and if you want to slice it even more, it would mean that he averaged only 0.09 runs per game throughout his entire carrer! If your mind is not blown already, you may want to see a doctor. The 13-time all-star, 5-time Rolaids Reliever of the Year award winner has done it all. As he now enters Cooperstown as the first ever player to be unanimously voted in, one has to wonder who will be next. Derek Jeter? Albert Pujols? It may never happen again. One thing is for certain however, if anyone was going to break this barrier it was going to be Mo. A man who has broken down barriers and shut down doors his whole life. The Sandman enters the hall in historic fashion, and it could not happen to a more deserving person. Congrats Mo.