Sunday, March 17, 2013


"Rivera doesn't post saves, he gives recitals. Home plate is his piano." Troy Renck

3/9/13, "Mariano Rivera ready to close out career of excellence," Denver Post, Troy E. Renck

"Mariano Rivera doesn't post saves. He gives recitals. The home plate is his piano, one note playing beautifully from corner to corner. 

Saturday morning, the New York Yankees reliever is expected to announce his retirement, effective at season's end. He will leave as the game's greatest closer. He owns a record 608 saves. The next-closest active pitcher, Joe Nathan, has 298. He'd need another successful 10-year career to even match the Yankees legend.

"Best there's ever been," said Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt, who has 58 saves. "He's the one player when I got to the big leagues my first year that I wanted to meet. I still remember it."

Rivera is different in so many ways beyond his blueprint. When he took over for John Wetteland, there was little confidence he would make a successful transition. Broadcaster Keith Olbermann said the Yankees would "rue the day" because no one pitch, no matter how good Rivera's cutter might be, would be effective all the time.

"He was polite when I reminded him about it," Olbermann said with a smile.

Rivera has used a cut-fastball to carve a path to the Hall of Fame. He throws it with a stiff wrist, and, with just the right finger pressure on the grip, it breaks violently late, turning bats into firewood. So good is Rivera, that left-handed hitters regularly use their BP bats rather than risk their more prized model disintegrating. Some even have lighter and shorter bats made just to use against the right-hander, believing it might help them hit the diabolical pitch.

"It's funny, I faced him and he jammed me. Then you think, well I am going to just get off the plate so that doesn't happen again," said Reid Brignac, a former member of the Tampa Bay Rays. "And the next time he threw me three backdoor cutters. They looked like they were a mile outside. I went back and watched the video, and they were all strikes. Unbelievable."

Players didn't hesitate when asked about the perfect parting gift for Rivera. Just gather up the scraps.
"You could give him a house or maybe two built from all the bats he's broken," Brignac said. "I have donated to the cause."

Rivera, 43, has been at this best when it matters most. He owns a 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings. Miguel Batista is one of the few players who has a story about Rivera that doesn't end badly. Batista's 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks walked off Rivera in Game 7 of the World Series on Luis Gonzalez's bloop to center field.

"It's not like we hit anything hard," said Batista, who sought out Rivera for advice when he became a closer for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The reverence for Rivera is traced not only to his stats, but his approach. He is classy and dignified in a role that often features guys whose wires aren't always touching between the ears.

"He's coldblooded," Batista said. " 'Enter Sandman' comes on. The place is electric, and he's like Steve Austin the bionic man jogging in. Everything's going fast, and he's jogging like 'nnnnn ... nnnnnn.' "

Rivera doesn't seek attention, never gravitates to the spotlight. It finds him because of his excellence. A single pitch. One unforgettable career.

"They have the Cy Young Award, right? They should have the Mariano Rivera award for the best closer," Batista said. "He was so reliable, so effective for so long. Cy Young has 511 wins. Mariano's save record, for me, is just as unbreakable. I don't think there will ever be another pitcher like him.""

 Rivera pitching in Grapefruit game in Tampa v Phillies, March 15, 2013. photo yahoo sports 


Ed. note: Please excuse bright white background inserted behind this post. It was put there by a hacker. Also, I didn't place the opening sentence as it appears in this post. I tried to place it as one normally would, but whatever is going on with blogger, it wouldn't accept normal placement of the sentence.

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