It’s difficult not to be impressed by Mariano Rivera.
Even if you happen to be the most ardent anti-New York Yankees fan, and even if you happen to believe that relief pitching is vastly overrated as a whole when it comes to talking about the greatest players of all-time, it’s tough to argue that the all-time closer doesn’t transcend his numbers.
In short, there’s an aura about him.
And while that may be seen as a myth by some, it’s one that baseball just hasn’t been able to bust. In fact, not even a potentially career-threatening injury in 2012 could expose Mo’s weakness; he simply took his time to heal up, and came back to the game doing his usual thing: get the final three outs in the ninth inning.
No struggles, no rust and of course, no change to his repertoire. If anything, he’s actually gained a bit of heat on his velocity.
Because this is the same unchanging, ageless Mariano, he’ll be pitching for the final time of his career in the All-Star game. Skipper Jim Leyland has said as much, regardless of whether or not the AL is in a save situation when it comes time for Sandman to enter. Not that this is any kind of sympathy retirement entry though — with a 1.83/1.25 ERA/WHIP and 30 saves, Rivera has earned it, even if he might not be as lights-out as in years past.
Actually, that he’s still putting up the numbers despite being hit a little harder (.265 BAA, 26.9 percent LD rate) is just so … Rivera-like, no?
Sure, there are plenty of dominant relievers with wicked stuff out there in the majors, but how many do it at the age of 43, and how many have done it over this many years without being figured out?
To this day, as it will likely be until he’s finally retired and the Yankees have to trot out another arm in the ninth to get the final three outs, Mo’ will remain a mystery through his years in the bigs — the closer with one pitch that the game could not hit. The guy who was good to be lucky, and was good even if not. The perennial All-Star who made it precisely because of believe in doing something consistently, rather than making constant adjustments.
You’d almost say it’s anti-baseball in the way that he defies so much of what baseball analysis is all about these days; and you know, that puzzle might just be what the game will end up missing the most.