Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Rivera: 3000, 500 and 1

Congratulations to Mariano Rivera, The Great Rivera, for recording his 500th career regular season save last night. He also has 34 post-season saves (next best = Dennis Eckersley with 15).

The three numbers in the title have this significance:

3000 is the number of dollars in Rivera's signing bonus in 1990. He was a 20-year old beanpole from a fishing village in Panama who was expected to do very little as a starting pitcher, but the Yanks took a chance on him. Credit to scout Herb Raybourn, who signed the future Hall-of-Famer. What a bargain.

500 is obvious -- the save total he reached yesterday. Fittingly, in this age of three-out closers (*cough*Frankie Rodriguez and Eckersley*cough*), Mo came into last night's game in the eighth inning to secure the Yanks' win.

1 is his RBI total. Last night, in one of the worst pitching sequences possible, K-Rod (the aforementioned Rodriguez) walked Mo (career 0-for-5 including postseason) with the bases loaded to give the Yanks an insurance run in a 4-2 win.

In 1995, the Yanks called up Rivera to pitch in the major leagues as a starter. Other than an 8-inning, no-run, 11 K performance against the Chisax, he was an awful starter (3-3, 7.07 ERA). He fared better as a reliever -- after a rough first outing, he held down a 3.00 ERA over his final eight appearances. In the 1995 ALDS, he was a revelation: whiffing 8 Mariners in 5.1 IP and not giving up a run. As closer John Wetteland flopped, and the Yankees' staff as a whole bombed (5.94 ERA), Mo was brilliant.

In 1996, Rivera was THE bridge to the closer -- 107 IP, 130 K, 2.09 ERA and 1 HR allowed as the set-up man for Wetteland. Rivera finished third in the Cy Young Award voting as a set-up reliever, and 12th in the MVP ballot. That 2.09 ERA is great . . . but he has eight sub-2.00 ERA seasons.

The list of Mo's accomplishments as a player is long and The Monk would miss too many spots just trying to hit the highlights. The career statistical record says it all.

Congrats to Mo.

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