Mariano Rivera’s record setting career reminds us how important and inconsistent the job of a reliever can be.
Mariano Rivera set the all-time saves record, so this mini-article is dedicated to him. As much as I liked Trevor Hoffman, it is so great to see Mariano Rivera take the record (even if he plays for New York). Not to take anything away from Hoffman, who was often forgotten while playing in San Diego for so long, but Rivera is the greatest closer ever and it would have been wrong for anyone else to hold that record when he was done playing. Isn’t it kind of interesting that Hoffman set the record throwing primarily an unequaled changeup, and Rivera primarily used one of the great cut fastballs of all time?
Rivera has been a solid rock the Yankees could depend on for over a decade, regular season or postseason. And when you think of it, that isn’t something you can say for many relief pitchers. If a team finds a guy who can year in and year out be a consistent relief pitcher, hold on to him for dear life.
Remember Eric Gagne? From 2002-2004 he went 152 for 158 for save opportunities. He was lights out. Before that he was nothing special, after that, he slowly disappeared from baseball.
How about LaTroy Hawkins? After starting out his career fairly poorly, the middle reliever pitched well fairly consistently from 2002-2008. In 2008 he went from the Astros to the Yankees and got shelled, so he went back to Houston and returned to being very good. Then he went to Milwaukee and had a terrible year, then came back this year and is pitching pretty well for the team.
There are similar stories all around major league baseball. Closers, but especially middle relievers and set-up men, are sometimes unhittable and other times they can’t buy an out. Starting pitchers are generally more consistent, for better or for worse.
So if you get a Rivera, you know you have a special and valuable player.
Congratulations, Mariano, on a great career.