Mariano Rivera: G.O.A.T

4212-238x3001Mariano Rivera was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. He was the first player to be unanimously selected by every one of the 425 voters. Was he the worthiest of all time? No he wasn’t. Griffey was equally worthy, and Seaver, Mays, Aaron, DiMaggio, Williams and many others. The true greats were all “unanimous worthy”. But Mariano was the first. I think the voters were scared not to vote for Mariano for fear of being called out for their stupidity. In sports there is almost no one you can call “Greatest of all time” (G.O.A.T.) but Mariano is the best relief pitcher of all time and it’s not even close. The stats are mind-numbing:

652 career saves—most ever

42 post season saves, including 11 in the World Series. Most ever by more than 2x (this one will never be beaten)

Career WHIP (Walks plus hits per inning) 1.0

Post-season WHIP of .759 in 141 post-season innings in 32 series in 16 years (remember this was against the best opponents in the most pressure packaged situations

5 time World Champion

There are many other stats to ogle over as well. But what doesn’t show up on the scorecard was the humility and grace of the man. He was proud to be a Yankee (as I was proud to be his fan). He was sensitive to never show up an opponent. Yet in Aaron Boone’s lingo he was as “savage” as they come. He came. He saw. He conquered.

He was not perfect. He had some blown saves, notably in game 7 of the 2001 World Series. But he was as gracious in defeat as in victory.

Ironically I began Strumings in November 2009, when Mariano just turned 40. The Yankees had just won their 27th World Championship and he was on the mound to finish it (and I was there to see it with our daughter Carolyn). Yet I was sad that I knew that the end was near. My very first Struming was titled Exit Sandman, and I lamented the forthcoming end of his career (he pitched until 2013 however). I appreciated his greatness and was already feeling melancholy that the end was near.

In yesterday’s induction ceremony he humbly said the following about his career with the Yankees:

Mo plaque“It’s a privilege and honor to be part of one organization. I did it with dignity, honor and pride. I tried to carry the pinstripes the best I could.”

He did it well. I had the pleasure of seeing Mariano at Yankee Stadium in June for their annual Old-Timers game. Mariano looked fit and played well. He cutter still moved and he batted as well—and hit an inside the park homer. I suspect Mariano could have been a great outfielder and hitter. He might have had some difficulty as a shortstop since his cutter might have been hard for first baseman to catch. The Yankees had a pretty good shortstop in Mariano’s era too. He will be joining Mariano in Cooperstown next year.

Mariano was the best reliever ever. And I am thankful for the 19 years of joy he brought me and Yankees fans. G.O.A.T.

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