If you haven’t heard, Mariano Rivera is retiring at the end of the 2013 season. Tonight, the Boston Red Sox will honor Mo at Fenway Park – perhaps the most special road ceremony Mariano will receive all year. As the Yankees season is winding down (hopefully ending sometime in late October), we’re honoring Rivera by highlighting some of his best on-field moments. We already discussed his 500TH save, so what’s next?
Mariano Asserts His Postseason Dominance
Mariano Rivera is, without question, the best closer in the history of Baseball. Nobody thinks otherwise and nobody has ever really made a case against him. Why is that? Because Mo has been his best at the most important time of the season: October. The entire 1996 season was Mariano’s coming out party. Ask anyone; John Wetteland was the closer but Mariano was the anchor in the Yanks ‘pen that year. He would routinely pitch 2+ innings – acting as a bridge from the starters to Wetteland. Rivera finished third in Cy Young voting but also twelfth in MVP voting that year (as a setup man), a true testament to his dominance. He continued this success in the postseason, helping the Yankees win their first World Series title in 18 years. In ’97 Wetteland left New York making way for Mariano to assume his role as closer – a role he has not relinquished since. After a brutal ending to that season against Cleveland, Mariano would go on a historic postseason run that will most likely never be matched again.
The 1998 and 1999 postseasons were downright silly for Mariano. In 18 games Mo threw 25.2 innings, giving up exactly ZERO runs. He saved 12 games and won two – meaning he had a deciding hand in more than half of the 22 games the Yankees had to win on their way to back-to-back world championships. He was not only the best player on the field; he was the most dangerous weapon in playoff history. It was as much a mental edge as it was physical – the Yankees didn’t have to beat you for 9 innings, they just had to beat you for 8 – and that is exactly the formula they used.
1998 was also the start of the longest scoreless inning streak in MLB playoff history. Mariano threw 33.1 scoreless innings, ending in the 2000 ALCS – a span in which the Yankees lost only 5 games. If the ’98 season wasn’t enough, Mo one-upped himself in 1999 with a World Series MVP trophy. Mo threw 4.2 scoreless innings against the Braves and was a deciding factor in three of the four Yankees victories – recording two saves and a win.
But looking back on those seasons, the best part (for me) is that the numbers Mo put up were not a fluke. In fact, Mariano’s entire postseason career has been unmatched. Mariano has a ridiculous 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings, making him the greatest postseason player in MLB history. And that is exactly how he will be remembered.