The ceremony the Boston Red Sox gave Mariano Rivera last Sunday has been talked about a lot – it has been deemed classless and selfish, among other things. For those who believe this, I totally get it. I myself feel showing video footage of the 2004 ALCS was tasteless. If you were going to force Rivera to revisit the worst moment of his career (ok second worse – hello November 4, 200) then why have a ceremony at all? Regardless, the Red Sox did get one thing right; they acknowledged one of my favorite memories of Rivera’s career.
[As a side note, Rivera gets a bad rap for the 2004 ALCS debacle. He was only charged with one earned run in that series. Yes, he did blow game 4 and that is totally on him. But revisionist history also has him blowing game 5 when in fact he was forced into a bases loaded jam in the 8th inning left by Tom Gordon. Rivera gave up the lead on a sacrifice fly but got the Yanks out of the jam and carried the game to extra innings. Not saying Mo is off the hook for ’04, but it wasn’t as bad as people think.]
Mariano Gets a Standing-O at Fenway
October 2004 was horrifying. I’m still not over it and I’m not sure I ever will be over it. The only good thing that came out of it was what happened on April 11, 2005. During the World Series ceremony honoring the 2004 Red Sox, the Fenway fans gave Mariano a standing ovation when the Yankees were being announced. What started as a sarcastic gesture turned genuine as Mariano smiled ear-to-ear and tipped his cap to the Boston crowd. Most players would have been embarrassed by this situation, put their head down and tried to ignore the whole thing. (Imagine Alex Rodriguez in this situation… He wouldn’t know what to do with himself.). But Rivera understood it; and the relationship between Mo and the Sox fans was altered forever. The respect Boston had for Mariano Rivera the player turned into respect for Mariano Rivera the person.
I remember this moment for a slightly different reason though. I recall thinking this was close to the end for Mariano’s career. He had been in the league for a decade and in that time the Yankees made the postseason every year, meaning Rivera had pitched an extra season’s worth of high-leverage innings over that span adding wear-and-tear to an already 35 year old pitcher. But since 2004, Rivera has actually been a better pitcher (statistically) than he was from 1995-2004. Here’s proof:
1995–2004: 728 IP, 2.43 ERA, 1.067 WHIP
2005–2013: 550 IP, 1.93 ERA, 0.916 WHIP
Rivera has had two separate Hall of Fame careers, one that spanned from 1995 to 2004 and one that has spanned from 2005 through today. Very few closers in history can say they were dominant for half as long as Rivera has been. In his time as Yankees closer, other closers in the league have come and gone. Names like Jim Johnson, Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson, Bobby Jenks, David Aardsma, JJ Putz, and Heath Bell (and the list goes on) have all been considered ‘great’ at one time or another in the past fifteen years. But none of them have been able to sustain the dominance – and that is what truly sets Rivera apart from the rest.