Out on the West Coast late last night, Mariano Rivera collected his 600th regular season save. He’s only the second pitcher to reach that mark, and with a handful more saves, he’ll be the games all-time leader in that particular category.
Now some (namely, cranky former Yankees closer Goose Gossage) have said that today’s closers don’t work as much as those closers who had to walk ten miles to the ballpark (barefoot, no less) and therefore, they claim, the modern save has no value. To a point, they’re right. Most modern relievers are coddled arms that rarely pitch more than an inning. And most of Rivera’s recent work has been of the one-inning variety. But Rivera is no ordinary closer (or pitcher, for that matter).
Over the past 17 years, he has a record of regular- and post-season success that is unmatched (Tom Verducci did a much better job of running down the numbers here than I could). True, Rivera didn’t play during the days of the Yankees bullpen Datsun, but he has a better record than any reliever (including Gossage) did back then.
Five and a half years ago, I wrote about Rivera’s first game with the Yankees. How, as a starter, he was horrible. That was before he developed his signature cutter. It’s hard to believe the odds that that pitcher would develop into one of the most reliable pitchers ever. And it’s hard to believe that he’s been doing it for 17 years.