September 14, 2011
Yeah, that has to be a first.
It's not that we're all not impressed with Mariano Rivera's(notes) 600th save, which he picked up with a scoreless ninth in the Yanks' 3-2 win over Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. It's just that this big, fat, round number lies too close to where Trevor Hoffman(notes) landed as the reigning all-time career saves leader (for now) at 601. With another two saves, Rivera will replace Hoffman atop the list and then the party can really start.
The celebration was pure Mariano Rivera. No big screams or wild gestures. Certainly no spectacle, even if Rivera is widely regarded as the best ever at what he does.
Just warm hugs and appreciative handshakes from Yankees teammates. And even that might have been more than what Rivera wanted following the 600th save of his remarkable career.
Even Rivera acknowledged the big one will be No. 602, when he passes Hoffman to become the most prolific closer in major league history. That leaves little time to savor No. 600, or 601. The quick turnaround is just part of the job.
Has a big star reaching a milestone number ever been overshadowed by the close proximity of passing another big leaguer? I can't really think of one. Hank Aaron's 700th and Pete Rose's 4,000th? Maybe, but the space between those milestones and record-breakers were a matter of months and years, not days or a week like Rivera.
Then again, I think there's a good chance of Rivera's 602nd not getting the full blow-out treatment and that's due to a few factors: The relief pitcher's quiet and reserved nature, the Yankees playing out West this week, a save statistic that isn't exactly baseball's sexiest, and that fact that any normal mention of Rivera in the media is basically a celebration of his dominance in the ninth inning anyway. The 41-year-old star isn't showing any signs of slowing down or retiring anytime soon, either, so the career tributes and retrospectives seem out of place.
It really comes down to this: Rivera has set a quiet example of being so good, for so long, that it feels natural to fall into his step and pretend like it's business as usual.
Even though we really know that it's not.