COMMENTARY | Mariano Rivera, acknowledged as the greatest closer in baseball history, will retire at the end of the 2013 season. Derek Jeter, the best shortstop in the glorious history of the New York Yankees, is nearing the end of the road.
Both players became full-time Yankees in 1996. Both are iconic figures in Yankees history, arguably among the top 10 players ever. Both have been central figures in five World Series titles and six trips to the Series. Both are certain first-ballot Hall of Famers.
But, which has been more important to the Yankees during the past 18 seasons?
My vote clearly goes with Rivera.
Jeter has been the on-field leader, face of the franchise and envy of of men everywhere as he works his way through the list of Maxim Hot 100 models for nearly two decades. He has more than 3,000 hits and could finish top three all-time in that category. He has made 13 All-Star appearances, won five Gold Gloves, won a World Series MVP, and has a .313 career batting average.
Yet, for all of his greatness -- and great moments -- the last 18 years with the Yankees have not been about Jeter. They have been about Rivera. Every game, at least every one since Rivera took over as full-time closer in 1997, has been played with the idea of getting the ball to Mo -- the man with the single pitch that has dominated, and often embarrassed, big-league hitters.
The Yankees, simply, could not have been the powerhouse they have been since 1996 without Rivera. He hasn't been perfect -- think 2001 and Luis Gonzalez and Game 4 vs. the Boston Red Sox in 2007. No team, however, has ever had the security blanket Rivera has provided.
Jeter is one of my favorite players of all time, and one of the greatest Yankees ever. Yet, there have been and will be other great shortstops.
There will never be another Rivera.
Ed Valentine is editor of bigblueview.com, covering the New York Giants. He has written about the Yankees for Hot Stove New York, Bugs & Cranks, Pinstripe Alley and SB Nation New York.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mariano Rivera
- Derek Jeter