COMMENTARY | Mariano Rivera, baseball's all-time saves leader and perhaps the greatest pitcher in postseason history, will be back with the New York Yankees in 2013.
Yahoo! Sports writer Tim Brown cited a Newsday report on Nov. 3 saying that Rivera had told Yankees general manager Brian Cashman that he wants to come back for what would be his 19th season.
For many Yankees fans, Rivera is the Yankees' closer, period. Sure, Rafael Soriano saved 42 games filling in for an injured Rivera in 2012 and John Wetteland was the guy working the end of games during New York's postseason runs in 1995 and 1996, but in between, it was Rivera. Always Rivera.
In between, Rivera has saved a record 608 games in 681 chances. He's made 1,051 appearances, all but 10 of them in relief. His career 2.21 ERA in 1,219.2 innings is 13th best all-time. The sterling 0.998 WHIP is the second-best mark in major-league history. The 6.936 hits per nine innings is the fifth-best mark ever recorded.
And then there's what Rivera has done in October (and, in 2001 and 2009, November).
Here is a list of the postseason categories in which Rivera is the all-time leader, with the second-best mark in parentheses (all rate statistics require 30 innings or six decisions to qualify):
* Earned-run average: 0.70 (Harry Brecheen, 0.83).
* Appearances: 96 (Jeff Nelson, 55).
* Saves: 42 (Brad Lidge, 18).
For good measure, his .889 winning percentage in the postseason is second only to Lefty Gomez, who was 6-0 in seven postseason starts between 1932-39. Rivera is 8-1 in the playoffs, with the one loss coming in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks when he surrendered a 2-1 lead by allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
His 0.759 playoff WHIP is third on the all-time list behind Monte Pearson (0.729 from 1936-39) and Roy Halladay (0.737 in 2010-11). Amazingly, he is seventh on the all-time postseason list for innings pitched with 141, a remarkable number for a closer. His 110 strikeouts rank ninth.
Rivera is a free agent. His two-year, $30-million deal expired at the end of this season and the Yankees did not extend Rivera a one-year, $13.3-million qualifying offer by the Nov. 2 deadline. New York did extend a qualifying offer to Soriano, who is expected to reject the deal and test the free-agency waters.
It is Rivera's consistency that has made him so remarkable over the course of his 18-year career. Only twice has he posted an ERA higher than 3.00 -- his rookie year in 1995 when he recorded an ERA of 5.51 in 10 starts and nine relief appearances, and in 2007 when he had a 3.15 ERA in 71 1/3 innings. Conversely, he has 11 seasons with an ERA lower than 2.00.
There were many fans who thought we might have seen the last of Rivera when he crumpled to the warning track on May 3 in Kansas City. While shagging fly balls during batting practice, something he has done his entire career, he tore the meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
So news of his return was welcome. Rivera and Derek Jeter are the last of the batch of homegrown Yankees who led the team to World Series titles in 1996, 1998-2000, and 2009, and have gone on to spend their entire careers in the Bronx.
Like other Yankees legends before him, names such as Mantle, DiMaggio, Gehrig and Mattingly, it will be nice to see Mariano Rivera add his name to that list.
Phil Watson is a longtime New York Yankee fan who was a writer and editor at several daily newspapers for more than 20 years.
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