602 and counting…

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A few weeks back, Mariano Rivera did what Mariano Rivera does best: he calmly jogged in while “Enter Sandman” was blasting from Yankee Stadium’s speakers and dispatched his opponents with a cool, ruthless efficiency to ensure that the Yankees won a game they were winning prior to him entering. He’s done this about 40 times a year for the past 15 years, which equals a little over 600 saves, and when he saved his 602nd game, he set the all-time record. “Gotta go to Mo’s” indeed.
For some reason, with all of the hub bub around this milestone, no one brought up the fact that this only happened because of divine intervention. The story goes that after his prior contract ran out (he currently is in year 3 of a 4 year deal), he thought about retiring. He is a deeply religious man and wanted to focus on the congregation using the church he built back in his native Panama. Then, while pondering this future plans, he heard from God who told him he was better off helping the world through pitching (and earning the money a NY Yankee star earns) than by retiring and ministering in his Panama. It’s a good thing that God is a Yankee fan.
Jason Stark in an ESPN blog post about Rivera’s greatness points out many ways that Rivera is great:

  1. That is he far and away better than any of his active peers. He now has saved 602 regular-season baseball games. The No. 2 active reliever in career saves is Francisco Cordero — who is 279 saves behind, with 323. This means that Rivera has an incomprehensible 86.4 percent more saves than the CLOSEST active reliever. No one has ever broken a record and been more than 60% ahead of his nearest active rival.
  2. Rivera has been pitching in the big leagues for 17 seasons now. And he’s done something that ought to be impossible in this day and age. He’s pitched in 1,209 innings and has allowed 1,207 baserunners (via hits and walks). That means his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is below 1. Only three people have done this EVER and the other two played in 1910 and 1917. Rivera played during the steriod era and still no one could touch him.

I won’t give it all away. Let’s just say there are 5 more reasons, and they all make a very compelling bar room argument that not only is Rivera the best reliever ever, he could be the best Yankee of his generation and he could be in the top 3 of all time. Yes, you read that correctly: Ruth, Gehrig, Rivera.
We’ll see what happens in the playoffs this year. 28th Championship or not, Rivera will be back on the mound again next year, making sure that potential wins turn into actual wins the same he’s done for the past two odd decades.