10 reasons to love Mariano Rivera
While I may be a Sox fan by nature, I have a strong respect for Mariano Rivera and his career, which has been nothing short of amazing. Last year Rivera hinted he would retire at the end of the 2012 season, but after missing most of last season due to a knee injury he is back for one last year. He announced Saturday morning that he will retire at the end of the year.
Rivera had a great career and terrorized opposing offenses while winning the hearts of New York fans for 18 years. In honor of his accomplishments, let’s take a look at “10 reasons to love Mo” as we celebrate his final year in the MLB.
1. The career that almost never happened
What is most amazing about Rivera’s career as a pitcher is that he almost never made it to the MLB. Rivera was born in Panama and never considered baseball to be anything other than a hobby. After graduating high school, he worked with his father as a fisherman but soon quit after he found the work too difficult and unsafe. In 1990, at the age of 20, he played for a local league as a shortstop. A Yankee scout recognized his talent and athleticism, and the Yankees signed him on the spot.
2. The evolution of a closer
Mo made his debut in 1995 as a starting pitcher, but things didn’t exactly work out in his first year. Mo went 5-3 with a 5.29 ERA, seeing his lack of stuff as a starter he decided to move to the bullpen earning the job as the team’s closer in 1997. From the beginning of his career Rivera developed his signature cut fastball, which generated swings and misses along with broken bats throughout the league for nearly two decades.
3. The outstanding results
Baseball is a game of numbers, and a brief look at his career statistics shows Rivera thrives on the mound. Rivera has 608 career saves, an astronomical number that surpasses Trevor Hoffman’s mark of 601, and you can be sure Mo will add 20-30 saves this season at the least. Mariano’s career ERA of 2.21 and 1,119 career strikeouts certainly speak volumes about his ability to shut down opposing hitters.
4. Mr. October
Possibly even more spectacular about Mo’s career is his work in the postseason. Rivera has pitched in 96 postseason games totaling 141 innings, and, get this, a (insert adjective that can begin to describe how good this is) 0.70 ERA.
5. His respectful attitude
Mo may be a Yankee, but he is hard not to love no matter what team you support. Mariano ranks among the classiest and most lovable players around, a true competitor while also respecting the game of baseball in every way he can. In 2005 after his famous blown save in the 2004 ALCS, he was introduced to Fenway Park with a multitude of jeers and insults. Rather than retaliate, Rivera shrugged it off with a laugh.
“I didn’t know they loved me so much here. It was nice. I had to laugh.” Mo said.
6. His loyalty
One lesser-known statistic is that Mariano is just the 15th pitcher to pitch 1000 or more games for the same team. Mo has been with the Yankees through thick and thin in over 1,051 games and you can bet that he’ll get up to at least 1,100 by the end of this season. Rivera’s dedication to the team that picked him up out of Panama really is something. Over his career he has made it evident it was never about the money, just his love for baseball and desire to be one of the greatest players ever.
7. Honoring Jackie Robinson
Mariano remains the last player to wear the number 42. Long remembered as Jackie Robinson’s number, 42 was retired by Major League Baseball but not before Mo began to wear it for his 18 year long career. When Mo was given the number he hardly knew the significance, but he learned and accepted it with humility.
“Being the only one carrying the number right now, and forever, this means a lot to me.” Rivera said.
He got the chance to meet Rachel Robinson in 2010, a meeting that had been awaited for a long time and celebrated as the two got a chance to chat about baseball, life and Jackie Robinson’s legacy.
“I’ve been very pleased that he is the last one to wear Jack’s number,” Rachel Robinson said. “I had admired Mariano Rivera for so long from afar.”
8. Humble pie
Off the field, Mariano is very humble when it comes to his career. He is outspoken about his faith instilled in him by his close-knit family from Panama. While many great athletes revel in their own majesty, Rivera seems to see it as an opportunity to reach out to those around him and offer whatever help he can. It is the attitude he kept as a rookie and though his fame grew he never let it change who he was on the inside.
9. His charity work
One way Rivera helps out those in need is through his work with the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which raises money for health, education, and wellness for children’s programs. The foundation has been active for years and consistently raises funds to promote child welfare, just one of Rivera’s small ways to give back to his community and share his life with others.
10. A moment for Sox fans
Let’s not forget my favorite moment in Rivera’s career. If it were not for that fateful moment in October of 2004 in Game 4 of the ALCS when Kevin Millar stepped up to the plate in the ninth, then the Sox would never have won their first World Series title in 86 years. Rivera’s stride out of the bullpen ends nearly every game, but even the greatest closer of all time has off days. It proves he is human.
There is no doubt that Rivera’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame will come in his first year of eligibility. When baseball was tainted by steroids and all sorts of corruption Rivera was grinding out every game and enjoying the ride he was one. His career will go down as the greatest in history, and it was an honor watching him play.