The Legend of Mariano Rivera Continues to Grow

October 10, 2012 — Even though he hasn’t been on the field this postseason — except for a ceremonial first pitch before last night’s game — Mariano Rivera’s legend continues to grow.

In addition to collecting more regular saves (608) than anyone in history, while compiling a 2.21 ERA, Rivera has been at his very best in the most pressure-packed games against the best competition.

In other words, Rivera has dominated opponents in the postseason like no other. In 141 October innings, Rivera owns a mind-boggling 0.70 ERA. He has a record 42 saves, and he has closed out more World Series games than anyone in history.

Closing games in the postseason is infinitely more difficult than getting the last three outs in regular season games. And, for anyone who questions that or thinks that the challenge of getting batters out under the glare of October is in the same stratosphere as getting it done in the regular season, take a gander at the ALDS between the Yankees and the Orioles.

It’s safe to say that Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who led all of baseball with 51 regular season saves this season, is one of the best closers in the game. He only yielded three home runs during the entire regular season, and made things look pretty easy in the mid-summer months, racking up save after save without blowing any games for months at a time.

Then came October. The Yankees entered tonight’s contest with a two games to one lead over the Orioles. In Game 1 of the series, Johnson gave up a go-ahead home run to Russell Martin in the top of the ninth inning, and in last night’s Game 3, Johnson gave up a game-tying home run to Raul Ibanez. As we all know, the Yankees won both of those games.

Last season, the Yankees stole an ALDS game from the Detroit Tigers, by tagging Jose Valverde in the ninth inning. Valverde came into that series with 49 saves, and was as automatic as any closer in the game during the 2011 regular season.

A few year before that, the Yankees came back on All-Star closers, Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins, Brian Fuentes of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Brad Lidge of Philadelphia Phillies en rout to the 2009 World Series championship.

Rivera’s body of work becomes more impressive as one closer after another foils under the pressure of the postseason. Johnson’s inability to match his regular season performance in October is more proof that Rivera is in a class of his own.

I think it’s safe to say that a guy who has closed out 42 postseason games and done so with a 0.70 ERA for the New York Yankees is a once in a lifetime treasure.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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