"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Duly Noted…(Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)

In his latest column, Ken Rosenthal writes:

Is anyone noticing that the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera is enjoying his best season as a closer? Rivera allowed two earned runs in his first two appearances, then only two in his next 36. His 0.89 ERA would represent a career best, and his 10.18 strikeouts per nine innings would be his highest rate since 1996, when he was John Wetteland’s setup man…

You bet we’ve noticed it. I’m just too superstitious to want to write about it myself. My favorite Yankee next to Bernie Williams, Rivera is one of the few players whose numbers I get very precious about. I want him to do well so badly it almost hurts. Given the nature of his job, Rivera’s ERA could ballon with just a few bad outings, but it is now down to 0.85. Since the first two outings agains the Red Sox, it is 0.44. He’s done made us proud…again.

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1 Ben   ~  Jul 25, 2005 10:53 am

1.  I can't figure out how to explain Rivera. He is such a good athlete, such a strong competitive spirit and so effective in result that somehow he slips under the radar. If he completes this year with similar numbers, he goes from being great to being GRRRRREAT!

2 vockins   ~  Jul 25, 2005 11:37 am

2.  Rivera is my number one favorite Yankee that's on the current roster, far and away. I get the impression that he's better known for his few failures rather than his multitude of successes, which is a shame. I hope he gets to the HOF in a landslide.

Nothing like topping off a Yankees win with a patented Rivera broken bat dribbler to Jeter. I will miss him when he calls it a career. Not that that's happening anytime soon, hopefully.

3 bp1   ~  Jul 25, 2005 11:43 am

3.  Remember when the Red Sox fans were applauding him during player introductions?? Mo laughed, but later said something like "they won't be laughing for long". I remembered that moment, when he was blowing past Damon, Renteria, and Ortiz in the first game after the AS break. Watching Posada/Flash (can't remember who) stand up to setup the high fastball against Ortiz, and then watching as Mo hit the spot dead on and Ortiz with a big swing-and-miss will be a season highlight for me. It was just so very satisfying.

He's amazing. I tried to explain it to my wife this weekend when she was watching the game, but I just couldn't come up with the words.

He's off the charts. So good that he's a cliche. I see him do things like he did to the Sox, and I just think to myself "How lucky are we to be witnessing this Hall of Fame pitcher."

Man oh man.

4 Schteeve   ~  Jul 25, 2005 11:44 am

4.  If you'll indulge a bit of hyperbole, watching Mo sometimes reminds me of watching Jordan. So capable of thoroughly dominating the opposition on a regular basis.

I really consider myself lucky that I've been able to witness his career from the beginning. When it comes to pitching, he's one of the all time greats.

5 domvjr   ~  Jul 25, 2005 11:45 am

5.  Without "Mo",I doubt that we would be looking at the past decade of sustained excellence by the Yanks. I would be willing to make the case, that he is directly responsible for at least 2 of the 4 world championships. To echo vockins thought, when he does fail, and as he likes to say he is only human, it is a monumental shock. The teams psyche will undergo a major hit, when he finally hangs them up. Which I hope won't be for a few years either. Not only is he a HOF ballplayer, but he is a great human being!

6 tocho   ~  Jul 25, 2005 12:28 pm

6.  I can't agree more on the value of Mo. It´s very simple, without him, not only the WS wins would not have come but just the chance to be there (I'm thinking '01 and '03 playoffs), he is definitely the Yanks MVP of the decade.

I know this is not the subject, but I have to share this gem with everyone. On the Saturday night game, the two Angels broadcasters (who are probably the worst in the business) were interviewing a pitcher that the Angels signed recently from the draft, he was actually the grandson of Bozo the clown. The question by one of the announcers "how was it like growing up with your grandfather being Bozo the clown and by the way How's he doing?" the answer "well he actually passed away in 1997, but that's quite all right"..."Oh, I didn't know..."

7 Shaun P   ~  Jul 25, 2005 12:33 pm

7.  I watched HBO's "Mantle" last night (it was great, IMHO). Listening to Costas and Crystal, Ed Harris and Richard Lewis (?!), go on about how great the Mick was at what he did, I wondered who's that player for our generation?

Some might argue that its Jeter, but I think its actually Mo. He's the one Yankee who's been truly dominant compared to his peers. No other reliever in baseball is like our Mo.

Someday, we'll be telling our kids and grandkids what it was like to watch Rivera pitch, just like we heard from our parents and grandparents what it was like to watch Mantle play. And how privileged we felt to watch him work his magic, time and time again.

Thanks, Mariano.

8 Patrick   ~  Jul 25, 2005 12:35 pm

8.  Yeah, I've noticed, too. He's awesome.

9 unpopster   ~  Jul 25, 2005 1:05 pm

9.  Will anyone ever forget the three innings Mo gave us during Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS? I've never seen such a clutch performance in my life, keeping the Red Sox bats silent until Aaron Boone ended it with one swing.

I will forever look at that pitching performance as Mo's "signature" performance of his career.

10 Paul in Boston   ~  Jul 25, 2005 2:00 pm

10.  I was at Fenway when he won that game on Sunday, where Cano threw the ball into left field and suddenly the Sox were roaring back from a 5-1 deficit to have 5-3 with bases loaded and no outs. He was clearly tired, having pitched a lot the previous several days, and the crowd was absolutely going crazy raggin on him. Yet according to the Yankees who huddled with Torre and him at the mound, Rivera was actually upbeat and confident. I was quaking in my shoes, and I wasn't even playing! A few pitches later (and one clutch 5-2-3 DP), the game was over.

How can he do this? This is one extraordinary pitcher.

11 Dan M   ~  Jul 25, 2005 2:19 pm

11.  How Tony Womack was able to hit a double off him in 2001 will remain one of the great unexplained mysteries.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 25, 2005 2:23 pm

12.  ShawnP,
I think the comparison to Mantle is tough because baseball players aren't as widely worshipped the same way they were in the fifties. There are too many other celebrities competiting with them.

As far as the Yankees go, I think Jeter is a better fit than Rivera. Not that Jeter is the superior player, but he's more well-known than Rivera. I think Mo is the symbol of the Yankee dynasty, and agree, that he's probably the key player in this run. A few years ago, Rob Neyer ran a column about Jeter as a clutch player. He showed Jeter and Bernie's AVG/OBP/SLG numbers for the post-season vs. the regular season and both sets of numbers were comperable. The real "clutch" Yankee was Rivera, whose post-season numbers dwarfed what he accomplished during the regular season.

I saw that "Mantle" documentary and was thinking a lot about Jeter. Jeter was not the kind of natural force that Mantle was. He was not the guy who was born and God made a ball player. They are very different. But I think that Jeter is the signature player on Torre's Yankees in the way that Mantle was on Stengal's teams.

I think that Jeter is a sex symbol and a celebrity in the way that Mantle was. Jeter is not a natural in his own way too. That he came to his talent through hard-work and his competitive nature, instead of natural ability, just makes him different. Jeter is the anti-Mantle in a way. He was from out-of-town but wasn't a hick. Instead, he was probably one of the shrewdest young stars New York has ever seen. This this point, he's done nothing but capitalize on his opportunities. He is consciously bland with the media, but has never gotten involved in any trouble.

People loved Mantle because he was a pretty hick, with a great name, amazing talent, and an aw shucks personality. They were willing to forgive him if he got drunk at the Copa and acted like an ass. He played hurt, had to replace a legend in DiMaggio, and was the perfect kind of baseball God for his time.

Jeter is a bit more like DiMaggio in some ways, though I wouldn't go too far in that comparison. The thing of it is, Jeter isn't insecure, and unsure of himself and his celebrity in the same way Mantle was. He is a very well adjusted guy.

The other thing about Jeter is, for us Yankee fans who watch him every day, it doesn't matter how boring and dull he is with the media, we see him on the field and catch glimpses of him in the dugout. If you can find a player who genuinely enjoys playing the game, who loves competition more than Jeter, then let me know. Really I think that will be his legacy for me. I've never seen a guy actually have so much fun out there. And not in a half-ass, flakey way. He's a bonafide gamer--not too tense in the seventh game of the World Series or too relaxed in a mid-August blow-out. Though he's got a game face, and is intense about winning, rarely does a game pass when you don't see him smirking or laughing--enjoying the ride. What makes him the anti-Mantle is you get the sense that Jeter is appreciating everything that is happening to him right now. He won't have to wait until it is over. He's into it. He's in the moment, he's right now. And I think that is what makes him the Yankee legend that is most like Mantle.

Rivera is great, but he's other-wordly. There is an almost mythical sense of calm about him. He's a freak. You can't explain him. Jeter, you can touch. He allows you to enjoy the ride with him if you want.

13 JohnnyC   ~  Jul 25, 2005 2:44 pm

13.  Haven't yet seen the special on Mantle but the thing that marks Mantle's life as well as his career was his belief that, like his father and his uncle, he wouldn't be around much past 40. Combine that with his hick from the sticks in the Big City situation and you get Mantle: a player of mythical skills and pinache whose discomfort within his own skin, signified by his private boorishness and public shyness, was literally foreshadowed by the deadly genetic cargo that weighed heavily on the male lineage of his family.

14 JeremyM   ~  Jul 25, 2005 4:27 pm

14.  I really want to see the Mantle show, but I'm one of those guys who only buys HBO when the Sopranos is on, which isn't often. I thought 61 was really well done, which aired a few years back. The DVD can be had for about 5 bucks now.

As far as Rivera, how did Womack hit that freaking double? That inning is really his only true blemish that I can recall in the postseason that cost us a game, and the Roberts steal-inning last year. With better defensive plays, he might not even have those on his record, but that's baseball. Rivera has been a Godsend, I still remember him making a start very early in his career and him striking out White Sox left and right.

15 rbj   ~  Jul 25, 2005 4:27 pm

15.  It's been so nice over the years to have had a core like Mo, Jeter, Bernie, Jorge and (until he left) Andy.

16 tommyl   ~  Jul 25, 2005 9:25 pm

16.  Ahhhh, reading these posts takes me back to the good old days when I'd fly home from college to go to the series games and fly back the next night attempting to get problem sets done in the airport. I'll always be thankful to this team and the players who made up the core of the dynasty. They not only won, but won with excitement and class. I hope someday to be able to tell my kids (assuming I get around to having any) that I saw some of these magical moments and players in person.

17 singledd   ~  Jul 25, 2005 9:51 pm

17.  Rivera is truly the greatest and most important Yankee of the last 10 years. While Jetes, Bernie and others have contributed greatly, Mo has single-handedly won many games and a few championships. The fact that we know we have Mo 'out there' is the greatest comfort that we, or any team has even known.

Jetes is simply a fine human being. The way he plays the game and handles himself makes him a true role model for everyone who knows him. I want to meet his parents and shake their hands.

Althought I have seen few Yankees games, I was lucky enough to see Mickey hit his 500th. While Mo is amazing and Jetes is a hero, for those in my generation, Mantle was a God. He transcended baseball. I loved him, as did many, many people. I do not think that any individual, in any sport, will even have the mass adulation and love that Mickey had.

I still get the tingles when I think of him.
You can not compare Mantle to other players. He was simply 'the Mic'.

Schilling loses another. Yea!!!!

18 BFenwick   ~  Jul 25, 2005 9:54 pm

18.  I can't help but admire everything about Mariano Rivera.

19 rbs10025   ~  Jul 25, 2005 10:08 pm

19.  My dad grew up as a fan of Dimag. He never said much about those days because we lived where the only pro ball was rookie league. Eventually the one Yankees player he did talk about was Mo. And not because of Mo's success but because of how he handled the ultimate failure. It just totally blew my dad away that Mo could give up that game-winning hit in the 2001 Series and then walk off the mound cool as ice. Mo may come into games to the sound of "Enter Sandman", but now I always think of him as the Iceman. Even if he loses he's the coolest customer on the field.

20 Alex Belth   ~  Jul 26, 2005 5:01 am

20.  "I do not think that any individual, in any sport, will even have the mass adulation and love that Mickey had."

Michael Jordan comes awfully close, doesn't he?

21 Shaun P   ~  Jul 26, 2005 7:22 am

21.  Alex, excellent points about Jeter and his place in both our time and Yankee lore. He is the ultimate professional but his love for the game always shines through. He certainly is adored in ways similar to Mantle, and DiMag.

"Rivera is great, but he's other-wordly. . . . He's a freak. You can't explain him." I'm too young (27) to have watched Mantle play in person, but when I hear him described by those who did, those are the words that come to mind, other-worldly and can't explain him. I know they all say he was "one of the guys", but from our perspective now, he's a mythic legend - you almost can't believe the stories of what he did, and there are so many of those stories.

Jeter is certainly the face of the Torre Yankees, and has done some unbelievable things (the shovel pass comes to mind). But the mythic legend on these Yanks is Mariano, who's done the otherworldly over and over and over again - and comes back to do it once more, whether he succeeds OR fails. And then keeps doing it - all with just one pitch, really - and that makes it all the more unexplainable. That's God-given talent, something Mantle also had in spades.

This has been a pretty good discussion - I'm glad we could all have it.

22 JorgeTennis   ~  Jul 31, 2005 1:40 pm

22.  Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest baseball players ever. There is something about him that makes you feel great and that you leave whatever you are doing to watch him pitch. Also as a person he is always nice, we are so lucky to have been able to watch him pitch, I think he is already a Hall of Famer. Go Rivera!!!

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