Is Mariano Rivera the Greatest MLB Pitcher of All Time?

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIJanuary 10, 2012

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait on Photo Day at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 23, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

There are two kinds of players in modern baseball: Those who have been somehow tied to performance enhancing drugs and those who are considered to be clean.

My friend Frank posed an interesting question to me today.  He asked "Is Pedro Martinez the best pitcher of all time? Is Mariano Rivera? Given the steroid era, you could make a case for both."

He's right, I can.  I intend to.  In two separate pieces, making my case for both men.

Mariano Rivera, Mo, The Sandman has been the most prolific closer in baseball for the last 17 seasons.  The man has one pitch, a cut fastball, that he he rolls out every single game and nobody can hit him.

Rivera has been regarded as a clean pitcher during the turbulent times known as the steroid era. He has mowed (no pun intended) down opponents day in and day out.  It hasn't mattered if the opponent were a juiced up Jose Canseco or a tried-and-true everyman like Bill Mueller, Rivera has been able to slam the door shut on all of them.

He is a 12-time All-Star and has won the 1999 AL Babe Ruth Award, 1999 ML WS MVP, 2003 AL ALCS MVP and five-time Rolaids Relief award winner.

While he has never won a Cy Young award, he has finished third in voting three times, as well as second, fifth and eighth each one time, respectively.

He has led the American League in saves on three separate occasions, but has amassed 603 career saves, making him the all-time saves leader in MLB history.

During his 17 seasons, he has posted a record of 75-57 with a 2.21 career ERA and 0.998 career WHIP.  He has added 1,111 strikeouts to his resume as well, with an 8.3 K/9 ratio.

While it is impossible to compare a player from one generation effectively against a player from an earlier time, I am hard pressed to find too many closers that have been more dominant than Mariano Rivera.  His impact on the New York Yankee organization has been tremendous, and when he decides to hang up the cleats he will never be forgotten.  

Surely, Rivera will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

On the flip side, could Pedro Martinez be the greatest pitcher of all time?