While it seemed, for a while, that Mariano Rivera had put his closing issues behind him, but he was back at it again on Sunday, as he blew yet another save, which leads me to believe Rivera is finally showing signs of being human after all.
Rivera, 43, has blown seven saves this season, two short of his career high (he blew nine saves back in 1997). Every closer endures a rough patch or a rough season, but it seems as if Mariano Rivera hasn't struggled quite as much as he has this season.
As Rivera told YES Network analyst Jack Curry, he is giving it his all this season and is still coming up short.
I take Mo by his word—if he says he is not holding anything back, then he is not holding anything back.
However, that does not change what has happened this season for Mariano, who has put together a less-than-impressive second half of the season (Joel Sherman via Twitter):
And things may continue to go downhill for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Rivera threw two innings and over 30 pitches on Sunday, and those two factors combined have led to trouble for Mo this season (Danny Knobler via Twitter):
So, is this the downfall of Mariano Rivera?
While I would not say this is Rivera's downfall, Mariano is certainly at the end of his career (and not just because he is retiring).
This season, Rivera boasts a 2.28 ERA. While that is an excellent ERA, the number ranks as Rivera's highest ERA since the 2002 season (via MLB.com). His ERA has also increased every year since 2008. True, his 2008 ERA was a minuscule 1.40, but it is also true his numbers have declined since.
Rivera has also allowed six home runs this season (via MLB.com), which is the second highest total of his career as a closer. Should Mariano allow a seventh home run, he would tie a career high (as a reliever) set back in 2009.
Mariano Rivera will go down in history as the greatest closer to ever play the game and rightfully so. He has been the best player at his position for a long time.
But what seemed like a trend earlier in the season has become reality for Mariano Rivera.
He is still a good closer, but is he elite this season?