The Sandman, the go-to-guy, the greatest closer to ever play the game.
Since his debut in 1995, Mariano Rivera has made quite a name for himself in the MLB.
However with the sands of time drawing closer, and his 41st birthday only three months away, one can only wonder if he still possesses the immortal talents that have shown throughout his career.
Since his debut in 1995, Rivera is second in career saves(550,) 17th all time in career ERA(2.21,) and tied for first for most Relief Man of the Year Awards at 5,(most recently in 2009.)
Despite knowing of all these accolades, I still thought Rivera was hanging on and didn't have much time left.
That is until this past Sunday night. While I was watching ESPN's coverage of the Yankees-Red Sox game, New York Manager Joe Girardi did something that not only surprised me, it changed my entire perception of "The Sandman."
In the top of the ninth inning, with a 7-2 lead, David Robertson had just relieved Boone Logan of pitching duties for the final inning.
After an error by third basemen Ramiro Pena, and with a runner for the Red Sox on first, Robertson proceeded to force a ground out and a pop-up out for the next to batters. In the process however, the Sox runner was advanced to second.
With two outs, Robertson walked the next batter to put runners on first and second. Despite the cushion, Girardi decided to risk Rivera's arm and call it a night for the 25- year-old David Robertson.
As a fan of New York, a bitter sweet mood crept across my mind; here you have Rivera coming out to the mound, and yet with two outs is it really worth it?
Simply put, yes.
This move made a statement to the rest of the MLB.
Mainly because it obviously was not Girardi's decision alone. Rivera is a player that, in a sense, has a mutual say to how his arm is holding up. If there is even a hint of stress on that arm, all Mo has to do is say the word, and Girardi would give him the rest he needed.
Coming out in the last inning of a game, to make one out, closes the door on any doubt behind his ability.
Rivera has told Girardi that his arm feels great, that he is feeling great, and that as he gets older, he is not getting worse, he is getting better.
So he blows a save. You cannot judge a closer by the games they lose. You judge them by how they preform in their next outing.
Take last night for example. Rivera was back in Texas hoping to close out a comeback victory for the Yankees. The previous night he had blown a save in extras for the first time in 2 years.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the first pitch he threw was turned into a triple for the Rangers.
With the tying run on third, and no outs, most closers would have panicked and blown the save; Good thing for New York, Mo is not most closers.
He went on to retire the next 3 batters in a row, gaining his 550 career save and 24th of the season.
That's what being a closer is all about. You have to forget about the past, and look forward to the next game on the schedule. And that's exactly what he did.
The bottom line is this; Rivera is,(in my opinion) the GREATEST CLOSER TO EVER PLAY THE GAME.
If it is Game 7 of the World Series and one out separates the Yankees from a 28th title, I want "The Sandman" out there on the hill.
If you still do not agree, before commenting let me leave you with one final point.
This past Sunday, when Rivera came on to the mound with 2 outs, it took "The Sandman" 1 pitch, to put the Red Sox to sleep.