Mariano Rivera Is MLB's Saves Leader, but Is He Best Yankee of His Generation?

Clay DefayetteCorrespondent IIISeptember 26, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 19:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on September 19, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Rivera become the all-time leader in saves after recording his 602 save.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Mariano Rivera has solidified his place in baseball history with his 602 saves, if he hadn't already. He also passed Trevor Hoffman for first place in the category. There is some confusion on where to rank Rivera among all-time great pitchers, but that story is for another day. Derek Jeter has meant much more to the New York Yankees than Rivera has.

Jeter is "The Captain" for a reason. He takes the field every game, no matter what the games' circumstances are. Rivera is undoubtedly the greatest closer MLB has ever seen, but that is based on his position. Consistent closers are difficult to find from year-to-year, let alone for 17 seasons.

It's even harder to find a consistent shortstop that makes clutch hits like Jeter has in the playoffs. That's what positions like first basemen and designated hitters are for. The worth of a closer has been inflated with the adoption of the save in baseball. The ninth inning is widely accepted as the hardest three outs to get in a game but if the outs in the seventh and eighth innings are not taken care of, there is no save.

When Jeter and the rest of the everyday players have a bad game, they hear about it from the New York media. Rivera definitely has received criticism for "blowing" the 2001 World Series and for other bad outings, but not to the same extent as the players who have failed to get him in save situations.

Jeter's defensive excellence in previous playoffs meant the Yankees recording outs that should not have been. Without them, Rivera may not be in save situations.

Some of Jeter's Golden Glove awards should be challenged. Rivera should have had a Gold Glove as a pitcher for jumping over a broken bat before Jeter received his in 2010.

With the Yankees payroll, a closer could have been found from season to season. That closer would have be nowhere near Rivera's level, but the Yankees could not have replaced or found a consistent shortstop like Jeter. Many believe Alex Rodriquez would have been better at short, but he had early playoff woes and his body has been more unreliable than Jeter's.

For all the broken bat, ground ball outs Rivera has recorded with his killer cutter, Jeter has been there for the double play or toss to first.

Rivera has meant more than Jeter to the Yankees in both the latter years of their careers, but it doesn't close the gap because Jeter's significance to four of the five World Series Championship teams was much greater.