10/5/03: Chancey on Rivera
by Asher B. Chancey
I have examined the stats for Mariano Rivera, as well as Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley (who in my opinion was the best reliever ever), Rob Nen, Lee Smith, Jeff Reardon, Tom Gordon, John Wetteland, Billy Wagner, John Franco (who may have had the longest prolonged success of any closer ever), Dan Quisenberry, and Rod Beck, which represents a healthy sampling but which is by no means all inclusive, along with the win loss records of the teams for which they played (Lee Smith was a dominant closer with the Cubs, while Eckersley's hey-day was with the great Oakland A's of the late 80's and early 90's. Which do you suppose is more impressive?) and have reached my final conclusion about Rivera which I will be unwilling to change until Rivera has been this dominant for about six more years:
"Right now, Mariano Rivera, is not the greatest closer of all time, but has been as good as any other closer has ever been."
Funnily, the same can be said for Pedro Martinez with respect to starting. Both of them have about four to six more years before I even consider their place in history. (Okay, Pedro's a bit closer, but you get my point.)
An unnamed ball player said recently, "Oh, don't get me wrong. The Yankees have 300-game winner Roger Clemens, 200-game winner David Wells, 199-game winner Mike Mussina and 149-game winner Andy Pettitte in the rotation. And they have Mariano Rivera, one of the best closers in baseball history. The problem is that The Tightwad's meager budget left no one to provide a bridge between the starters and Rivera."
Mariano Rivera is indeed one the best closers in baseball history. One of the top 25 closers of all time, even. How many good closers have there been in "baseball history?" This is the equivalent of pointing out that Bernie Williams is one of the "best divisional series players of all time."
One could also say that he is the "best closer is playoff history." No argument here. I would just prefer it if we weren't so quick to forget that HE BLEW THE SAVE IN GAME SEVEN OF THE 2001 WORLD SERIES TO THE D'BACKS. Kind of diminishes the greatness a little.