April 7, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees former pitcher Mariano Rivera (right) shares a laugh with manager Joe Girardi at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
The native of Panama, and arguably the most successful closer in MLB history, had much to smile about in his career after 40.
In 2011 and 2013, Rivera earned 44 saves, while his strikeouts-to-walks ratio was 7.5 and 6.0 respectively. That, in itself, earned him two of his twelve All-Star Game appearances, not that he would have been left out during his retirement tour. And, it was not like he was being a tricky veteran with a variety of pitches. Rivera rarely threw anything that was not a fastball or cutter, even in 2013, both pitches holding strong at 92 mph (FanGraphs.com). In this baseball era, where young pitchers are bursting on the scene with blazing fastballs, only to then require surgery to fix their shoulders, Rivera’s arm seemed to go on forever.
However, it was not all rose-colored glasses for the New York Yankees legend. The 2012 season would be one that Rivera would want to forget, with injuries and questions about whether he was finished. He showed his doubters wrong, being nearly as automatic as ever for saves, blowing only seven opportunities. That tied the most that he has ever failed, but comparatively, it was consistent to the rest of his career.
Many fans and experts alike have only one question: how much of that was Rivera and how much of that was being on the New York Yankees when they were successful for so long? Well, considering last season was more of an excellent coaching job by manager Joe Girardi, and less the firepower of the Yankees’ lineup (ranked 20th in runs per game), having Rivera throwing that fast and with good control at the end of ballgames helped them to win games, six credited to Rivera himself.
An old Rivera on the Yankees would be gold for any other team to have, compared to their closers in their prime. It is hard to argue, even for Red Sox fans, that he was not the greatest at the position, even after 40.