Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
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Bronx, New York, United States of America
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December 13
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Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact nickleshi@aol.com for more info.

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 11:28PM

The Unmatched Excellence of Mariano Rivera

Rate: 5 Flag
As I write this, Mariano Rivera is nearing another great New York Yankee achievement.  He has reached 600 career saves and soon will beat the Major League Baseball record.  As a lifelong Yankees fan, I've seen great closers -- Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti, John Wetteland -- but Mariano is one-of-a-kind. 

How much longer can he continue to dominate?  It's a telling sign of his greatness that everyone seems shocked whenever he shows any cracks in his armor by giving up a run or blowing a save opportunity, proving that he is human after all.  Nevertheless, seeing him play, it is clear that we are witnessing a future Hall of Famer, a living legend, one of the greats of all time.

He is a marvel who rarely shows his age.  It is hard to believe he's in his 40s, he still pitches like he's in his prime.  His longevity is evident by the number on his uniform -- 42 -- which was retired throughout baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson in 1997.  Active players who had the number before the ceremonial retirement were permitted to keep it, and Mariano Rivera is the last one still playing, and playing well.

From the moment he enters a game (especially at home in the new Yankee Stadium to the tune of Metallica's "Enter Sandman"), he brings electricity with him to the mound.  He makes it look easy.  There are few players (now or in the past) who can measure up to his accomplishments.  Soon, he will stand alone. 

When the day comes, and  it will, that Mariano Rivera will eventually call it quits, he will be impossible to replace.  Until then we should enjoy every chance we get to see him play.  The memories he's given us are countless, from World Series victories to my favorite moment, when Rivera faced off against controversial homerun leader Barry Bonds in an interleague game, challenging him and striking him out!

Rivera is a class act, a great athlete, and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, and we should all feel lucky to have the chance to see him play in our own lifetime.

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He is truly remarkable. I'm a huge Yankees fan and a huge Rivera fan. I still remember him as that young, lanky set-up guy to Wetteland back in the '96 World Series. It's amazing what a crop of players came up for the Yanks in 95-96. Thanks for this...
He's a marvel alright. I've been a fan since I picked him up in our baseball pool in his breakout season when Wetteland was still the closer. He is certainly the greatest closer we're likely to see.
Like Emily, I'm Yankee stripped and live and bleed the Yanks. Rivera is the best, ever. While some are hot for a few years, this job takes tremendous confidence and one bad outing can kill it for some pitchers. I really hate he has to retire soon (1, 2 years). (Emily, you could rate the guy, geez)
Ghost, ha! I think a Yankees/Phillies World Series remaitch would be awesome to see. As long as the hated Red Sox don't make it. :)
I love watching him pitch, just not against the Phils! He is fearsome and every definition of a closer. I am hoping we don't have to face him, honestly...
I'm one of those who think saves statistics are misleading. Coming in to start the 9th inning with a 3-run lead seems much less challenging than what guys like Lyle and Gossage used to do - in the last game of the 1977 playoff vs KC, Lyle came in during the 4th inning and completed the game!

That said, Mariano is the greatest at what he does now, and nobody's even a close second. I think the greatest reason for his long-term success is his unflabbaility. He looks no different on the rare occasion when he blows a save than he does when he's struck out the side. Blowing the 7th game of the 2001 World Series would have devastated a lot of pitchers - look what happened to Lee Smith and Mitch Williams after they blew critical playoff games. Yet Rivera shrugged it off and has maintained the same high level 10 years later. It's amazing. He's one of the very few who, when he enters the game, the other team is thinking, "It's over."

One more thing: he's ruined it for other teams. I've been exasperated by my fellow Mets fans, who have continually bad-mouthed very good closers like Billy Wagner and K-Rod. I keep telling them: Look, you're unconsciously comparing them to Mariano's excellence; that's unfair to anyone.

Someday, when Rivera has retired, the Yankees will be forced to have a merely competent closer like everyone else. Then you'll know how spoiled you've been the last 15 years.