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Mariano Rivera is not worthy of the Cy Young

Sep 3, 2009, 9:50 AM EDT

John Harper disagrees:

The man they call Mo is deserving, to be sure. And even though a hot September from starters such as Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez or Josh Beckett could make any of them the front-runner for the award, none is having the kind of lights-out season that would all but eliminate talk of a reliever winning.

Look, I love me some Mariano Rivera. He is, bar none, my favorite Yankee of the Torre-Girardi era. But 60 or so innings of 1.78 ERA pitching is simply nowhere near as impressive nor valuable as 200+ innings of 2.32 ERA, and that’s before you even get into peripherals. That latter number is from Zack Grienke who, if he played for anyone other than the Royals, would be cruising to 20+ wins right now and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The Cy Young award is an individual award, and as things currently stand, the only reason to not give it to Zack Greinke is if you look past what he has done as an individual and give him demerits for the performance of his teammates.

Mariano Rivera is the best at what he does, and one day he will find himself in Cooperstown because of it.  But what he does is not as important as what a starter does, and that’s the case no matter how much we glorify Mariano Rivera specifically, or the role of the closer in general.

  1. hop - Sep 3, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    Sorry Zack wont be winning it either, CC is your AL Cy Young Award winner

  2. yankeesfanlen - Sep 3, 2009 at 10:32 AM

    I completely agree. He is a superb team member and mentor and contributes 300% more than anyone could expect. But a Cy Young almost by definition has to be in there for 200+innings, and a closer for 1/3 that many, and really only if the team has a reasonable prospect for success from the previous 8 innings not under his control.
    If I lived in KC I would go to Royals games every time Greinke pitched, and maybe the rest of the games just to see them.Could probably do that for 81 games for the price of 10 at NYS and have better weather, but I digress.
    Bottom line: CC for AL, Lincecum for NL>

  3. Mariners Will win one Day - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    Sorry C.C. is not going to win it! King Felix will rein This year!

  4. The Saint - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    I love this article. To maintain that a closer is not as important, or worthy of the Cy Young award is impudent, uninformed, and not based on fact.
    Yes, over the course of a season any starter will log more innings than any reliever. Most starters today will not go beyond 5-6 innings in a start- just enough to give them an official game. Just long enough to pull them before their arm gets tired and they get shelled. Just long enough for the bullpen to take over and cleanup a mess or preserve a win. In many of those instances (40-55%) the closer will earn a save in a very high pressure situation. A situation that only few armor like bellies can handle. This is why it takes a specific psychological makeup for a closer. This is why they get paid well. This is why starters earn as many wins as they do. One must be mindful of the total appearances that a reliever will make (50-85 and sometimes more) accounting for half of the games played. Far more than taking the ball every fifth day.
    What the likes of Greinke and particularly Sabathia who gives you innings adds, I would agree that the comparison pales on the body of work at large. However, to downplay the significance of what Rivera continuously brings is a pure canard and shows the lack of analytical skills that used to be required of any serious journalist.

  5. terry - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:24 AM

    It should be a requirement for the Cy Young to go to a team that makes the postseason as should the MVP. Giving it to a losing club is a waste. Fuck Zeinke and his pathetic Royals

  6. Damien - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:28 AM

    Are you kidding? Give an award to someone who’s team happened to do well that year? How is that fair? Individual awards should ALWAYS be about the individual and not about the team.

  7. close it out - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:29 AM

    The real question is, who will be the first winner of the Mariano Rivera award. This guy has redefined the role of the premier closer much as Cy Young defined that of the pitcher.

  8. Simon DelMonte - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    I agree about the Cy Young and closers. Bur what about the MVP and closers? Can you argue that without Mo, the Yankees are not as dominant, that his presence this year means that every game lasts one inning less for everyone else? I am not saying he should win it, especially since there are two other candidates for MVP in the Bronx and a guy in Minneapolis whose stats are through the roof. But since the award is called “most valuable player,” it’s hard for me not to think that few players are of more value to any team than Rivera has been to the Yankees this season.

  9. DanyYank - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    Hey terry, you ignorant miscreant…you sure do know how to turn a phrase…very well spoken *eye roll* …be glad literacy is not a requirement for being a baseball fan…

  10. Jake - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:38 AM

    I love the “only a closer can handle the heat of the ninth” argument. You think that major league players can’t pitch with butterflies in their stomach? I keep forgetting that no starter has ever been able to finish the 9th inning without fainting or vomiting. I keep forgetting that no non-closer has ever come in and successfully converted a save situation. I keep forgetting that the fact that the Yankees are paying CC $8MM per year more than Mo shows that they think Mo is more valuable.
    Also, a reliever that pitches in more than half his team’s games? Is this still the 80’s? The league leader in games pitched last year threw in 75 games, which last time I checked was less than 81.
    The fact remains that 60 great innings are not as valuable as 200 very good innings. It’s not even close.

  11. geoknows - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    I know the Yanks contingent will come crashing down on me for this but here goes…*deep breath*…They can’t stand the thought that their guy CC hasn’t had quite the year needed for the award. And God knows the Yankees must win every award because it is their RIGHT (see comments from terry above), especially in a season where they will win their division. So they are searching for another candidate to pimp. Mo is the guy.

  12. Jason B - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:46 AM

    Yep, it takes a “special breed” alright to close out games – look at all the failed-to-mediocre starters who have excelled in the role, from the halcyon days of Octavio Dotel to current closers like Ryan Franklin.

  13. Paul - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:56 AM

    Not to take anything away from the 200+ innings from Mr. Kansas City (who deserves better), but the question is which innings Rivera pitches. His 1.78 ERA doesn’t come in the third inning against the bottom of the order. It comes against guys like the meat of Boston’s murderous offense, and it comes when the game is on the line and there is no margin for error. Move Zach to a real market with some real competition. He’ll probably still succeed, but I bet that ERA creeps up over 3.00…

  14. golflsmith - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:02 PM

    CC is ranked in the top 12 in every pitching catagory in the MLB except ERA. He’s 1st in innings pitched and wins. He will finish the season strong and probably win the CY Young. IF the kid from KC played for the Yanks or Angels, etc. he would probably win it.
    Granted 200 IP with a good ERA is more impressive than 60 IP with a great ERA, but how many of these starters have to come into a game with runners in scoring positions and only up by 1 or 2 runs? So sure, a starter can pitch all 9 innings and a starter can become a closer, say what you want. Bottom line you can’t ignore some of the numbers Franklin and Mo put up and the positions they are in when they enter a game…

  15. Joe - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:09 PM

    Comment to Paul:
    If Greinke moved to a real market he would still be pitching against the same teams. He would just have a better team behind him and would have many more wins. His ERA is even more impressive when you consider how bad the Royals are. And doesn’t he have the most complete games this year? – which means he has to go through the entire batting order at least three times – much more impressive than just one inning, no matter how tough the batters.

  16. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    New York Daily News :
    Never mind starters, Mariano Rivera deserves Cy Young
    John Harper
    Thursday, September 3rd 2009, 4:00 AM
    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2009/09/03/2009-09-03_harper_cy_of_relief_for_mariano.html#ixzz0Q3orEYHR

  17. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:18 PM

    THIS MAN KNOWS BASEBALL, I HEAR YOU, I FEEL THE SAME.
    PEOPLE WILL SAY WE ARE CRAZY ……WHAT DO I CARE ABOUT
    A GUY WITH SUPER HUMAN #’S ON A LOSER ………

  18. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    THIS GUY IS SUCH A GOOD GUY HE TRIES TO TEACH OTHER PITCHERS THAT ASK TO THROW THE CUTTER AND THEY ALL SAY THEY DON’T KNOW HOW HE DOES IT ………….
    THIS GUY IS THE G.O.A.T ……AS DESCRIBED BY THE HALL OF FAMERS
    PAPELBON CAN’T EVEN CARRY THIS GUYS JOCK STRAP, TALKING ABOUT HE SHOULD CLOSE THE ALLSTAR GAME PLAYED AT THE STADIUM, THAT GUY WOULD HAVE GOTTEN JUMPED ON THE MOUND HAD MO NOT GOTTEN THE CALL.
    THIS GUY IS SO HUMBLE AS WELL, HE WILL GLADLY TELL YOU ABOUT ALOMAS HOMER, AND GONZOS BLOOP ………
    PURE CLASS.
    IN NEW YORK WE KNOW WHO DA MAN IS…….

  19. Chadillac - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    Relievers already have an award set aside for them: The Rolaids Relief award, and Mo’s won it four times. He’ll probably win it again this year. Leave the Cy Young for starters.

  20. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    HOW ABOUT THIS STAT, 38 STRAIGHT SAVES….. DOES EVERYONE DO THAT
    520 SAVES AND COUNTING, AND THIS GUY NEVER
    HAS LONG TERM INJURY ISSUES …….

  21. Yankee hater but? - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    He is just about the best closer ever!!!! Give it to him

  22. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    It’s easy to argue that Mo isn’t the MVP of the Yankees, for instance, here are two Yankee pitchers
    Pitcher A: 55 G, 55.2 IP, 1.78 ERA, 41 H, 9 BB, 61 K, .199/.233/.316
    Pitcher B: 31 G, 39.1 IP, 1.14 ERA, 22 H, 10 BB, 48 K, .162/.218/.204
    One is Rivera, the other is Phil Hughes.

  23. HOTROD - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:32 PM

    BIG PIMPIN UP IN NYC………….
    WITH THE DARK BLUE YANKEE ON………
    GOD CREATED THE YANKEES FIRST, THEN CAME MAN……..
    CHECK IT OUT, IT’S TRUE ……….
    WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE STREET ???
    TO GET TO YANKEE STADIUM…………….
    FELLAS, WHO U KIDDIN, GOD IS A YANKEE FAN, WHAT CAN YOU DO.

  24. planktonDisciple - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    I’ve never been a Yankees fan. Still I think depending upon how well starters perform, a great reliever should be given consideration. Historically that has not been the case; nonetheless, the award is for “best pitcher”, not specifying any role. era is not the best measure for a reliever, because many times they inherit runners. Also, one or two horrible innings does not prove one reliever is more effective than another.
    Their ability to close with inherited runners can only be measured by saves, blown saves, and w-l. Rivera has only blown one save and lost 2x this year. His era is still significant, but it doesn’t capture all. The notion that salary has some relationship to value in pro sports is absurd. Mario wanted to stay with the Yankees. If he had left in his prime, he would command a huge salary.
    Sabathia’s salary was determined by the free agent market, Rivera’s was not. Closers of Rivera’s ability are far rarer than starters of Sabathia’s ability. Look at Sabathia’s record in the last three years of postseason (his only postseason numbers) … he has failed miserably, while Rivera’s postseason numbers have largely eclipsed his reg season numbers.
    If Sabathia and Rivera were the same age, and on the free market at the same time, we would see that they command similar salaries and interest around the league.
    I also believe that playing for a bad team should not be held against an individual when considered for an individual award. I also think won-loss is overvalued. I remember when Bob Welch won. He won a zillion games, but clearly there were a few starters that were more dominant.

  25. Jim - Sep 3, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    Wow, Craig, is it Yankee posts that bring all of the mouthbreathers crawling out of the woodwork or did someone repost this on jeter4god.com?

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