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This isn’t the way Mariano Rivera was supposed to go out

May 4, 2012, 2:04 AM EDT

Mariano Rivera AP

Maybe it’s still arguable on a quantity basis, but going strictly by quality, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in major league history. The game’s all-time saves leader, Rivera has a 206 ERA+ in 1,219 2/3 career innings. The only reliever anywhere near shouting distance of that is Billy Wagner, who came in at 187 in 300 fewer innings. The only pitcher besides Rivera with even at 150 ERA+ in at least 1,000 innings is Pedro Martinez, who finished up at 154.

That’s just one way of trying to describe how awesome Rivera was statistically. There are more.  In his 17 seasons going into 2012, Rivera finished with a sub-2.00 ERA 11 times. His postseason record is ridiculous: a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings. Because of the way the game has changed, is should be nearly impossible in this day and age for a pitcher to make a dent on the all-time performance lists, but there’s Rivera 13th all-time in ERA and second in WHIP among those to throw at least 1,000 innings. The next best post-WWII pitcher on the ERA list is Hoyt Wilhelm at No. 45.

After Rivera at 2.21, no active pitcher with at least 1,000 innings has a career ERA under 3.00.

Fairness dictated that Rivera set his own path for leaving the game. It looked like he had done so; even though he hadn’t made it official, expectations were that this would be his last year.

But life is rarely fair. Rivera is a big long shot to make it back from a torn ACL this year, though what a story it would be if he could return in October. It’s doubtful he’ll rush into anything, but he’ll now have to decide whether to come back at age 43 next year. His arm will likely be up to the task, but this matter will come down to his head and his heart.

It’d be a huge shame if we’ve seen the last of Rivera on the mound at Yankee Stadium. He’s been a rock, completely unflappable, and the absolute greatest of all time at nailing down leads in the ninth. Life without him in the bullpen won’t be quite the same.

  1. Ben - May 4, 2012 at 2:19 AM

    The fact that a guy who pitched 70 innings a year his whole career could accumulate 40 WAR is just astounding to me.
    If only he had held on another 40 years, he could have made it to 300 wins. And it kinda seemed like he might be able to, until tonight. Really sad.

    • brokea$$lovesmesomeme - May 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM

      He ain’t dead and he probably has more money than life left

  2. storebrandcookies - May 4, 2012 at 2:28 AM

    It’s going to be a very tough choice for Mariano if he wants to come back. There are several factors like the extent of a rehab to his knee and if he still has those competitive juices left.

    I would like for him to come back and retire on his own terms; that would be special to watch.

  3. humanexcrement - May 4, 2012 at 2:29 AM

    It doesn’t matter how Mariano Rivera goes out. it wouldn’t have mattered if he had played the rest of this season and gotten shelled to the tune of a 12.00 ERA. At this point it wouldn’t have tarnished his legacy one bit. Some great athletes quit at the top of their game, other greats overstay their welcome and make themselves look less than what they once were. Nothing Rivera could have done in this single season–and we all know he was retiring after this year, though he wasn’t willing to say so in public and make it a distraction–would have tarnished his legacy as the greatest relief pitcher in history. I’d rather see this than see him blow save after save, although I don’t think that would have happened this year. Even if it had, it doesn’t matter at this point. He’s the best ever at what he did. See you in Cooperstown.

  4. drewzducks - May 4, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    Awful way to end it but 5time WS Champ and the indisputable greatest closer of all time is not too shabby. I just hope someone checks in on Suzyn Waldman.

  5. Francisco (FC) - May 4, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    “This isn’t the way Mariano Rivera was supposed to go out”

    A lot of us wonder if we’re going to say the same of Jim Thome…

  6. odj810 - May 4, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Even as a boston fan you have to respect the legend. Sad to see it. From the other side i just finally started to be able to handle the fact he was never going to slow down or go away. I don’t think there will ever be anyone who comes close to his dominance.

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