For a Yankees happening, a surprisingly small amount of hype and coverage surrounds Mariano Rivera passing Trevor Hoffman for most career saves. Assuming this is due to a real sea change in baseball coverage, a move away from the silly “save” stat is wishful thinking indeed. But why the dearth, in relative terms, of breathless hyperbole for Mariano Rivera breaking the career save record he and Trevor Hoffman shared this morning?
All the pieces are there: longevity record, career Yankee, member of historically good teams. Why has this happened so much more quietly than, say, Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit?
One good reason is the greatness of Mariano Rivera is pretty widely acknowledged. Not many people are willing to offer a negative opinion of the Great Mo. He’s the finest to ever perform his job and he does so with minimal fanfare or hysterics (minimal for the Yankees, that is.)
The hysterics are reserved for the very Yankeesest of problems – who would catch Rivera when he set the record?
Logic dictates leaving in the starting catcher or, at the very least, put whoever gives the Yankees the best chance to win the game behind the dish. The Yankees are still in a pennant chance and making ceremonial substitutions is reckless and/or stupid.
None the less, a vocal contingent pines for the Yankees to use Jorge Posada as the catcher for Rivera’s 602nd save of the his illustrious career. Posada, the story goes, was the backstop for the vast majority of these saves so he should be in there for a record-breaker, right?
Luckily, Yankees manager Joe Girardi sees it another, saner way:
“We’ve caught him one time, for what, six innings all year?,” Girardi said. “The games are important right now. It’s something that we can talk about, but I’m probably going to stick with our catchers. That’s what I’m going to do.”
“I mean, what happens if something goes wrong?”
Thankfully, Girardi stayed the course and left Russell Martin in to finish the game.
Saving his 602nd game doesn’t do anything for Mariano Rivera’s standing as baseball’s greatest closer and/or short-inning reliever. There wasn’t a single person alive who prefers Trevor Hoffman to Mariano Rivera at any point of their respective careers. Mo is the best, and has been for a very long time. Playing for a perennial contender lets him build up the saves but his own singular greatness: the pinpoint control, the meticulous attack and ability to repeat his delivery in the highest of high leverage situations makes him the best of all time.
So, congratulations Mariano on compiling the most of the silliest stat in baseball. You are very good at a very specialized job, which beats sucking at it like so many have before.