Keidel: No. 602 For The Final 42

By Jason Keidel
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Some may say we have a Mariano Rivera obsession. You’re damn right we do. It’s one of those oxymoronic, healthy diseases, backed by 602 saves, making Mariano now and forever the king of closers. Yes. Forever. The pitcher nonpareil won’t tell you about this, so we who have been blessed to see him have to.

Swathed in superlatives, the best yesterday, today, and tomorrow, Mariano Rivera regards himself with all the bombast of an undertaker – a fitting analogy for a man whose theme song “Enter Sandman” is hard rock assault while Rivera puts the enemy to sleep with hypnotic aplomb.

One pitch over 16 years: a yawning windup and slow-mo delivery, while he charges the baseball with unprecedented power and precision. He gives the glory to God. And why not? In the absence of any empirical proof for a man who’s closer to AARP membership than his prime to pitch this well for this long, an arm charged with spiritual currents explains it better than science.

Rivera passed Trevor Hoffman, who never saw a big game he couldn’t blow. To compare the two pitchers is like comparing Seabiscuit to Secretariat. Hoffman was a nice pitcher, and perhaps a good man, but his name doesn’t belong in the breath or breadth of Mariano’s eminence.

About a month ago I met Mariano. Sweeny Murti made the introduction. A young man was tethered to Rivera’s hip, part of the Yankees’ Hope Week program. There were other youngsters (and adults) tugging on Mo’s metaphorical cape. Everyone wants a piece of perfection. An hour later I was in the dugout alone with the final 42, who treated me like a son. We chatted for 20 or so minutes, and the man was so sagacious and gracious with his time that I had to end the conversation out of guilt.

One pitch. A cutter that shatters the bat, leaving the bewildered batter trotting to first with a splintered knob in his fist. Every save he walks meekly toward the catcher, as if to congratulate him for the save, sans the scripted convulsions of hurlers like Francisco Rodriguez, who pounds his chest and flexes his forefinger at the sky, as though God had ten grand on the game.

Mariano Rivera is the greatest in all ways we measure men. Short of saving the world on his day off, he has done everything right. All his energy is directed at helping the team and serving his deity. I’m not even religious and I could listen to Rivera joust for Jesus for days. He’s that sincere, stripped of all pretense and the rancid, regurgitated mantras of the crusader. Simply, he’s the closest thing to a perfect human being I’ve ever been around.

What can be said that hasn’t already? Perhaps nothing. So I leave it to the writer nonpareil to describe the pitcher nonpareil.

“He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”

Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com

www.twitter.com/JasonKeidel

Comments

One Comment

  1. Robert Richardson says:

    Remember these days Yankee fans cause we’re closer to the end of Mo’s career than the beginning. Soon there will be no mo Mo (sorry, had to put that in there). Great Shakespearean quote JK!

    1. JK says:

      Thank you, sir. Who says sports fans are stupid? Mr. Richardson knows Hamlet!

  2. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

    A man as humble and modest as Mariano deserves every accolade for all that he has achieved. Even after he set the record this afternoon, he didn’t know what to do with the spotlight – he’s just never been one to really seek it. A first-ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt, and a legend in his own time.

    1. JK says:

      Indeed, Jonas. In fact, he’s implored the press to cease asking him about it. He’s that uneasy over praise. Astonishing in all ways. He’s, well, you know…

      1. Jonas A-K says:

        Indeed. It is his resolve that separates him from the rest, including Mr. Hoffman. I do disagree with your assessment of Hoffman, though; the man was just as intimidating in his heyday, only faltering once he overstayed his welcome by about five years. If you asked me who the two most dominant closers in history were, I’d tell you Rivera and Hoffman, in that order. Sure, Rivera has also lost his fair share of big games. However, Mo’s ability to bounce back day after day, year after year is something to be admired and what puts him in a level of his own.

        Regardless of the situation, Yankees fans have always wanted Mo out there, their confidence unwavering and unparalleled for any other pitcher across baseball past and present.

      2. JK says:

        Try it here, dude, if you can. The more comments, the better for the site.

  3. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

    A man as humble and modest as Mariano deserves every accolade for all that he has achieved. Even after he set the record this afternoon, he didn’t know what to do with the spotlight – he’s just never been one to really seek it. A first-ballot Hall of Famer without a doubt, and a legend in his own time.

    It’s his resolve that has led to his success game after game, year after year, postseason after postseason. That’s the difference between Rivera and Hoffman. I do disagree with your assessment of Hoffman; the man was every bit as dominant when he was young, when “Hell’s Bells” was just as symbolic and intimidating as “Enter Sandman.” However, Hoffman certainly lost his mojo and overstayed his welcome during his final four or five years, and what separates Mo from Hoffman and all others is his ability to bounce back. Tough stretch? Sure, he’s had his fair share. Losing a big game? He’s done that too. Even when he famously lost the 2001 World Series, it was more an error that he made than a pitch that he threw. He sure jammed Gonzalez, but the ball found the right spot anyway.

    Regardless of the situation, Yankees fans have always wanted Mo out there, their confidence unwavering and unparalleled for any other pitcher across baseball past and present.

  4. JK says:

    Agreed, Kurt. But you know some fool will withhold his vote out of some abstract, absurd ritual. Like you said, if he doesn’t belong first-ballot then they should close the place down.

    1. Kurt Spitzner says:

      FIRST BALLOT AND 100% OR IT ALL JUST A SHAM! IF SOMEONE IS THE VERY BEST AT WHAT THEY DO AND ITS A POSITION ON A TEAM THEN HOW ON GODS GREEN EARTH CAN ANYONE ARGUE WITH WHAT HES ACCOMPLISHED AND AGREE THAT NOBODY HAS DONE SO IN THE PAST AND WILL NEVER EVER DO SO AGAIN IN THE FUTURE AS YOU SO ELOQUENTLY PUT IT.AS ANYONE WHO READS KNOWS I AM A DIE HARD METS FAN BUT IT WOULD BE FOOLISH NOT TO ADMIRE PERFECTION IN SPORTS AND IN THE REAL WORLD,BUT THATS ONLY MY OPINION!

      1. Jonas A-K says:

        Same here, Kurt. As you know I’m a diehard Mets fan as well, and hating the Yankees is our pastime, but I absolutely admire guys like Jeter and, even more so, Rivera. Without Mo, those Yanks wouldn’t have has nearly the success that they did. He won’t get 100%, even though you raise a good point that anyone who accomplishes something that no one else ever will deserves 100% on that merit alone. Some jerks will no doubt argue that closers are still just relief pitchers and don’t deserve it. Well, if Sutter’s in the Hall, then Rivera sure as heck should be.

  5. Kurt Spitzner says:

    HE BELONGS IN THE H of F FIRST ROUND 100%!

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