By Jason Keidel
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As the sun rises on another Subway Series, time to tip the cap to the only player available for duty who has been around for them all.
He, of course, is Mariano Rivera, the Final 42, sui generis of any generation, the man whose mythology isn’t hyperbole. To list his bona fides is to not only insult him and you, but also his peers, since he has none.
The laconic, iconic pitcher is having arguably his best season, which is saying quite something considering he is the physical example and spiritual exemplar at the position, the de facto logo, like Jerry West. Like West, Rivera is the rare creature about whom everyone agrees. Indeed, Buster Olney said that there’s more separation between Rivera and the rest than there is for any player at any position in any sport.
His lazy windup, like a lion rising from a nap, his toe tapping the mound three times, and his flawless, effortless delivery, has been as stable, singular, and scintillating this year as it was in 1997, when the Mets and Yanks spawned their rivalry beyond the back pages.
After a century of baseball, pitching is still about perception, and hitters still can’t reconcile Rivera’s peaceful delivery with the violent pitch that pops from his right hand. Batters still can’t catch up to his signature pitch, no matter how many mph have melted off. And he throws just the one. The cutter. Which still shatters wood, leaving the bewildered batter trotting to first with a splintered knob in his fist.