Rivera pitching for the Yankees in 2007
November 29, 1969 |
Panama City, Panama
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|May 23, 1995 for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 26, 2013 for the New York Yankees|
|Earned run average||2.21|
|Career highlights and awards|
Mariano Rivera (born November 29, 1969) is a Panamanian retired baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, from 1995 to 2013. Nicknamed "Mo" and "Sandman", Rivera spent most of his career as a relief pitcher and served as the Yankees' closer for 17 seasons. A 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB's career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera won five American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards, and he finished in the top three in voting for the AL Cy Young Award four times.
Rivera was signed by the Yankees organization in Panama in 1990, and he debuted in the major leagues in 1995. Initially a starting pitcher, he was converted to a relief pitcher late in his rookie year. After a breakthrough season in 1996 as a setup man, he became the Yankees' closer in 1997 and established himself as one of baseball's top relievers, leading the major leagues in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004. Rivera primarily threw a sharp-moving, mid-90s mile-per-hour cut fastball that frequently broke hitters' bats and earned a reputation as one of the league's best pitches. With his presence at the end of games, signaled by his foreboding entrance song "Enter Sandman", Rivera was a key contributor to the Yankees' success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. An accomplished postseason performer, Rivera was named the 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the 2003 AL Championship Series MVP, and he holds several postseason records, including lowest earned run average (ERA) (0.70) and most saves (42).
Rivera is regarded within baseball as one of the most dominant relievers in major league history. Pitching with a longevity and consistency uncommon to the closer role, he saved at least 25 games in 15 consecutive seasons and posted an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, both of which are records. His career 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHIP are the lowest in the live-ball era among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. Fellow players credit him with popularizing the cut fastball across the major leagues. Along with his signature pitch, Rivera was known for his precise control, smooth pitching motion, and for his composure and reserved demeanor on the field. In 2013, the Yankees retired his uniform number 42; he was the last major league player to wear the number full-time, following its league-wide retirement in honor of Jackie Robinson. Rivera has been involved in philanthropic causes and the Christian community through the Mariano Rivera Foundation. He is considered to be a strong candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame once he is eligible.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional baseball career
- 3 Player profile
- 4 Legacy
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Accomplishments
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Mariano Rivera was born in Panama City, Panama, on November 29, 1969, to Mariano, Sr. and Delia Rivera; Mariano has one older sister, Delia, and two younger brothers, Alvaro and Giraldo. The family lived in Puerto Caimito, a Panamanian fishing village that Rivera described as "poor", while his father worked as captain of a fishing boat. As a young man, Rivera frequently played soccer and baseball with his friends on the beach during low tide; for baseball games, they substituted cardboard milk cartons for gloves and tree branches for bats, and they fashioned balls by taping up wads of shredded fishing nets and beat-up baseballs. Rivera used this makeshift equipment until his father bought him his first leather glove when he was 12 years old. Speaking about his youth, Rivera said that he stayed out of trouble but "was hanging with the wrong people".
Rivera thought of baseball as a hobby and did not seriously consider playing professionally. Instead, his aspirations were to become a professional soccer player, but a series of ankle injuries while playing at Pedro Pablo Sanchez High School dashed his hopes. After graduating from high school at age 16, he worked six-day weeks on a commercial boat captained by his father, catching shrimp and sardines. The job was "way too tough" for Rivera, who was more interested in becoming a mechanic. He decided to give up fishing as a career after abandoning a capsizing 120-short-ton (110 t) commercial boat as a 19 year-old, and after his uncle died from injuries suffered on a fishing boat.
In 1988, Rivera joined Panamá Oeste, a local amateur baseball team, as their shortstop. Scout Herb Raybourn watched him play in a baseball tournament but did not project him to be a major league shortstop. A year later, Panamá Oeste's pitcher performed so poorly that Rivera volunteered to replace him at the position. Teammates Claudino Hernández and Emilio Gáez were impressed with Rivera as a pitcher and consequently contacted Chico Heron, a scout for the New York Yankees. Two weeks later, Rivera was invited to a Yankees tryout camp run by Heron in Panama City. Raybourn returned to Panama to scout in February 1990, by then the Yankees' director of Latin American operations, and received a tip about Rivera from Hernández. Raybourn was surprised to hear Rivera had switched positions but decided to schedule him a workout on a field near Rivera's home. Although Rivera had no formal pitching training, weighed just 155 pounds (70 kg), and threw only 85–87 miles per hour (137–140 kilometres per hour), Raybourn was impressed by his athleticism and smooth, effortless pitching motion. Viewing Rivera as a raw talent, Raybourn signed the amateur free agent to a contract on February 17, 1990; the contract included a signing bonus of about US$3,000 ($5,360 today).
Professional baseball career
Minor leagues (1990–1995)
After signing his contract, Rivera—who spoke no English and had never left home—flew to the United States and reported to the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Yankees, a Rookie level minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. Feeling lonely and homesick, he wrote home to his parents often, as they did not have access to telephones in Puerto Caimito. At that point in his career, scouts considered Rivera to be a "fringe prospect" at best, but he made progress with a strong 1990 season for the GCL Yankees. Pitching mostly in relief, he allowed only 24 baserunners and one earned run in 52 innings pitched—a 0.17 earned run average (ERA). The team permitted Rivera to start the season's final game in order for him to accumulate enough innings pitched to qualify for the league's ERA title (which carried a $500 bonus); his subsequent seven-inning no-hitter "put him on the map with the organization", according to manager Glenn Sherlock. In the offseason, Rivera returned to Panama, where a tip from him to Raybourn led to the Yankees signing a promising local 16-year-old player, Rivera's cousin Rubén. In 1991, Mariano was promoted to the Class A level Greensboro Hornets of the South Atlantic League, where he started 15 of the 29 games he pitched in. Despite a 4–9 win–loss record, he recorded a 2.75 ERA in 114 2⁄3 innings pitched and struck out 123 batters while walking 36 batters. New York Yankees manager Buck Showalter took notice of Rivera's strong strikeout-to-walk ratio, calling it "impressive in any league" and saying, "This guy is going to make it."
In 1992, Rivera was promoted to the Class A-Advanced level Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League (FSL). He started 10 games for Fort Lauderdale, compiling a 5–3 win–loss record and a 2.28 ERA. He attempted to improve the movement on his slider pitch by snapping his wrist during his throwing motion, but he inadvertently caused damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. Rivera underwent surgery in August 1992 to repair the damage, ending his season and interrupting his minor league career. Contrary to popular belief, he did not have Tommy John surgery; his surgeon, Dr. Frank Jobe, determined that ligament replacement was not necessary and was instead able to repair the frayed UCL. Rivera's rehabilitation coincided with Major League Baseball's (MLB) 1992 expansion draft to fill the rosters for two expansion teams, the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies. Rivera was left unprotected by the Yankees but was not drafted. He successfully rehabilitated his arm in early 1993 and resumed pitching that year. He first joined the Rookie level Yankees to make two abbreviated starts, before returning to the Class A level Hornets to start ten more games. Witnessing him rehabilitate, the Hornets' official scorer Ogi Overman was not optimistic about Rivera's future, saying, "I thought [he] was on a one-way trip to nowhere."
In 1994, he was promoted from the Class A-Advanced level Tampa Yankees of the FSL to the Double-A level Albany-Colonie Yankees of the Eastern League, and then to the Triple-A level Columbus Clippers of the International League. Rivera finished the year with a 10–2 record in 22 starts, although he struggled for Columbus, recording a 5.81 ERA in six starts. Beginning the 1995 season with Columbus, he was ranked by sports magazine Baseball America as the ninth-best prospect in the Yankees organization; by contrast, the publication ranked Rivera's highly touted cousin Rubén as the second-best prospect in baseball. Mariano's pitching repertoire primarily consisted of fastballs at the time, although he threw a slider and changeup as secondary pitches.
Major leagues (1995–2013)
After being called up by the Yankees on May 16, 1995, Rivera made his major league debut against the California Angels on May 23. In place of injured starter Jimmy Key, Rivera allowed five earned runs in 3 1⁄3 innings pitched in a 10–0 loss. He struggled through his first four major league starts, posting a 10.20 ERA, and as a result, he was demoted to Columbus on June 11. As a 25-year-old rookie just three years removed from major arm surgery, his spot on the team was not guaranteed; management considered trading him to the Detroit Tigers for starter David Wells. While recovering from a sore shoulder in the minor leagues, Rivera pitched a no-hit shutout in a rain-shortened five-inning start. Reports from the game indicated that his pitches had reached 95–96 mph (152.9–154.5 km/h), about 6 mph (9.7 km/h) faster than his previous average velocity; Rivera attributes his inexplicable improvement to God. Yankees general manager Gene Michael was skeptical of the reports, but after verifying that Columbus' radar gun was not faulty and that another team's scout had taken the same measurements, he ended any trade negotiations involving Rivera. On July 4, in his first start back in the major leagues, Rivera pitched eight scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox, allowing just two hits while striking out 11 batters. In five subsequent starts, he was unable to match his success from that game; after a brief demotion to Columbus in August, Rivera made one last start in the major leagues in September before he was moved to the bullpen. Overall, he finished his first major league season with a 5–3 record and a 5.51 ERA in ten starts and nine relief outings. His performance in the 1995 American League Division Series, in which he pitched 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings of relief, convinced Yankees management to keep him and convert him to a relief pitcher the following season.
In 1996, Rivera served primarily as a setup pitcher, typically pitching in the seventh and eighth innings of games before closer John Wetteland pitched in the ninth. Their effectiveness gave the Yankees a 70–3 win–loss record that season when leading after six innings. Over a 12-game span between April 19 and May 21, Rivera pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, including 15 consecutive hitless innings. During the streak, he recorded his first career save in a May 17 game against the Angels. Rivera finished the regular season with a 2.09 ERA in 107 2⁄3 innings pitched and set a Yankees single-season record for strikeouts by a reliever (130). In the postseason, he allowed just one earned run in 14 1⁄3 innings pitched, helping the Yankees advance to and win the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves; it was the franchise's first World Series championship since 1978. Rivera placed third in baseball writers' voting for the American League (AL) Cy Young Award—given to the league's best pitcher—and twelfth for the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. Commentator and former player Tim McCarver wrote that the Yankees "revolutionized baseball" that year with Rivera, "a middle reliever who should have been on the All-Star team and who was a legitimate MVP candidate."
Impressed by Rivera's pitching, Yankees management chose not to re-sign Wetteland in the offseason, opting instead to replace him as closer with Rivera. In April 1997, MLB retired the uniform number 42 league-wide to honor Jackie Robinson for breaking the baseball color line, although Rivera was among a dozen players allowed to continue wearing the number per a grandfather clause. Rivera's transition from setup man to closer in 1997 was not seamless; he blew three of his first six save opportunities and indicated that he was initially uncomfortable in the role. With reassurance from manager Joe Torre, Rivera settled into the ninth-inning role, and he earned his first All-Star selection with 27 saves and a 1.96 ERA at the midseason break. He pitched a perfect ninth inning in the 1997 All-Star Game to collect his first save in an All-Star Game. That summer, he added a cut fastball to his pitching repertoire after accidentally discovering how to throw the pitch. Rivera finished the regular season with 43 saves in 52 opportunities with a 1.88 ERA. His first season as closer ended with a blown save in Game 4 of the 1997 AL Division Series against the Cleveland Indians; with the Yankees four outs from advancing to the next round of the postseason, Rivera allowed a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar, Jr. The Yankees eventually lost that game and the next, eliminating them from the postseason.
After spending two weeks on the disabled list with a groin strain during the opening month of the 1998 season, Rivera continued to establish himself as one of the major leagues' best closers. Moreover, he became the central figure of a Yankees bullpen that, supported by middle relievers Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton, contributed to the team's late-1990s dynasty. That year, Rivera made the cutter one of his primary pitches, and it quickly became his signature, earning a reputation for breaking hitters' bats with its sharp lateral movement. He saved 36 games in 41 opportunities in the regular season and finished with a 1.91 ERA. In the 1998 postseason, he pitched 13 1⁄3 scoreless innings and saved six games, three of which came in the 1998 World Series against the San Diego Padres. Rivera's save in Game 4 of the series clinched the Yankees' championship, capping off a season in which they won an MLB-record 125 games between the regular season and the postseason. By season's end, Rivera had allowed only two earned runs in 35 career postseason innings pitched—a 0.51 ERA—qualifying him for the major league record for lowest postseason career ERA; it is a record he still holds through 141 innings pitched.
In 1999, Rivera was selected for the All-Star team for a second time with 23 saves and a 2.29 ERA in the first half. That summer, the Yankee Stadium scoreboard production staff began playing the song "Enter Sandman" by heavy metal band Metallica as Rivera's entrance music. Staff members selected the song after witnessing in the previous year's World Series how enthusiastically San Diego fans reacted to closer Trevor Hoffman entering games accompanied by AC/DC's "Hells Bells". Although Rivera was indifferent about his entrance music, "Enter Sandman" soon became as much a part of his identity as a closer as his cutter did. After recording three blown saves and a 7.84 ERA in July, he allowed just one earned run over his last 30 appearances. He finished the season with a 1.83 ERA and 45 saves in 49 opportunities, his first time leading the majors in saves. He received his first AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, an annual award for the league's best closer based on their statistics. In the 1999 World Series against the Braves, Rivera recorded two saves and a win, and he closed out the Yankees' championship title, his third overall. For his performance against Atlanta, he received the World Series MVP Award. Rivera finished 1999 by pitching 43 consecutive scoreless innings across the regular season and postseason, and he placed third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. After the season, he revealed tentative plans to retire and become a minister after playing four more seasons, though he backed off these plans the following year.
In the offseason, Rivera lost his arbitration case, in which he requested an annual salary of $9.25 million, but the $7.25 million salary that the arbitrators awarded him instead set a baseball record for the highest arbitration award. In the 2000 season, Rivera was selected as an All-Star for the third time, and he ended the season with 36 saves in 41 opportunities and a 2.85 ERA. In the postseason, he saved six games, allowed three earned runs in 15 2⁄3 innings pitched, and broke two major league records: Rivera eclipsed Dennis Eckersley's record for postseason saves with the 16th of his career; he also broke Whitey Ford's record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the postseason, a streak that ended shortly thereafter at 33 1⁄3 innings. In the 2000 World Series against the New York Mets, Rivera clinched a championship for his team for the third consecutive year. It was his fourth World Series title overall. By this point, he had established a reputation as an exceptional postseason performer—journalist Jack Curry called him the "infallible weapon" and "the greatest reason the Yankees [were] three-time champions".
With Rivera's contract set to expire after 2001, the Yankees signed him to a four-year, $39.99 million deal prior to the season, marking the first long-term contract of his career. In 2001, he was selected for the All-Star team for a third consecutive year. His final numbers included a 2.34 ERA, a closer career-high 80 2⁄3 innings pitched, and an MLB-leading 50 saves in 57 opportunities—the second time he led the majors in saves. This earned him his second AL Rolaids Relief Man Award. Despite having what sportswriters deemed an "aura of invincibility" in the postseason, Rivera failed to close out the decisive Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In one of his most infamous moments, he blew a save in the bottom of the ninth inning, in part due to his own throwing error, and he lost the Series later in the inning by allowing Luis Gonzalez's bloop single with the bases loaded to score the winning run. It was Rivera's first and only loss of his postseason career, and it snapped his record streak of 23 consecutive postseason saves converted.
On May 19, 2002, Rivera recorded his 225th career save, surpassing Dave Righetti as the Yankees' franchise leader in saves. Over the next few months of the season, injuries limited his playing time. He was first placed on the disabled list in June due to a groin strain, though his first-half numbers, which included a 1.47 ERA and 21 saves, earned him an All-Star selection. In a game on July 14, Rivera endured one of his worst outings, allowing six earned runs and a walk-off grand slam. One week later, he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. Rivera was activated on August 8 after receiving a cortisone shot but returned to the disabled list after a recurrence of shoulder tightness. Overall, he finished the season with a 2.74 ERA and 28 saves in 32 opportunities in just 46 innings pitched.
Rivera missed the first month of the 2003 season with another groin injury. Despite concerns by sportswriters about his reliability, Rivera quickly returned to form after re-assuming his role as closer on May 1. He recorded 40 saves in 46 opportunities with a 1.66 ERA in 64 games in the 2003 regular season. In the 2003 AL Championship Series against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, Rivera delivered one of the most memorable postseason performances of his career. In Game 7, he entered in the ninth inning with the score tied 5–5 and pitched three scoreless innings, en route to becoming the game's winning pitcher. Though Aaron Boone's eleventh-inning walk-off home run clinched the Yankees' World Series berth, Rivera was named the AL Championship Series MVP for recording two saves and a win. He celebrated by running to the pitcher's mound and collapsing in joy and exhaustion to thank God, as Boone rounded the bases and was met by his teammates at home plate. The Yankees lost in the 2003 World Series to the Florida Marlins; Rivera saved five games and allowed only one earned run in 16 innings pitched that postseason.
Prior to the 2004 season, with a year remaining on his contract, Rivera signed a two-year extension worth $21 million, with an option for a third year. That season, Rivera surpassed 300 saves and made his sixth All-Star team with 32 saves in the first half, then an AL record. His final numbers for the year included a 1.94 ERA and a career-high 53 saves in 57 opportunities; it was his third time leading the major leagues in saves. Along with winning a third AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, he placed third in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Following the Yankees' victory in the 2004 AL Division Series against the Minnesota Twins, Rivera returned home to Panama to mourn two relatives that had died in an accident in his swimming pool. Despite his status being in doubt for the 2004 AL Championship Series against the Red Sox, he returned to New York for Game 1 on the same day that the funeral was held in Panama. He recorded a save later that night, as well as in Game 2. Although the Yankees led three-games-to-none in the series, Rivera blew saves in Games 4 and 5, and the Red Sox won both games in extra innings to avoid elimination. In Game 4, Boston's Dave Roberts pinch ran and stole second base off Rivera, eventually scoring on a single to tie the game. In Game 5, Rivera entered with a one-run lead with runners on base and allowed a sacrifice fly to tie the score. Although he allowed just one earned run in the 2004 postseason, he blew three of five save opportunities in the two series. Boston's comeback victories helped them become the first team in MLB history to win a best-of-seven series in which they trailed three-games-to-none.
Following a career high in appearances in 2004, Rivera did not throw during the offseason, unlike previous years. His 2005 season began on a low note. After missing time in spring training with elbow bursitis, he blew his first two save opportunities of the season against the Red Sox, marking four consecutive blown opportunities against Boston dating back to the previous postseason. Fans at Yankee Stadium booed Rivera, and baseball journalists speculated if his days as a dominant pitcher were over. He was subsequently cheered by Red Sox fans during pre-game introductions at Fenway Park the following week, in recognition of his struggles against the Red Sox. He responded to the ovation with a sense of humor by tipping his cap to the crowd.
Rivera rebounded in dominating fashion and finished 2005 with his greatest season to that point. He was selected to the All-Star team, converted 31 consecutive save opportunities, and finished the season with 43 saves in 47 opportunities. He set new career bests in many statistical categories, including ERA (1.38) and walks plus hits per inning pitched, or WHIP (0.87). Rivera limited opposing hitters to a batting average against of .177, then the best mark of his closer career. In addition to winning a fourth AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, he placed second in voting for the AL Cy Young Award behind starter Bartolo Colón, and ninth for the AL MVP Award—his best finishes in voting for both awards. During the postseason, MLB announced the Latino Legends Team, a fan-voted all-time roster of the greatest Latino players; Rivera was named the team's relief pitcher.
Rivera began 2006 with a 3.72 ERA and two losses in April, but his numbers improved in subsequent months. On June 6, he saved his 391st career game, passing Dennis Eckersley for the fourth-most saves in major league history. Rivera was selected to his third consecutive All-Star team with a 1.76 ERA and 19 saves entering the midseason break. He saved the AL's comeback victory in the 2006 All-Star Game for his third career All-Star save, tying him with Eckersley for the most ever. On July 16, Rivera achieved another milestone by becoming the fourth MLB pitcher to reach 400 saves. Although a throwing elbow strain sidelined Rivera for most of September, he finished the 2006 season with 34 saves in 37 opportunities and an ERA of 1.80—his fourth consecutive season with a sub-2.00 ERA. For a second consecutive year, fans voted him the Delivery Man of the Year.
With his contract set to expire after the 2007 season, Rivera sought an extension with the Yankees during spring training. Team management refused to negotiate near the start of the season, prompting him to respond that he would consider free agency at the end of the year. In April, Rivera blew his first two save opportunities, compiled two losses, and surrendered nine earned runs in 7 2⁄3 innings pitched. Concerned sportswriters attributed his struggles to infrequent use, as the Yankees presented him with few situations to enter a game. Rivera saved 30 of his next 32 opportunities and posted a 2.26 ERA over the final five months of the season. In addition, he passed John Franco for third place on the all-time saves list with his 425th career save. Still, Rivera finished 2007 with closer career worsts in earned runs (25), hits (68), and ERA (3.15), and his 30 saves in 34 opportunities were his second-lowest total since 1997. After the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs in the opening round, Rivera stated his intentions to test the free agent market. He initially indicated that his decision of where to sign would be influenced by whether long-time manager Joe Torre was re-signed. Although Torre did not return, Rivera remained with the Yankees by agreeing to a three-year, $45 million contract, making him the highest-paid reliever in baseball history.
Rivera rebounded in 2008 and began the year with 16 consecutive scoreless innings pitched and 28 consecutive save opportunities converted, both personal bests to start a season. His first-half performance, highlighted by a 1.06 ERA and 23 saves in as many opportunities, garnered him his ninth All-Star selection. Leading up to the 2008 MLB All-Star Game, which was held at Yankee Stadium in the venue's final year of existence, a few sportswriters proposed making Rivera the AL's starting pitcher as a tribute to him and his home ballpark; he instead was used as a reliever in the AL's extra-inning win. In the final month of the season, he recorded two milestones: on September 15, he recorded his 479th save to pass Lee Smith for second all-time in regular season saves; on September 21, in the final game at Yankee Stadium, Rivera threw the final pitch in the venue's history, retiring Brian Roberts of the Baltimore Orioles on a ground-out. After the Yankees missed the postseason for the first time in his career, Rivera disclosed that he had suffered from shoulder pain throughout the year. Tests revealed calcification of the acromioclavicular joint in his throwing shoulder, for which he underwent minor arthroscopic surgery in the offseason.
Rivera finished 2008 with one of his best individual seasons. Along with a 1.40 ERA and 39 saves in 40 opportunities, he set career bests in multiple statistical categories, including WHIP (0.67), on-base plus slugging (OPS)-against (.422), batting average against (.165), save percentage (97.5%), walks (6), earned runs (11), and blown saves (1). He averaged 9.81 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, his best mark as a closer. He pitched with such control that his 12.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio made him the second pitcher since 1900 to record a figure that high in a season. He placed fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
In his first 12 appearances of 2009, Rivera surrendered four home runs and had a 3.97 ERA, leading to speculation about his cutter's effectiveness and his shoulder's health at age 39. As the season progressed, his numbers improved, and he reached a milestone on June 28 by becoming the second pitcher with 500 regular season saves. In the same game, while batting against fellow closer Francisco Rodríguez, he collected his first career run batted in by walking with the bases loaded. With 23 saves in 24 opportunities and a 2.43 ERA in the first half, Rivera was selected an All-Star for the tenth time. At the 2009 MLB All-Star Game, he set a record by saving his fourth career All-Star Game. In the season's second half, Rivera allowed earned runs in only two of his final 40 appearances, while he set a new personal best for consecutive save opportunities converted with 36. He finished the regular season with a 1.76 ERA, 44 saves in 46 opportunities, and a 0.90 WHIP. In the postseason, he pitched 16 innings, allowing one earned run and saving five games, and he clinched the Yankees' victory in the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies—his fifth championship. He was the only closer among postseason teams that did not record a loss or blown save. He collected several awards at season's end, including his third Delivery Man Award, his fifth AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, and the 2009 Sporting News Pro Athlete of the Year Award. Reflecting on the decade's end, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick called Rivera the most valuable major league pitcher of the previous 10 years.
In 2010, Rivera and two of his "Core Four" teammates, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, became the first trio in any of the four major sports leagues in North America (MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL) to play together on the same team for 16 consecutive seasons. Rivera began with one of his best first halves, compiling a 1.05 ERA, 20 saves in 22 opportunities, and 0.64 WHIP before the All-Star break, and in June, he set a personal best streak with 24 consecutive batters retired. He earned an 11th All-Star selection but withdrew from the game to rest lingering oblique and knee injuries. In the second half, he was less effective—he struck out batters half as often, and in September, he compiled three blown saves and a 4.76 ERA. Rivera finished 2010 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, numbers that were among his career bests, though his 33 saves in 38 opportunities and 6.75 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio were below his career averages. In the postseason, he pitched 6 1⁄3 scoreless innings while saving three games. After becoming a free agent in the offseason, Rivera agreed to a two-year, $30 million contract to remain with the Yankees.
That same offseason, Trevor Hoffman retired as the all-time regular season saves leader with a final tally of 601, leaving Rivera as the active leader in saves and 42 behind Hoffman's record to start 2011. Rivera's season was marked by several milestones. In the first half, in addition to breaking the all-time record for games finished, he became the 15th pitcher to make 1,000 appearances, and the first to do so with a single team. He was named an All-Star for the 12th time with a 1.85 ERA and 22 saves in 26 opportunities at the break, but for the second consecutive year, he skipped the game to rest injuries. His pursuit of Hoffman's saves record reached a climax in the final month of the season; on September 13, he collected his 600th save, making him just the second pitcher to accomplish the feat. Four days later, he saved his 601st game, tying him with Hoffman for the most in MLB history. Rivera broke the record on September 19 at Yankee Stadium by closing out a 6–4 win against the Twins, the final out by strikeout. After the game, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli called him to offer his congratulations. Rivera finished the season with a 1.91 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and 44 saves in 49 opportunities, making him the first pitcher over the age of 40 to save at least 40 games in a season. In the offseason, he underwent throat surgery to remove polyps from his vocal cords.
Rivera began the 2012 season by blowing a save on Opening Day but followed it up with eight scoreless innings and five saves for the remainder of April. After just nine appearances, Rivera's season was prematurely ended by a freak injury; prior to a May 3 game against the Kansas City Royals, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee after twisting his leg during his routine of shagging balls in batting practice. Speculation grew that the injury would end his career, as he had hinted at retirement in spring training. Rivera put those concerns to rest the following day when he announced his intentions to return, saying, "Put it down. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going down like this." He successfully underwent ACL reconstructive surgery on June 12, while his meniscus, previously thought to have been damaged, did not need to be repaired. Rafael Soriano filled in as closer in Rivera's absence and saved 42 games in 46 opportunities. Rivera signed a one-year, $10 million contract in the offseason to remain with the team.
After successfully rehabilitating his knee in the offseason, Rivera announced on March 9, 2013, that he would retire after the 2013 season, his 19th in the major leagues. Throughout his final year, Rivera spent time during visits to every ballpark meeting privately with fans and unsung team employees to hear their stories and thank them for supporting baseball. He explained: "It was important for me to meet the people who make baseball what it is, the people who work in the game every day. They have given me far more than I have given them." Each opposing team returned the favor by honoring Rivera with a gift during his final visit to their city: in Cleveland, the Indians teamed up with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to present Rivera with a gold record of his entrance song "Enter Sandman"; the Minnesota Twins commissioned a rocking chair made of broken bats, many broken personally by Rivera's cutter, called the "Chair of Broken Dreams"; the rival Boston Red Sox gifted him with a painting and several artifacts from Fenway Park. Many teams made donations to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, the pitcher's charitable organization. Corporate sponsors of the Yankees paid tribute as well; Delta Air Lines dedicated a Boeing 757 airplane with Rivera's signature and uniform number 42 on the exterior, while Hard Rock Cafe retired "Enter Sandman" from its song system at all locations except for its Yankee Stadium restaurant.
Rivera's 10 saves in 10 opportunities in April were his highest total for the opening month of a season. He converted his first 18 save attempts of the season until blowing a save against the Mets on May 28; it was the first time that he blew a save and lost a game without recording an out. Rivera entered the midseason break with 30 saves in 32 opportunities and a 1.83 ERA, and he was named an All-Star for the 13th time in his career, the second-most All-Star selections for a pitcher behind Warren Spahn's 17. During the All-Star Game, held at Citi Field in New York on July 16, Rivera was called upon to pitch in the eighth inning for his final All-Star appearance. As he trotted onto the field, players from both teams remained near their dugouts and joined fans in giving Rivera a standing ovation as he stood alone on the field. Rivera retired all three batters he faced, preserving his 0.00 career ERA in All-Star Games, and he was named the All-Star Game MVP. He was the first reliever selected to an All-Star team to ever receive the award, as well as the first pitcher since Pedro Martínez in 1999 and the second Yankee ever after Derek Jeter in 2000. He became the first MLB player to be named the MVP of a World Series, League Championship Series, and All-Star Game. Rivera's performance dipped in the second half of the season, as he blew five save opportunities in the last two months, including three consecutive chances for the first time in his career. In a Fox Sports documentary chronicling his final season, entitled Being: Mariano, Rivera said that his farewell to baseball had mentally and physically drained him and that by September, he had "no desire" left for the sport.
On September 22, 2013, a day that Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg declared "Mariano Rivera Day", the Yankees held a 50-minute pre-game tribute to Rivera at Yankee Stadium. In a ceremony attended by former teammates, Yankees staff, and members of Jackie Robinson's family, Rivera's uniform number 42 was retired by the team, making him the first active Yankee to receive that honor. Metallica performed "Enter Sandman" live as he walked onto the field during the festivities. The team presented a video montage and several gifts to Rivera before he addressed the crowd to offer his thanks. Four days later against the Tampa Bay Rays, he pitched in the final game of his career before a home crowd at Yankee Stadium. Entering in the eighth inning to a pre-recorded introduction by late Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard, Rivera pitched 1 1⁄3 innings without allowing a baserunner. In the ninth inning, after retiring Yunel Escobar on a pop fly for the second out, Rivera was removed from the game; with permission from the umpires, Yankees manager Joe Girardi ceremonially delegated the substitution duty to Rivera's long-time teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter. After they reached the mound to make the pitching change, the normally reserved Rivera tearfully embraced his teammates for nearly a minute. Walking off the field to a standing ovation from fans and players, he saluted the crowd and then took a curtain call. After the game, he visited the mound for a final time and grabbed a handful of dirt as a memento. Rivera finished his final season with a 2.11 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 44 saves in 51 opportunities, earning him the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, among several awards. During the World Series, he was honored as the 13th recipient of the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award for his accomplished career and for being "a great ambassador of the game".
Rivera's signature pitch was a cut fastball or "cutter", which exhibited late lateral movement towards left-handed hitters similar to that of a slider but with the velocity of a fastball. The sharp movement on his cutter frequently resulted in hitters breaking their bats—according to a tally by columnist Buster Olney, Rivera broke 44 bats in the 2001 regular season. Chipper Jones, who once witnessed teammate Ryan Klesko break three bats in one plate appearance against Rivera in the 1999 World Series, called the pitch a "buzz saw". The cutter's movement was created by Rivera's long fingers and loose wrist, which allowed him to impart more spin on the ball. He varied the movement by adjusting the pressure that he applied to the ball with his fingertips. Although he occasionally used a four-seam or two-seam fastball, Rivera primarily threw cutters; according to baseball statistics website Fangraphs, 83.3% of his pitches in 2010 were cutters. All three pitches typically reached a velocity in the low-to-mid 90s mph. Rivera accidentally discovered how to throw the cutter while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza in June 1997 when the fastballs he threw in the bullpen began to move sharply and unpredictably. After failing to eliminate the movement altogether, he began to use the cutter in games, eventually making it one of his primary pitches in 1998. When asked where his ability to throw the cutter came from, he explained, "It was just from God. I didn't do anything. It was natural."
Rivera's cut fastball was a respected pitch among major league hitters. Jim Thome called it "the single best pitch ever in the game". In 2004, ESPN.com ranked his cutter as the best "out pitch" in baseball. Olney described his cut fastball as "the most dominant pitch of a generation". Although switch-hitters usually bat left-handed against right-handed pitchers to better see their release point, switch-hitters occasionally batted right-handed when facing the right-handed Rivera to avoid being jammed on their hands by his cutter. Similarly, some managers, such as Bruce Bochy in the 1998 World Series, sent right-handed batters to pinch hit for left-handed batters against Rivera, thinking that the cutter would be more difficult for lefties to hit. Since Rivera relied on variations of a fastball, all of similar speed, much of his success stemmed from his ability to accurately locate pitches and consistently throw strikes. His 4.10 career strikeout-to-walk ratio in the regular season ranks fourth-best in major league history. Rivera's impeccable control was a byproduct of his smooth, easily repeated pitching delivery.
Rivera was considered an exceptional athlete, distinguished by his slender physique and durability. His propensity to shag balls during batting practice convinced scouts he could be a top AL center fielder. Olney compared Rivera's regimen of physical preparation and guidelines for staying healthy to Satchel Paige's "Rules for Staying Young". Rivera twice finished with the best range factor per 9 innings among AL pitchers, and his .984 fielding percentage ranks 13th all-time among qualified pitchers.
Rivera exhibited a reserved demeanor on the field that contrasted with the emotional, demonstrative temperament of many of his peers. Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage said that Rivera's composure under stress gave him the appearance of having "ice water in his veins". Commenting on his ability to remain focused in pressure situations, Rivera said, "When you start thinking, a lot of things will happen... If you don't control your emotions, your emotions will control your acts, and that's not good." His ability to compartmentalize his successes and failures impressed fellow reliever Joba Chamberlain, who said, "He's won and lost some of the biggest games in the history of baseball, and he's no worse for the wear when he gives up a home run." Rivera explained his ability to quickly forget bad performances: "win or lose, you have to forget about it. Right on the spot... the game that you're going to play tomorrow is not going to be the same game that you just played." Derek Jeter called him the "most mentally tough" teammate with whom he has ever played.
Within the Yankees organization, Rivera was regarded as a team leader. As a veteran player, he mentored younger pitchers and counseled teammates. He had a team-first mindset and deferred most discussions about individual accolades to team goals and his teammates, praising them for making his presence in games possible. When once asked to describe his job, Rivera put it simply, "I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower."
Rivera was a dominant reliever throughout his career, pitching with a consistency and longevity uncharacteristic of a role commonly marked by volatility and high turnover. In his 17-year tenure as the Yankees' closer, Rivera compiled considerable career numbers. A 13-time All-Star, he is the majors' all-time regular season leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera holds or shares several records for the most seasons of reaching various save milestones, including seasons with at least: 20 saves (sixteen); 25 saves (fifteen consecutive, sixteen non-consecutive); 30 saves (nine consecutive, fifteen non-consecutive); 35 saves (twelve); 40 saves (nine); and 50 saves (two). Rivera's career ERA (2.21) and WHIP (1.00) are the lowest of any MLB pitcher in the live-ball era (minimum 1,000 innings pitched), making him one of the top pitchers since 1920 at preventing hitters from reaching base and scoring. He recorded an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, tying him with Walter Johnson for the most such seasons (minimum 60 innings pitched each). Rivera also ranks first in career adjusted ERA+ (205), a statistic that adjusts ERA for league and ballpark to allow comparisons of players across different epochs on the same baseline.
In addition to his strong regular season numbers, Rivera excelled in the postseason. He had an 8–1 win–loss record and a 0.76 WHIP in the postseason, and he holds numerous postseason records, including lowest career ERA (0.70), most saves (42), most consecutive scoreless innings pitched (33 1⁄3), most consecutive save opportunities converted (23), and most appearances (96). No pitcher had half as many postseason saves as he did. Joe Torre, who managed Rivera for most of his career, said, "Let's face it. The regular season for Mo is great, but that's the cupcakes and the ice cream. What separates him from everybody else is what he's done in the postseason." Rivera's dominance in postseason games often led to him being utilized for two-inning appearances, as he had a record 14 saves of this variety. Between 1998 and 2008, he recorded 26 postseason saves of four or more outs; the second-highest total by any other pitcher during that time was four such saves, and the rest of baseball combined had 33. At the start of the 2011 playoffs, Rivera ranked first all-time in win probability added in the postseason with 11.62, more than three times the total of the next-closest player. In a 2009 ESPN.com poll, Rivera was voted one of the top five postseason players in MLB history.
Rivera achieved a reputation as an all-time great reliever among baseball experts and his peers. Hall of Fame starter-turned-closer Dennis Eckersley called him "the best ever, no doubt", while Trevor Hoffman said he "will go down as the best reliever in the game in history". Torre said, "He's the best I've ever been around. Not only the ability to pitch and perform under pressure, but the calm he puts over the clubhouse." Writer Tom Verducci said, "Rivera is definitively the best at his position by a wider margin than any player at any position in the history of baseball. There is Rivera, a gulf, and then every other closer." He compared Rivera's reputation for being the best at his position to that of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said, "Clearly unequivocally, he's the greatest relief pitcher of all time, and did it in a way that was remarkable." Speaking about Rivera's looming presence at the end of games, Alex Rodriguez said, "He's the only guy in baseball who can change the game from a seat in the clubhouse or the bullpen. He would start affecting teams as early as the fifth inning, because they knew he was out there. I've never seen anyone who could affect a game like that." Gossage said that Rivera "might be the greatest closer of all-time" but tempered that praise by suggesting that the modern closer's job has become too specialized and easy compared to multiple-inning "firemen" from Gossage's era; Rivera had only one regular season save of seven-plus outs in his career, whereas Gossage logged 53. Although the Baseball Writers Association of America has historically been reluctant to elect relievers into the Baseball Hall of Fame, sportswriters anticipate that Rivera will be elected in his first year of eligibility.
|Mariano Rivera's number 42 was retired by the New York Yankees in 2013.|
Rivera is well respected throughout baseball for his professionalism. Fellow closer Joe Nathan said, "I look up to how he's handled himself on and off the field... You never see him show up anyone and he respects the game. I've always looked up to him and it's always a compliment to be just mentioned in the same sentence as him." Michael Young said of Rivera, "I respect Mo more than anybody in the game. The guy goes out there, gets three outs and shakes [Jorge] Posada's hand. You appreciate someone who respects the game like he does, respects the people he plays with and against, and obviously his results speak for themselves." In a Sports Illustrated cover story about Rivera that was published in the final week of his career, Verducci said of the pitcher, "Few players in any sport have retired with more reverence from his peers." Rivera was the last MLB player to wear the uniform number 42 on a regular basis; at the time of his retirement, he was the only player still grandfathered by the league to wear Jackie Robinson's retired number. Speaking about Rivera's connection to her husband, Robinson's widow Rachel said, "[Rivera] carried himself with dignity and grace, and that made carrying the number a tribute to Jack... I've always been proud and pleased that Mariano was the one chosen to wear that number because I think he brought something special to it." Presenting him with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award, Selig said: "Mariano Rivera will forever hold a special place in baseball history as the all-time saves leader and an anchor of five World Series championship teams. Throughout his illustrious career, he has represented his family, his country, the Yankees and all of Major League Baseball with the utmost class and dignity. It is wholly appropriate that Mariano was the last Major League player to wear Jackie Robinson's sacred number 42. I am pleased that our entire sport can pause on our greatest stage to thank him and his family for all of his contributions to our national pastime."
Several of Rivera's colleagues credit him with popularizing the cutter among major league pitchers. Fellow closer Jason Isringhausen, who adopted the pitch later in his career, said, "I think he's been an influence on everybody that throws it. Everybody saw what [Rivera] could do, basically with one pitch. Nobody could throw it like he did, but now, you talk about the evolution of the cutter—just ask hitters about it and they tell you everybody's throwing one. And they hate it." Al Leiter, whose signature pitch was a cutter, echoed Isringhausen's sentiments: "Now, everybody throws it and Mo has had a huge influence on that. Pitchers watched him and marveled at what he did with one pitch."
Rivera and his wife Clara have known each other since elementary school, and they were married on November 9, 1991. They have three sons: Mariano III, Jafet, and Jaziel. The family lived in Panama until 2000, when they relocated to Westchester County, New York. Over the course of his professional career, Rivera learned English, beginning in 1991 with the Greensboro Hornets, when he realized none of his teammates spoke his native Spanish. He is now a proponent of Latino players learning English and of American press members learning Spanish, in order to bridge the cultural gap.
Rivera is a devout Christian. During his childhood, neither he nor his family attended church, but after a born-again experience around the age of 21, Rivera became religious and converted from Catholicism to a Pentecostal faith. His parents followed his lead after seeing the difference it made in him. Rivera believes that God has a reason for everything that happens. For example, he found his failure in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series easier to deal with when he learned of the consequences it had for teammate Enrique Wilson. Had the Yankees won the series, Wilson would have remained in New York for the championship parade and would have departed for his native Dominican Republic on American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed shortly after takeoff and killed all 260 people aboard. Rivera told Wilson, "I am glad we lost the World Series, because it means that I still have a friend." Rivera's pitching glove was inscribed "Phil. 4:13", in reference to the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 ("I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me"). In addition to funding church start-ups in Panama, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, California, and Florida, Rivera purchased a run-down church in New Rochelle, New York in 2011 that he is currently renovating at a cost of $2.5 million. The church, named Refugio de Esperanza ("Refuge of Hope"), will have Rivera's wife Clara as its pastor and will host a Pentecostal congregation that currently meets at the Rivera home.
Rivera is involved with philanthropic contributions in his native Panama, which include building an elementary school, providing Christmas gifts to children, and developing a program that provides computer access and adult mentors to youths. The Mariano Rivera Foundation, which helps provide underprivileged children with an education, distributes more than $500,000 in the US and Panama through church-based institutions. Rivera intends to dedicate himself to philanthropy and his churches since retiring from baseball. In 2012, The Giving Back Fund estimated that he donated $627,500 to charity in 2010, ranking him as the 25th-most generous celebrity on a list that the fund compiled. Rivera won the 2013 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award, which is given to the MLB player "who inspires others through his on-field performances and contributions to his community".
Rivera was an investor in two New York area restaurants: "Clubhouse Grill", which opened in New Rochelle in 2006 as "Mo's New York Grill"; and Siro's, which opened in Manhattan in 2012. Both restaurants have since closed. Rivera is signed to endorsement deals with Nike sports apparel and Canali, a premium men's clothing company. He is the first athlete Canali has used in a marketing campaign. A 2011 list by the marketing firm Nielsen ranked Rivera as the second-most marketable player in baseball; the list accounted for personal attributes such as sincerity, approachability, experience, and influence. Based on sales figures from Majestic Athletic, Rivera had the 18th-best-selling MLB jersey in 2011, and the top-selling jersey in the second half of 2013.
Awards and honors
- Only reliever to win both a League Championship Series MVP Award and World Series MVP Award
- Tied for most times won
- Most times won
|Most career saves||652|||
|Most career games finished||952|||
|Highest career adjusted ERA+ (minimum 1,000 innings pitched)||205|||
|Most consecutive save opportunities converted at home[a]||51|||
|Most career games pitched with single team
Most career games pitched in American League history
Most career games pitched by right-handed pitcher
|Most consecutive seasons with at least one save[b]||18 (1996–2013)|||
|Most seasons with at least 20 saves
Most seasons with at least 25 saves
|16 (1997–2011, 2013)|||
|Most consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves||15 (1997–2011)|||
|Most seasons with at least 30 saves||15 (1997–2001, 2003–11, 2013)|||
|Most consecutive seasons with at least 30 saves||9 (2003–11)|||
|Most seasons with at least 35 saves[c]||12 (1997–2001, 2003–05,
2008–09, 2011, 2013)
|Most seasons with at least 40 saves[c]||9 (1997, 1999, 2001, 2003–05,
2009, 2011, 2013)
|Most seasons with at least 50 saves[a]||2 (2001, 2004)|||
|Most seasons with sub-2.00 ERA (minimum 60 innings pitched each)[d]
Most seasons with 20-plus saves and sub-2.00 ERA
|11 (1997–99, 2003–06, 2008–11)|||
|Most seasons with at least 20 saves, sub-2.00 ERA, and sub-1.00 WHIP||7 (1999, 2005–06, 2008–11)|||
|Most career saves for a single winning pitcher||72 (Andy Pettitte)|||
|Most career interleague saves||75|||
|Most career saves in a single ballpark||230 (original Yankee Stadium)|||
|Lowest career ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched)||0.70|||
|Most career saves||42|||
|Most consecutive scoreless innings pitched||33 1⁄3|||
|Most consecutive save opportunities converted||23|||
|Most career two-inning saves||14|||
|Most career games pitched||96|||
|Most career saves in each postseason round||18 (DS), 13 (LCS), 11 (WS)|||
|Most career games pitched in each postseason round||39 (DS), 33 (LCS), 24 (WS)|||
|Lowest career ERA in Division Series history (minimum 20 innings pitched)||0.32|||
|Most career saves to clinch series||8|||
|Most games finished to clinch series||16|||
|Most games finished to clinch World Series championship||4|||
|Most All-Star selections as reliever||13|||
|Most career saves||4|||
|Most career games pitched||1,115|||
|Most saves in single season||53 (2004)|||
|Highest career strikeout-to-walk ratio||4.10|||
|Lowest career WHIP||1.00|||
|Most strikeouts by a reliever in single season||130 (1996)|||
|Highest strikeouts per 9 innings in single season||10.87 (1996)|||
|Most consecutive save opportunities converted||36|||
|Most games finished in single season||69 (2004)|||
|Most seasons played with team[e]||19|||
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