Rivera pitching for the New York Yankees in 2007
|New York Yankees – No. 42|
November 29, 1969 |
Panama City, Panama
|Bats: Right||Throws: Right|
|May 23, 1995 for the New York Yankees|
(through June 16, 2013)
|Earned run average||2.21|
|Career highlights and awards|
Mariano Rivera (born November 29, 1969) is a Panamanian baseball pitcher who has played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees. Nicknamed "Mo", Rivera has spent most of his career as a relief pitcher, and has served as the Yankees' closer since 1997. A 12-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, he is MLB's all-time leader in saves (632) and games finished (920). His accolades include five American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards.
Rivera was signed by the Yankees organization in 1990 as an amateur free agent in Panama, and he debuted in the major leagues in 1995. Initially a starting pitcher, he struggled in the role and was consequently converted to a relief pitcher. After a breakthrough season in 1996 as a setup man, he became the Yankees' closer in 1997. In the following years, he established himself as one of baseball's top relievers, leading the major leagues in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004. With his presence in the late innings of games to record the final outs, Rivera has been a key contributor to the Yankees' success in the late-1990s and 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). His pitching repertoire consists primarily of one pitch, a sharp-breaking, mid-90s mile per hour (mph) cut fastball that has been called an all-time great pitch.
Rivera is regarded by baseball experts 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 has posted an ERA under 2.00 in 11 seasons, both of which are records. His career 2.21 ERA and 1.01 WHIP are the lowest marks in baseball's live-ball era. On the field, he is well known for his composure and reserved demeanor that contrast with the effusiveness of many other closers. Away from baseball, he is involved in charitable causes and the Christian community through the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Rivera is expected to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame once eligible.
Mariano Rivera was born in Panama City, Panama, on November 29, 1969, to Mariano, Sr. and Delia Rivera. His father worked as a ship captain in the fishing industry. Rivera has one older sister, Delia, and two younger brothers, Alvaro and Giraldo. He grew up in the Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito—a town he described as "poor"—frequently playing soccer with his friends. For baseball games, they substituted 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.
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. As a 19-year-old, he had to abandon a capsizing 120-short-ton (110 t) commercial boat, all but convincing him to give up fishing as a career.
In 1988, Rivera began to play shortstop for Panamá Oeste, a local amateur baseball team. Herb Raybourn, the New York Yankees' director of Latin American operations, saw athleticism in Rivera 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 pitch. He excelled at the position, prompting his teammates to contact Yankees scout Chico Heron. Two weeks later, Rivera was invited to a Yankees tryout camp in Panama City where Raybourn was visiting. Raybourn was surprised to find Rivera pitching at the camp, since scouts passed on him as a shortstop a year prior. Although Rivera had no formal pitching training and threw only 85–87 miles per hour (137–140 kilometres per hour), Raybourn was impressed by Rivera's athleticism and smooth, effortless pitching motion. Viewing Rivera as a raw talent, Raybourn signed the amateur free agent to a contract with a US$3,000 signing bonus ($5,272 today) on February 17, 1990.
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's (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 one earned run in 52 innings pitched—a 0.17 earned run average (ERA)—and he allowed only 24 baserunners. His seven-inning no-hitter on the season's final day "put him on the map with the organization", according to manager Glenn Sherlock. When Rivera returned to Panama in the offseason, he tipped Raybourn off to a local 16-year-old player, Rivera's cousin Rubén, which led to Rubén receiving and accepting a contract offer with the Yankees. 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 stating, "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 in his throwing motion, but he inadvertently caused damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Surgery took place in August 1992 to repair the damage, ending his season and interrupting his minor league career. Rivera's doctors planned to perform Tommy John surgery, but during the procedure, they determined that he did not need ligament replacement. His rehabilitation coincided with Major League Baseball's (MLB) 1992 expansion draft to fill the rosters for the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies expansion teams. 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–present)
After opening the 1995 season with Columbus, Rivera made his major league debut against the California Angels on May 23, 1995, as a starting pitcher. Replacing an injured Jimmy Key, Rivera allowed five earned runs in 3 1⁄3 innings pitched in a 10–0 loss. He experienced mixed success as a major league starter and as a result, he split time between the Yankees and their Columbus minor league affiliate. As a 25-year-old rookie just three years removed from major arm surgery, Rivera's role on the team was not guaranteed. Management considered trading him to the Detroit Tigers for starter David Wells, but Yankees general manager Gene Michael quickly called off negotiations when he learned that Rivera's pitches reached 95–96 mph (153–154 km/h) in one of his starts, 6 mph (9.7 km/h) faster than his previous average velocity. Rivera attributes his inexplicable improvement to God. He also participated in a two-hit shutout of the Chicago White Sox on July 4, when he recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts. Overall, he finished his first season in the major leagues with a 5–3 record and a 5.51 ERA in 10 starts and nine relief outings. His improvement during the year and 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 move him into the bullpen the following season to be a full-time relief pitcher.
In 1996, Rivera served primarily as a setup pitcher for closer John Wetteland, typically pitching in the seventh and eighth innings of games before 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. He finished third in the voting for the American League (AL) Cy Young Award, which is given annually to the league's best pitcher based on voting by baseball writers. 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."
Rivera impressed Yankees management enough that they chose not to re-sign Wetteland, who became a free agent in the offseason. They subsequently installed Rivera in the role of the Yankees' closer for the 1997 season to typically pitch the ninth innings of games. In April, MLB retired the uniform number 42 league-wide to honor Jackie Robinson, although Rivera was one of a dozen players allowed to continue wearing the number per a grandfather clause. Rivera's transition from setup man to closer was not seamless; he blew three of his first six save opportunities and indicated that he was initially uncomfortable in the role. Eventually, he settled into his new duties, as he earned his first All-Star selection and recorded 43 saves in 52 opportunities with a 1.88 ERA in the regular season. Rivera also added a cut fastball to his pitching repertoire after accidentally discovering how to throw the pitch. His first season as closer ended with a blown save in Game 4 of the 1997 American League 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.
Although Yankees coaches were concerned that the disappointing finish to the previous season would affect Rivera, he emerged as one of the major leagues' best closers in the following seasons. Moreover, he became the central figure of a Yankees bullpen that, supported by middle relievers Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, and Ramiro Mendoza, contributed to the team's late-1990s dynasty. In 1998, Rivera saved 36 games in 41 opportunities and finished with a 1.91 ERA. His success was aided by the increased usage of his cutter, which quickly became his signature pitch and earned a reputation for breaking hitters' bats with its sharp lateral movement. 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 voted onto the All-Star team 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. MLB named him the World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP). 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 and allowed three earned runs in 15 2⁄3 innings pitched. He also broke Whitey Ford's record for consecutive scoreless innings pitched in the postseason, a streak that ended shortly after 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 voted onto 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.
Injuries limited Rivera's playing time in 2002. He was first placed on the disabled list with a groin strain in June, 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 closer role 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 American League 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 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 in 2007. In 2004, 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 majors 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 American League 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 American League 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 started 2006 with a 3.72 ERA and two losses in April, but he recovered to make his third consecutive All-Star team with a 1.76 ERA and 19 saves entering the All-Star break. He saved the 2006 MLB All-Star Game for a record-tying third career All-Star Game save. On July 16, he reached another milestone, becoming the fourth pitcher in major league history to record 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, he stated his intentions to test the free agent market. Rivera 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, earned him his ninth All-Star selection. Leading up to 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 the Baltimore Orioles' Brian Roberts 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 conversion rate (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 Rivera's first 12 appearances of 2009, he 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, he recorded his first career run batted in by drawing a walk with the bases loaded against fellow closer Francisco Rodríguez. Rivera earned a tenth All-Star selection with 23 saves in 24 opportunities and a 2.43 ERA in the first half. 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. His final numbers included a 1.80 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, but his 33 saves in 38 opportunities and 6.75 strikeouts per 9 innings ratio were among the lowest of his career. 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, President of Panama 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 2012 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 it would end his career, as he had hinted at retirement in spring training. Rivera announced his intentions to return, saying, "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.
Rivera successfully rehabilitated his knee in time for spring training in early 2013. On March 9, he announced that he will retire after the 2013 season, his 19th in the major leagues. Throughout his final year, Rivera will spend time during visits to every ballpark meeting privately with people, such as fans and unsung ballpark employees, to hear their stories and thank them. He explained: "When I retired, I wanted to do something different, something that people don't see... There's a lot of other people that run the teams. They are here but we don't see them... You want to be able to say thanks to these people." 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 he blew a save against the Mets on May 28; it was the first time in his 19-year career that he blew a save and lost a game without recording an out.
Rivera's signature pitch is a cut fastball or "cutter", which exhibits late lateral movement similar to that of a slider but with the velocity of a fastball. The sharp movement on his cutter frequently results in hitters breaking their bats—according to a tally by columnist Buster Olney, Rivera broke 44 bats in the 2001 regular season. Chipper Jones called the pitch a "buzzsaw" after witnessing teammate Ryan Klesko break three bats in one plate appearance against Rivera in the 1999 World Series. The cutter's movement is created by Rivera's long fingers and loose wrist, which allow him to impart more spin on the ball. He varies the movement by adjusting the pressure that he applies to the ball with his fingertips. Although he occasionally uses a four-seam or two-seam fastball, Rivera primarily throws cutters; according to baseball statistics website Fangraphs, 83.3% of his pitches in 2010 were cutters. All three pitches typically reach the low-to-mid 90s mph. Rivera accidentally discovered the cutter while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza in June 1997, finding that the fastballs he threw in the bullpen were moving sharply and unpredictably. After failing to eliminate the movement altogether, he accepted it and began to use the pitch in games, prominently featuring it beginning 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 is 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 the ball's release point, switch-hitters occasionally bat 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, have 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 relies on variations of a fastball, all of similar speed, much of his success stems from his ability to accurately locate pitches and consistently throw strikes. His 4.04 career strikeout-to-walk ratio in the regular season ranks fifth-best in major league history. Rivera's impeccable control is a byproduct of his smooth, easily repeated pitching delivery.
Rivera is 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". He has twice finished with the best range factor per 9 innings among AL pitchers, and his .983 fielding percentage ranks 13th all-time among qualified pitchers.
Rivera exhibits a reserved demeanor on the field that contrasts 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 is regarded as a team leader. As a veteran player, he mentors younger pitchers and counsels teammates. He has a team-first mindset and defers 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 has been 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 stint as the Yankees' closer, Rivera has compiled considerable career numbers. A 12-time All-Star, he is the majors' all-time regular season leader in saves (632) and games finished (920). He has finished 15 consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves and 14 seasons with at least 30 saves, both of which are records. Statistically, Rivera ranks as one of the top pitchers of his generation, amongst both starters and relievers; his career ERA (2.21) and WHIP (1.01) are the lowest of any pitcher in the live-ball era, making him one of the top pitchers since 1920 at preventing hitters from reaching base and scoring. He has 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 has the best adjusted ERA+ (206) in MLB history, meaning the league average ERA is 106% more than Rivera's career mark, adjusted for ballpark.
In addition to his strong regular season numbers, Rivera has excelled in the postseason. He has an 8–1 win–loss record and a 0.76 WHIP in the postseason, and he holds numerous postseason records, including lowest 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 has half as many postseason saves as he does. 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 has often led to him being utilized for two-inning appearances, as he has 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 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 has achieved a reputation as an all-time great reliever among baseball experts and fellow players. 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 as the best at his position to that of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. 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 is less certain about Rivera's place in history, believing that the modern closer's role has become too specialized and easy compared to multiple-inning closers from Gossage's era; Rivera has earned 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 Rivera will be elected in his first year of eligibility.
Rivera is well respected among his peers 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."
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 is the last MLB player to wear the uniform number 42 on a regular basis, as he is the only active player still wearing the number after its league-wide retirement in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
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 Jr., 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 in his early 20s, Rivera—and subsequently his parents—became religious. He 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 a few extra days 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 is 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 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 annually distributes more than $500,000 to underprivileged children in the US and Panama through church-based institutions. Rivera intends to dedicate himself to philanthropy and his churches after 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.
In 2006, a restaurant called "Mo's New York Grill" opened in New Rochelle with financial backing from Rivera. He is also an investor in a Manhattan eatery called "Siro's" that opened in mid-2012 as an offshoot of the long-time Saratoga Springs restaurant. 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. Rivera had the 18th-best-selling MLB jersey that year, based on sales figures from Majestic Athletic.
Awards and honors
|Award/Honor||# of Times||Dates||Refs|
|American League All-Star||12||1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011|||
|American League Championship Series MVP Award[a]||1||2003|||
|American League Player of the Week||3||May 26–June 1, 2008; June 22–28, 2009; September 19–25, 2011|||
|American League Rolaids Relief Man Award[b]||5||1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009|||
|Babe Ruth Award||1||1999|||
|Clutch Performer of the Month||1||June 2010|||
|Delivery Man of the Year Award[c]||3||2005, 2006, 2009|||
|Delivery Man of the Month Award||2||April 2008, July 2009|||
|Sporting News Pro Athlete of the Year Award||1||2009|||
|Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award[c]||6||1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009|||
|This Year in Baseball's Closer of the Year Award[c]||4||2004, 2005, 2006, 2009|||
|Thurman Munson Award||1||2003|||
|World Series MVP Award[a]||1||1999|||
|World Series champion||5||1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009|||
- Only reliever to win both a League Championship Series MVP Award and World Series MVP Award
- Tied for most times won
- Most times won
- Stats updated through June 16, 2013
|Most career saves||632|||
|Most career games finished||920|||
|Highest career adjusted ERA+ (minimum 1,000 innings pitched)||206|||
|Most consecutive save opportunities converted at home[a]||51|||
|Most career appearances with single team
Most career appearances in American League history
|Most consecutive seasons with at least one save[b]||18|||
|Most seasons with at least 20 saves||16 (1997–2011, 2013)|||
|Most seasons with at least 25 saves
Most consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves
|Most seasons with at least 30 saves[c]||14 (1997–2001, 2003–11)|||
|Most consecutive seasons with at least 30 saves||9 (2003–11)|||
|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 20-plus saves, sub-2.00 ERA, and sub-1.00 WHIP||7 (1999, 2005–06, 2008–11)|||
|Most career saves for a single winning pitcher||71 (Andy Pettitte)|||
|Most career interleague saves||72|||
|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 appearances||96|||
|Most career saves in each postseason round||18 (LDS), 13 (LCS), 11 (WS)|||
|Most career appearances in each postseason round||39 (LDS), 33 (LCS), 24 (WS)|||
|Lowest career ERA in Division Series history||0.32|||
|Most career saves to clinch series||9|||
|Most times in career recording the final out of a series||16|||
|Most times in career recording the final out of a World Series||4|||
|Most consecutive postseasons with an appearance||13 (1995–2007)|
|Most All-Star selections as reliever||12|||
|Most All-Star Game saves||4|||
|Most saves in single season||53 (2004)|||
|Highest career strikeout-to-walk ratio||4.04|||
|Lowest career WHIP||1.01|||
|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||19|||
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- Habib, Daniel J. (2003-03-31). "New York Yankees: 2003 Preview". Sports Illustrated 98 (13). Retrieved 2011-10-17.
- Associated Press (2003-10-17). "Yankees reliever named MVP after 3 innings". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
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- Associated Press (2004-11-11). "Rivera says he will be back for Game 1". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
- Associated Press (2004-10-20). "Believe it: Red Sox realize the unbelievable". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
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- "Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team unveiled today" (Press release). Major League Baseball. 2005-10-26. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
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- Associated Press (2006-07-11). "Young's two-run triple in ninth lifts AL All-Stars". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2006-08-10.
- Mink, Ryan (2006-07-16). "Rivera notches save No. 400". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- Associated Press (2006-09-08). "Yankees' Rivera to rest one more day, throw Friday". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- Feinsand, Mark (2006-10-24). "Rivera is DHL Delivery Man of the Year". MLB.com. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
- Associated Press (2007-02-14). "Rivera says he'll consider offers from other teams". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
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- Associated Press (2007-07-14). "Abreu's HR, 5 RBIs steer Wang, Yankees by Rays". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
- Associated Press (2007-10-10). "Rivera: Torre's return a factor in whether he stays in N.Y.". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2013-05-23.
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- Associated Press (2008-09-15). "New York begins probable final week at Yankee Stadium with win over ChiSox". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2008-09-29.
- Associated Press (2008-09-21). "For final game at Yankee Stadium, Yanks win to prevent playoff elimination". ESPN.com. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mariano Rivera|
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Mariano Rivera on Twitter
- Mariano Rivera: The pursuit of 602 saves at Newsday.com
- How Mariano Rivera Dominates Hitters (video) – NYTimes.com