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Mariano Rivera (born November 29, 1969) is a Panamanianmarker professional baseball player who has spent his entire Major League Baseball (MLB) career with the New York Yankees. Nicknamed "Mo", the right-handed Rivera has served as a relief pitcher for most of his career. His presence in the late inning of games to record the final out has played an instrumental role in the Yankees' success, particularly the team's late 1990s dynasty. He has won five World Series championships as a Yankee.

Rivera was signed by the Yankees organization in 1990 and debuted in the Major Leagues in 1995 as a starting pitcher. He found success after being converted to a relief pitcher in the bullpen. After a breakthrough year in 1996 as a setup man, he became the Yankees' closer in 1997 and has maintained that role for the team ever since. Rivera has become one of the best closers in baseball history, and he has done so by primarily throwing one pitch, a sharp-breaking, mid-90s mile per hour cut fastball that has been called an all-time great pitch.

Rivera is a ten-time All-Star, a five-time American League (AL) Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and a three-time save leader. He has recorded the second-most saves in Major League history, and in 2009, he surpassed 500 career saves. Recognized as an exceptional postseason performer, he holds Major League postseason records for saves and earned run average (ERA), among other records. Baseball writers expect Rivera will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker upon retirement.

Early life

Rivera was born in Panama Citymarker, Panamamarker on November 29, 1969 to Delia and Mariano, Sr. His father worked in fishing as a ship captain. Rivera grew up in the fishing village of Puerto Caimitomarker in Panama, frequently playing soccer with his friends. They would also play baseball in the streets by substituting milk cartons for glove and tree branches for bat, and taping beat-up baseball. Rivera used this makeshift equipment to play baseball until his father bought him his first leather glove when he was 12 years old. Rivera thought of baseball as a pastime and did not seriously consider playing professionally. After graduating from Pablo Sanchez High School at age 16, Rivera worked 12-hour days on a commercial shrimping boat on which his father was captain. Rivera did not consider taking up the profession as an adult, though, calling the job "way too tough". As a 19-year-old, Rivera had to abandon a capsizing 120-ton commercial boat, all but convincing him to give the job up.

As a shortstop, in 1988, Rivera began to play baseball for an amateur team, Panamá Oeste, representing his local district. 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. Yankees scout Chico Heron attended one of his games and after watching Rivera throw, Heron arranged for him to attend a Yankees tryout camp in Panama City where Raybourn was visiting. Raybourn was surprised that scouts had shown interest in Rivera as a pitcher a year later, considering they passed on him as a shortstop. Although Rivera had no formal pitching training and only threw 85–87 miles per hour (MPH), Raybourn was impressed by Rivera's athleticism and smooth pitching motion, along with the ease with which he threw the ball, so he considered Rivera a raw talent. Raybourn signed the amateur free agent to a contract with a US$3,000 signing bonus ($ in current dollar terms) on February 17, 1990, in Rivera's living room.

Professional baseball career

Minor leagues (1990–1995)

After signing his contract in Panama with the Yankees organization, Rivera, who spoke no English at the time, left home for the first time. He flew to the United States to begin pitching for the Rookie level Yankees of the Gulf Coast League, a minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees. At that point in his career, he was considered by scouts to be a "fringe prospect" at best, but he made good progress with a strong 1990 season for the GCL Yankees. Pitching mostly in relief, he allowed a 0.17 earned run average (ERA) in 52 innings pitched, and he allowed only 24 baserunners. The following year, Rivera ascended 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 innings pitched and struck out 123 batters while walking only 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 moved up to the Class A-Advanced Fort Lauderdale Yankees of the Florida State League. He started 10 games in Fort Lauderdale, compiling a 5–3 win-loss record and a 2.28 ERA. Rivera attempted to improve the movement on his slider by snapping his wrist in his pitching motion, but he inadvertently caused damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. He had elbow surgery in August 1992 to repair the damage, ending his season and briefly interrupting his minor league career. It was expected that Rivera would require Tommy John surgery, but during the procedure, it was realized that the ligament did not need to be replaced, but rather "moved". His rehabilitation coincided with the 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. Rivera successfully rehabilitated his arm in the early part of 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 10 more games.

In 1994, he ascended from the Class A-Advanced level Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League 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. Over the course of the year, Rivera finished with a strong 10–2 record in 22 starts, although Rivera struggled with Columbus, recording a 5.81 ERA in six starts. Rivera began the 1995 season with Columbus with the ranking of ninth-best prospect in the Yankees organization by Baseball America.

Major leagues (1995-present)

1995–1997

Rivera made his Major League debut against the California Angels on May 23, 1995 as a starting pitcher in place of an injured Jimmy Key, but he pitched poorly in a 10–0 loss. Rivera experienced mixed success as a starter in the Major Leagues and therefore found himself splitting time between the Yankees and their minor league affiliate in Columbus. As a 25-year-old rookie with prior major arm surgery, Rivera's role on the team was not guaranteed. Yankees management once considered trading Rivera to the Detroit Tigers for David Wells, but Yankees general manager Gene Michael quickly called off negotiations when he learned that Rivera had begun to throw at 95–96 MPH in one of his starts, six MPH faster than his previous average velocity. Rivera attributes his inexplicable improvement to God. Rivera 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. His improvement during the year and his success in the 1995 American League Division Series, in which he pitched scoreless innings of relief, convinced Yankees management to keep him and move him into the bullpen the following season as a full-time relief pitcher.

Prior to the 1996 season, the Seattle Mariners, sensing the Yankees' unease with starting rookie Derek Jeter at shortstop, offered to trade veteran shortstop Félix Fermín to the Yankees for Rivera, but no deal was ever agreed upon. In 1996, Rivera served primarily as a setup pitcher for closer John Wetteland, typically pitching in the seventh and eighth inning before Wetteland pitched in the ninth. Their effectiveness gave the Yankees a 70–3 win-loss record that season when leading after the sixth inning, essentially shortening the games for their opponents by three innings. Across games between April 15 and May 21, Rivera pitched 26 consecutive scoreless innings, including 15 consecutive hit-less innings. After he dominated the Minnesota Twins in an April game, Twins manager Tom Kelly said in awe of Rivera, "He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal." Rivera played an important role in the Yankees advancing to and winning the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves for the franchise's first World Series championship since 1978. In the regular season, Rivera finished with a 2.09 ERA in innings pitched, recorded a league-leading 26 hold, and set a Yankees record for strikeouts by a reliever in a season (130). In the postseason, he allowed just one earned run in innings pitched. Rivera finished third in the voting for the American League (AL) Cy Young Award, given annually to the league's best pitcher based on voting by baseball writers.

Rivera impressed Yankees management enough that they chose not to re-sign Wetteland, an offseason free agent. 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 has been 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 he indicated that he was initially uncomfortable in the role. Eventually, Rivera settled into his new duties, accidentally discovering how to throw a cut fastball, earning his first All-Star selection, and finishing with 43 save in 52 opportunities and a 1.88 ERA in the regular season. However, his postseason was not as successful as his regular season. In the 1997 American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians, he blew a save in Game 4 by allowing a game-tying home run to Sandy Alomar, Jr., with the Yankees four outs from advancing to the next round. The Yankees eventually lost that game and the next, eliminating them from the playoffs.

1998–2001

Members of the Yankees coaching staff were concerned that the disappointment of the previous season's end would affect Rivera's performance in the future. He put any such concerns to rest in the following seasons, as he became one of the best closers in the Major Leagues by regularly throwing a sharp-breaking cutter, which quickly became his signature pitch and earned a reputation for breaking the bats of hitters. In 1998, he saved 36 games in 41 opportunities and finished with a 1.91 ERA. Along with his success and cutter, Rivera's entrance music became part of his identity as a closer; Metallica's song "Enter Sandman" was selected for Rivera by Yankee Stadiummarker public address staff, as Rivera was indifferent about his entrance music; the song features lyrics about an evil entity giving children nightmares and it accompanies Rivera's jog from the bullpen to the pitcher's mound. Rivera became the centerpiece of a shut-down bullpen that played a large role in the Yankees' success in the late 1990s, with relievers Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, and Ramiro Mendoza providing solid middle relief. In the 1998 postseason, Rivera saved six games and pitched scoreless innings, and he clinched the Yankees' sweep of the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series, capping off a season in which the Yankees won a Major League record-125 wins between the regular season and the postseason.

In 1999, Rivera was voted as an All-Star, led the Major Leagues with 45 saves in 49 opportunities, and recorded a 1.83 ERA to win his first AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, an annual award for the league's best closer based on their statistical performance. He was also given the World Series MVP Award for earning two saves and a win in the 1999 World Series against the Braves, in which he closed out the team's championship title, his third. Rivera finished 1999 by pitching 43 consecutive scoreless innings between the regular season and postseason, and he finished third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. 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 again selected as an All-Star, and he ended the season with 36 saves in 41 opportunities and a 2.85 ERA. In the postseason, Rivera saved six games and allowed three earned runs in innings. He helped the Yankees defeat the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series by closing out a World Series championship for his team for the third consecutive year. It was Rivera's fourth championship title overall.

Rivera's postseason success during the Yankees' titles run earned him a reputation as an exceptional postseason performer. Through the 1998 postseason, he had only allowed two earned runs in 35 postseason innings for a 0.51 ERA, qualifying him for the Major League's record for lowest career postseason ERA; it is a record he still holds through postseason innings. From 1998 to 2001, Rivera converted 23 consecutive postseason saves, and from 1998 to 2000, he pitched consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason; both feats are also Major League records.

In 2001, Rivera was voted onto the All-Star team for a third consecutive year. He finished the season with a 2.34 ERA, a closer career-high innings pitched, and an MLB-leading 50 saves in 57 opportunities, the second time he led the Majors in saves, earning him his second AL Rolaids Relief Man Award. However, Rivera's year ended with one of his most infamous moments; in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he blew the save in the bottom of the ninth inning, in part due to his own throwing error. Rivera lost the Series later in the inning by allowing Luis Gonzalez's bloop single with the bases loaded to score the winning run.

2002–2005

Injuries limited Rivera's playing time in 2002. He was placed on the disabled list three times for groin and shoulder strain, and he pitched only 46 innings while accumulating just 28 saves in 32 opportunities. Rivera also missed the first month of the 2003 season with another groin injury. Despite concerns by sports writers about Rivera's reliability, Rivera quickly returned to form after re-assuming his closer role on May 1, recording 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 best 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 series' MVP for recording two saves and a win. Rivera celebrated by running out to the mound and collapsing in joy and exhaustion to thank God, as Boone rounded the bases and was mobbed by his teammates at home plate. The Yankees would eventually lose in the 2003 World Series to the Florida Marlins; Rivera only allowed one earned run in the 16 innings he pitched that postseason.

Prior to the 2004 season, with a year left on his contract, Rivera signed a two-year contract extension worth $21 million, with an option for a third year in 2007. The 2004 season was another stellar year for Rivera. In addition to becoming the 17th pitcher in MLB history to record 300 saves, Rivera made the All-Star team with 32 saves at the break, then an American League record. Rivera finished the season with a 1.94 ERA and a career-best 53 saves in 57 opportunities, the third time Rivera led the majors in that category. For his performance that year, he won his third AL Rolaids Relief Man Award and finished third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award.

Following the Yankees' victory in the 2004 American League Division Series against the Twins, Rivera learned that two of his relatives had been killed in a swimming accident at his home in Panama. Despite his status being in doubt for the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Rivera returned to New York for Game 1 on the same day 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, pinch runner Dave Roberts stole second base off Rivera and scored on a base hit 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 Rivera only allowed one earned run in the 2004 postseason, the Red Sox' comeback victories helped them become the first team in Major League history to win a best-of-seven series in which they trailed three-games-to-none. They eventually won the 2004 World Series and broke the Curse of the Bambino.

Unlike previous years, Rivera did not throw during the winter in the offseason, leading to speculation that he needed more time to recover from the 2004 season, in which he made the most appearances of his closing career. The 2005 season started out on a low note for Rivera. After missing time in spring training with elbow bursitis, he blew his first two saves of the season against the Red Sox, marking four consecutive blown saves against Boston, dating back to the previous postseason. Fans at Yankee Stadium booed Rivera, upsetting his teammates and making them come to his defense. The stretch prompted baseball journalists to speculate if Rivera's days as a dominant pitcher were over. He was subsequently cheered by Red Sox fans during pre-game introductions at Fenway Parkmarker the following week, as recognition for his subpar performances against the Red Sox. Rivera took the ovation with a good sense of humor and tipped his cap to the crowd.

Rivera responded in dominating fashion and his 2005 season turned out to be, at that point in his career, statistically his greatest individual year. Rivera made the All-Star team and finished the season with 43 saves in 47 opportunities, along with a career-low 1.38 ERA. He posted then-career bests in many statistical categories, highlighted by his converting 31 consecutive save opportunities and allowing an average of 0.87 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP). Opposing batters only hit for a batting average of .177 against Rivera (see batting average against), then a closer career-best. Along with winning his fourth AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, Rivera finished second in the voting for the AL Cy Young Award to starter Bartolo Colón and ninth for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, his highest finishes in voting for both awards.

2006–2008

Rivera pitching in 2007
Prior to the 2006 season, a minor controversy occurred in New York Citymarker when Yankees fans objected to new Mets closer Billy Wagner using "Enter Sandman" as his entrance music, as they believed he had encroached on Rivera's territory in New York; many were unaware Wagner had previously used the song before joining the Mets. In the regular season, despite a subpar April, Rivera made his third consecutive All-Star team, with a 1.76 ERA and 19 saves entering the All-Star break. Rivera saved the 2006 MLB All-Star Game, his third time doing so, tying an All-Star record. That summer, on July 16, Rivera reached another milestone, becoming the fourth pitcher in Major League history to record 400 saves. Rivera was sidelined for most of September because of an elbow strain in his throwing arm, but he finished the 2006 season with 34 saves in 37 opportunities and an ERA of 1.80, the fourth consecutive season he posted a sub-2.00 ERA. His performance in 2006 earned him the DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award for a second consecutive season, as well as This Year in Baseball's Closer of the Year Award for the third consecutive season, both awards voted on annually by fans.

Before the 2007 season, Rivera attempted to negotiate a new contract to remain with the Yankees beyond the end of the season. Team management refused to negotiate near the start of the season, prompting Rivera to respond that he would consider pursuing free agency after the season. Rivera had an uncharacteristically poor month in April, blowing his first two save opportunities, compiling two losses, and surrendering nine earned runs in innings. Concerned baseball journalists attributed his struggles to infrequent use, as the Yankees presented him with few opportunities to enter a game. Rivera recovered, saving 30 of his next 32 opportunities and posting a 2.26 ERA over the final five months of the season. He also passed John Franco for third place on the all-time saves list by recording his 425th career save. Still, 2007 was Rivera's weakest statistical regular season as a closer, as he recorded closer career worsts in earned runs (25), hits (68), and ERA (3.15). His 30 saves in 34 opportunities were his second-lowest total as a closer. After the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs in the opening round, Rivera stated that he intended to test the free agent market, as he was unhappy that long-time Yankees manager Joe Torre was not re-signed and that the Yankees' ownership was transitioning from George Steinbrenner to his sons. Speculation that Rivera would sign elsewhere ended when he agreed to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Yankees, making him the highest paid reliever in baseball history.

Rivera rebounded in 2008, starting the year by pitching 16 scoreless innings and converting his first 28 saves, both personal bests to start a season, and he earned the Delivery Man of the Month Award for April. His first-half performance, highlighted by a 1.06 ERA and 23 saves in as many opportunities, earned him his ninth All-Star selection. Since the 2008 MLB All-Star Game was being held at Yankee Stadium in the venue's final year of existence, a few sports writers proposed making Rivera the American League starting pitcher, although he appeared for the AL as a reliever. Despite struggling in non-save situations in the second-half of the season, Rivera finished the season well and recorded two milestones in September: 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 in 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 Rivera's career, he mentioned that he had suffered from shoulder pain throughout the year. Tests revealed calcification of the acromioclavicular joint in his throwing shoulder, for which Rivera underwent minor arthroscopic surgery in the offseason.

Rivera finished 2008 with perhaps the best individual season of his career. 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 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. Rivera had a historical season in terms of his control, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12.83 made him the second pitcher since 1900 to record a figure that high in a season. Rivera placed fifth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

2009–present

Rivera struggled early in 2009, surrendering five home runs in the season's first six weeks, including back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career. Despite concerns over his cutter's effectiveness and his shoulder's health, Rivera recovered from his slump. On June 28, Rivera reached a historic milestone by earning his 500th regular season save, becoming the second pitcher in history to do so. In the same game, he earned his first career run batted in by drawing a walk with the bases loaded against fellow closer Francisco Rodríguez. Rivera's first-half performance, highlighted by 23 saves in 24 opportunities and a 2.43 ERA, earned him his tenth All-Star selection. At the 2009 MLB All-Star Game, he set a record by saving his fourth All-Star Game. Rivera continued to dominate in the season's second-half by allowing earned runs in only two of his final 39 appearances, winning July's Delivery Man of the Month Award, and setting a new personal best by converting 36 consecutive save opportunities. Rivera finished the regular season with a 1.76 ERA, 44 saves in 46 opportunities, and a 0.90 WHIP, earning him his third DHL Delivery Man Award, and fifth AL Rolaids Relief Man Award. In the postseason, Rivera pitched 16 innings, allowing one earned run and saving five games, and he was on the mound to clinch the Yankees' victory in the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, his fifth championship. Rivera was the only closer among postseason teams that did not record a loss or blown save.

Pitching style

Rivera's signature pitch is his cut fastball or "cutter". The pitch breaks sharply towards left-handed hitters, exhibiting late movement similar to a slider, but with the velocity of a fastball. He mixes the cutter with both a four-seam and two-seam fastball. He throws all three fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s MPH, usually at 92–95 MPH. Rivera varies the movement on his cutter by adjusting the pressure he puts on the ball with his middle finger.

Rivera discovered the cutter accidentally while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza in June 1997, finding that the fastballs he threw in the bullpen were beginning to move sharply and unpredictably. After failing to straighten out the pitch and prevent the movement altogether, Rivera accepted it and began to use the pitch in games, with the cutter coming into prominence in 1998. When asked from where his ability to throw the pitch came, Rivera explained, "It was just from God. I didn't do anything. It was natural." Rivera has taught the pitch to several other pitchers, including Roy Halladay, who now uses the cutter as part of his repertoire.

Rivera's cut fastball is a respected pitch among Major League hitters. Chipper Jones once compared it to a "buzzsaw", (referring to its tendency of breaking left-handed hitters' bats) after witnessing teammate Ryan Klesko break three bats in a plate appearance against Rivera in the 1999 World Series. Jim Thome called it "the single best pitch ever in the game". In 2004, ESPN.com ranked Rivera's cutter as the best "out pitch" in baseball. Buster Olney referred to Rivera's 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, many switch-hitters bat right-handed when facing the right-handed Rivera to avoid being jammed on their hands by his cutter.

Since Rivera relies on variations of a fastball, all of similar speed, much of his success is attributed to his impeccable control and ability to consistently throw strike. Rivera's 3.93 career strikeout-to-walk ratio in the regular season ranks fourth-best in Major League history. Rivera has achieved his success with a smooth, "fluid" pitching delivery, as an easily repeatable throwing motion allows a pitcher to yield consistent results.

Legacy

Rivera is considered by many baseball experts to be the greatest closer in baseball history, despite many of them unfavorably comparing modern closers to those who pitched between the 1960s and 1980s. The role of the modern closer has received criticism for becoming too specialized and easy; closers in past decades often entered games in the middle of innings with runners on base and had to pitch multiple innings, while modern closers are usually called upon to only pitch the ninth inning from the start. Despite being utilized much like a modern closer, Rivera has achieved a reputation as an all-time great reliever. Hall of Fame starter-turned-closer Dennis Eckersley calls Rivera "the best ever, no doubt", while Trevor Hoffman, the only closer with more saves than Rivera, says he "will go down as the best reliever in the game in history". Buster Olney says, "No other player can instill calm in his team's fans as reliably as Mariano Rivera, the game's dominant closer and arguably the best relief pitcher of all time." Joe Torre, who managed Rivera for most of his career, says, "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."Based on his career performance, many baseball journalists consider Rivera to be the most valuable Yankees player from the team's late 1990s championship years. Although voters have historically been reluctant to allow relievers into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker, sports writers and baseball experts anticipate Rivera will be voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, five years after retirement.

Rivera is well-known for his composure and calm, placid demeanor, which contrasts with the rough-edged, emotional, and demonstrative nature of many other closers. Derek Jeter called Rivera the "most mentally tough teammate [he's] ever played with". On his ability to quickly forget bad performances, Rivera explains, "You just keep going. It's frustrating and it's tough [to fail], but at the same time, you just have to move on and get the next opportunity." Rivera is well-respected among his peers for his professionalism. Fellow closer Joe Nathan says, "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." Despite the closer role being characterized by volatility and turnover, Rivera is known for his consistency. His tenure as the Yankees' closer has exceeded the ordinary lifetime of a closer, as he has the longest active tenure for a closer by more than six years. His 15-year tenure with the Yankees is tied for the longest of any active pitcher. Rivera has been one of the most successful pitchers at closing games, as he has converted 89.46% of his save opportunities, the second-best percentage among relievers with at least 200 save opportunities. Rivera ranks highly in many statistical categories amongst both starting and relief pitchers; Rivera has the lowest career WHIP (1.01) and ERA (2.25) of any pitcher in the live-ball era, making him one of the top pitchers since 1920 in preventing runners from reaching base and scoring. Rivera also has MLB history's best adjusted ERA+ (202), meaning Rivera's career ERA is half of the league average, adjusted for the pitcher's ballpark.

Rivera is also considered one of the best relief pitchers in postseason history. Torre says, "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 sports a postseason win-loss record of 8–1 and WHIP of 0.77, and he holds numerous postseason records, including lowest ERA (0.74), most saves (39), most consecutive scoreless innings pitched ( ), most consecutive save opportunities converted (23), and most appearances (88). No pitcher has half as many postseason saves as Rivera. His dominance in postseason games has often led to him being utilized for two-inning appearances, as he has recorded a record-14 saves of this variety. Between 1998 and 2008, Rivera recorded 26 postseason saves of four or more outs; the second-highest total by any other pitcher is four such saves, and the rest of baseball combined had 33. In 19 of his postseason series, Rivera allowed no earned runs. Life recognized his postseason success by naming him one of the 16 most "clutch" professional athletes. In a 2009 ESPN.com poll, Rivera was voted as one of the top five postseason players in MLB history.

Rivera will be the last MLB player to wear the uniform number 42, which was retired throughout baseball in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Personal life

Rivera married his wife Clara on November 9, 1991. They have three sons: Mariano Jr., Jafet, and Jaziel. Rivera is a cousin of former Yankee Rubén Rivera.

Over the course of his professional career, Rivera learned English. 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. He maintains that God has a reason for everything that happens. For example, Rivera found his failure in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series easier to deal with when he learned of the consequences it had on a teammate. Had the Yankees won Game 7 and the World Series, Enrique Wilson would have flown home to the Dominican Republicmarker and been aboard the deadly American Airlines Flight 587marker. "I am glad we lost the World Series," Rivera told Wilson, "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").

Rivera is a partner in a restaurant in New Rochelle, New Yorkmarker called "Mo's New York Grill". He is also involved with philanthropic contributions in his native Panama, which include building an elementary school and a church, providing Christmas gifts to children, and developing a program that provides computer access and adult mentors to youths.

Rivera is signed to an endorsement deal with sports apparel company Nike, Inc.marker

Career highlights

Awards and honors

Award / Honor Time(s) Date(s)
American League All-Star 10 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009
American League Championship Series MVP Award 1 2003
American League Player of the Week 2 May 26 – June 1, 2008; June 22–28, 2009
American League Rolaids Relief Man Award 5 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009
Babe Ruth Award 1 1999
DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award 3 2005, 2006, 2009
DHL Delivery Man of the Month Award 2 April 2008, July 2009
The Sporting News Reliever of the Year Award 6 1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009
This Year in Baseball's Closer of the Year Award 3 2004, 2005, 2006
Thurman Munson Award 1 2003
World Series MVP Award 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



Records

MLB Records
Record (as of 2009)
Regular season
Highest career adjusted ERA+ (minimum 1,000 innings pitched) 202
Lowest career ERA among relievers (minimum 1,000 innings pitched) 2.25
Most saves in American League history 526
Most consecutive seasons with at least 25 saves 13 (1997-2009)
Most seasons with 20-plus saves and sub-2.00 ERA 9 (1997-99, 2003-06, 2008-09)
Most seasons with 20-plus saves, sub-2.00 ERA, and sub-1.00 WHIP 5 (1999, 2005-06, 2008-09)
Most games saved for a single winning pitcher 63 (Andy Pettitte)
Most interleague saves 59
Most saves in a single ballpark 230 (original Yankee Stadiummarker)
Postseason
Lowest career ERA (minimum 30 innings pitched) 0.74
Most saves 39
Most consecutive scoreless innings pitched
Most consecutive save opportunities converted 23
Most two-inning saves 14
Most appearances 88
Most games finished 70
Most saves in each round of postseason 16 (LDS), 12 (LCS), 11 (WS)
Most appearances in each round of postseason 34 (LDS), 30 (LCS), 24 (WS)
Most games finished in each round of postseason 27 (LDS), 24 (LCS), 19 (WS)
Lowest career ERA in Division Series history 0.35
Most saves to clinch series 9
Most times recording the final out of a series 14
Most times recording the final out of a World Series 4
Most consecutive postseasons with an appearance 13 (1995-2007)
All-Star Game
Most All-Star selections as reliever 10
Most All-Star Game saves 4


Yankees Records
Record (as of 2009)
Regular season
Most saves 526
Most saves in single season 53 (2004)
Lowest career WHIP 1.01
Most appearances 917
Most games finished 773
Most strikeouts by a reliever in single season 130 (1996)
Highest strikeouts per 9 innings in single season 10.87 (1996)
Most consecutive saves converted 36


Tied for most times

Other accomplishments

Rivera has accomplished other feats in his career (as of 2009):
  • One of two pitchers to record at least 30 saves in twelve separate seasons
  • One of two pitchers to record at least 40 saves in seven separate seasons
  • One of two pitchers to record at least 50 saves in two separate seasons
  • Fourth pitcher to record 300 regular season saves with one team, and second pitcher to record 400 and 500 regular season saves with one team
  • One of nine pitchers to record at least 50 saves in a season
  • Named the relief pitcher on Major League Baseball's Latino Legends Team


See also



References

  1. The boxscore states Rivera's streak was broken at 34 innings, but this is incorrect, as it neglects the out Rivera recorded in Game 4 of the 1997 ALCS after he gave up a run. The streak should be innings. Checking individual Retrosheet box scores confirms this.
  2. (preview only)
  3. Trevor Hoffman, the only other pitcher with a longer closer tenure, became a Brewer in 2009, ending his long tenure as closer with the Padres.
  4. Reference does not include save from Game 2 of 2009 World Series, or clinching 2009 World Series.
  5. Dennis Eckersley, Rob Dibble, and Randy Myers are the only other relievers to win a LCS MVP Award and none won the World Series MVP.
  6. Reference doesn't include save to clinch 2009 ALCS.
  7. Reference does not include 2009 World Series.
  8. Trevor Hoffman is the other closer.


External links




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