Mariano Rivera is the best closer of all time. Fact. Mariano Rivera is the most reliable relief pitcher in baseball. Fact. Mariano Rivera was almost never a Yankee. Fact. Imagine the Yankees past 15 or 16 years without Rivera? Believe it or not, many times this was close to being reality.
Mariano Rivera was originally a shortstop when discovered by Yankees scout Herb Raybourn in Panama. Raybourn saw his athleticism but did not see the hitting necessary for a shortstop and had him convert to pitcher. Little known fact is Rivera graduated from Pablo Sanchez High School. The Yankees picked up Rivera and sent him down to the minors to start a career many expected to end very quickly.
Rivera was nearly unhittable in the minors. As his minor league career went by, however, Rivera was almost given away to other teams many times.
When two new MLB teams were announced, the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins, players needed to be protected so that they couldn't be drafted. Rivera was left unprotected. Both teams passed on the opportunity to draft Rivera, instead picking players such as Charlie Hayes, Trevor Hoffman, Joe Girardi, and Carl Everett as notables. The first pick was David Nied, for those of you who care, who is now most known for being married to a former contestant on The Bachelor.
The Yankees dodged a bullet with Rivera not being drafted. He was gaining prospect status by the day and most teams would at this point make him untouchable. Not the Yankees.
The Tigers wanted Rivera in a trade that would land the Yankees ace starter David Wells. The Yankees seemed poised to make the deal until GM Gene Michaels found out Rivera had gained velocity. The Yankees said no to the deal.
Later, the Yankees were approached by the Mariners about trading Rivera for shortstop Felix Fermin. The Mariners thought the Yankees would need a shortstop to start ahead of some scrub named Derek Jeter (who?) The Yankees decided to go with that Jeter guy and Rivera. Terrible choice by the Yankees, right?
This is the last known occurence of the Yankees almost letting Rivera go. Now he is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Here are some facts about the man himself.
- Rivera has blown the most amount of saves agains the Red Sox with 12. Next most is the Orioles with 5.
- Rivera has the most wins against the Red Sox with 12 and most saves against the Orioles with 64.
- Rivera has saved 19 games against the Mets and blown 1.
- Rivera has saved a game against every current MLB team except for the Dodgers and the Pirates.
- Rivera has only blown one save at the New Yankee Stadium.
- Rivera has faced every current MLB team at least once.
I'll leave you with a few quotes on Mariano. (courtesy of wikipedia)
"He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal." -Tom Kelly
"You know what's coming, but you know what's coming in horror movies too. It still gets you." -Mike Sweeney on Rivera's Cutter.
"You know when you come to New York, you're going to get Mariano. It's not just before the game. I start thinking about him on the plane ride up. I know he's there waiting, and he'll be out there, and I will have to see him with the game on the line. So I start getting ready for him. I start thinking, 'What am I going to do to try to hit Mariano?'" -Gabe Gross
"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." -Michael Young