Cue "Enter Sandman". The doors to the outfield wall open up and out trots a 6'2", 185 pound man. This Panamanian 41-year-old has trotted out onto the field 999 times donning the pinstripes. Seemingly every time he enters the game, he quickly and efficiently executes his job and preserves a Yankee victory. After all, the ninth inning is his time. Why would appearance number 1,000 be any different?
Yesterday, Mariano Rivera became the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games for a single franchise in the history of Major League Baseball and the fifteenth pitcher to ever pitch in 1,000 games. Sure, this won't be one of the top statistics that will be highlighted when he is inevitably inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, it's truly a magnificent accomplishment in the grand scheme of his illustrious career.
Mariano Rivera is the best player in his respective position in the history of the game. Period. Since 1995, scouts, managers, batters, fans and even pitchers alike have endlessly tried to exploit the tiniest weakness in Rivera. After seventeen years, his armor is stronger than ever. No one can claim to have figured him out.
After 1,000 games, here are Rivera's statistics: 1,171.0 innings, 1.002 WHIP (903 hits and 270 walks), 1,068 strikeouts, 572 saves. If you think those are impressive, just look at his playoff numbers. Unprecedented. He was the bridge for one world series and closed the book on four others. While time may have aged him, he's repeated the same effortless motion thousands of times and keeps an incredibly high success rate. Quite simply, Rivera has made closing out games look easy. He's set the bar for excellence at unreachable heights and spoiled Yankee fans for as long as any of us can remember. 1,000 appearances represents and symbolizes consistency and I doubt many closers will ever touch this number again, let alone maintain spectacular numbers for as long as Rivera has.
So as we take a moment to quickly reflect on Mariano Rivera's career thus far, I offer one bit of advice to you all. Keep an eye on the score of every Yankee game this season and next season. Turn on the television if it's a close game and getting late. Because every appearance made by Rivera needs to be cherished now. There will never be a pitcher that's better than him, so watch him work his magic while you still can. When all is said and done, he'll have a plaque of his own out in Monument Park. For now, appearance number 1,001 is right around the corner.