2013 Statistics: 64 IP, 44 saves, 2.11 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 22.1% K%, 3.2% BB%, 0.84 HR/9, 1.5 fWAR
2014 Status: Free Agent (Retired)
It says a lot about the career of Mariano Rivera that the stat line noted above would represent an up and down season for a pitcher, but that was exactly the case for The Sandman in 2013. A period of three consecutive blown saves in August had brought out those who were prepared to bury the 43 year-old as having finally run out of gas, however it was still a good season for the closer overall amplified all the more by his having to attend a mini-farewell every other night. Even for an old salt like Mo, it took a lot of focus to take it all on and still be an All-Star caliber pitcher but he did exactly that in 2013.
Mariano had vowed almost immediately to make a return in 2013 after a gruesome injury in Kansas City brought a premature end to his 2012 season. So the anticipation would be high upon entering his nineteenth major league season. Every home game he would enter took on even more significance than usual, and every away game appearance felt like a rock star had come to town. In spite of his age and recent injury, Rivera looked just like the pitcher we've come to know over the years. His patented cutter was dancing as if it were on a string and his control was impeccable. At times, it looked like he would be able to pitch another five seasons.
It wasn't all pure and joyful nostalgia, unfortunately. Rivera allowed multiple home runs in a save situation for the first time in his career. He blew the second-most saves (seven) of his career. He posted a 4.22 ERA in an incredibly difficult August. But he was far from finished, as when the Yankees were barely hanging onto postseason contention Joe Girardi called on Rivera for multiple inning-plus performances as he racked up a rigorous 14 innings pitched in September while compiling a much more Rivera-like sub-2.00 ERA. It would have been a more appropriate end for Mariano if all that effort had earned him an opportunity to add to his sterling postseason numbers in 2013, but it will all have to suffice as is.
Sadly there's no 2014 outlook for Mariano Rivera the baseball player. Rivera will happily acclimate himself to the simple life of a family man only to occasionally don his iconic number 42 again for ceremonial purposes such as Old-Timer's Day. The Yankees, meanwhile, must trudge on without the comfort of turning to the most consistent and unflappable closer whenever they needed some crucial outs late in games. It's up to internal options like David Robertson or relievers acquired from outside the organization to fill some of the largest shoes ever to be left at the end of a baseball career.