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The Best Yankee Ever

Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

The Yankees are the model franchise in Major League Baseball.  They’ve won 27 World Series titles, they got the Pinstripes and the tradition.

There have been many great players in Yankee history.  So who is the best?

Mariano Rivera.  It’s not even close.

Mo has got an AL-best 566 career saves.  He’s one of the best closers in baseball history – doing so with just one pitch – the cutter.  He’s the best pressure pitcher I’ve ever seen!

Quite simply, when Mariano comes into the game he almost guarantees a victory.  He has the lowest career WHIP (1.00) and ERA (2.21) 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.

But aside from all the stats and accolades, the bottom line is this – when he comes into the game, the Yankees win!  He’s the only player in MLB history to come into the game and guarantee a victory!

Mo has converted almost 90% of his save opportunities in his career.  During Rivera’s tenure, the Yankees have gone to 7 World Series and won five of them.  His career post-season ERA is 0.71 – that means he has given up .71 runs per 9 innings.

Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

You can talk to me about Ruth, Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle but no one can assure a victory like Rivera.  Great teams are only as great as their closer.  Think about your favorite team – does your club have a good closer?  If so, your team is probably successful.  If not, you’re the Twins or White Sox of 2011 - who already each have 4 blown saves this season.

Since 1996, the key to the Yankees success has been, “Get a lead late in the game and hand the ball to Rivera”.  Then it’s game, set, match.  How do you think opposing teams feel when Rivera comes into the game?  There aren’t many teams that can say that!  Every one of his 500 plus saves resulted in a Yankees win.

Closers are like a pair of dress shoes.  They’re good for about 3-4 years and then you need a new one.  Most closers get washed up pretty quickly (Bobby Thigpen, Rob Dibble, Eric Gagne, Greg Olsen, Even Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner).  There has never been a reliever in baseball to have the kind of career he has had.  It’s hard to get a closer that’s dependable year in and year out.

I think a team with a lights-out closer is much harder to find than a team with an all-star position player.

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