Let down won't diminish the best!


First, let's get to last article's quiz about Yankee superlatives from among 35+ year old's since 1973.

1. Jason Giambi at age 35 hit 37 HRs in 2006 2. Gary Sheffield at age 36 had 123 RBI in 2005 3. Captain Derek Jeter turned 38 last year while posting 216 hits. (Ichiro's 225 at age 35 was done as a Mariner) 4. Wade Boggs hit .342 at age 36 in 1994, the strike shortened year, but he did qualify! 5. Tommy John at age 37 won 22 in 1980. 6. Mo (who else?) at age 41 posted 44 saves in 2011. (44 also at age 39, and 43 at age 35.)

Some tidbit articles ago, I mentioned how many other shortstops the sportswriters in general touted as being better than Derek Jeter during his career. But in light of his total career, many of them proved to be simply relative flashes in the pan, or on steroids, no?

So when Derek doesn't get 100% of the votes for Hall of Fame, it will be for a combination of reasons, not the least of which is the absolutely inane reasoning that since the first all time greats did not get 100% of the vote, no one else deserves such, either! (And to that end, some idiots even returned blank ballots! ISomeone should have set fire to their faces then put them out with a golf shoe!) Relax lawyers - it's called hyperbole!

But today's sportswriters are beginning to get the point with many "lock" choices, hence Ty Cobb's former all time percentage being surpassed by Seaver, Ryan, and Ripken Jr.. It's not that they were better players than Ty, or Babe, Lou, Stan, Willie, Hank, etc. - it's that their enshrinement was unquestionable. And so is Derek's; however there is almost an automatic backlash against NY players because they get more local press than most - but they also get more lame questions and more pressure under which to perform!

Thurman Munson was probably a Hall of Famer had he put three or four more years similar to the ones he posted, but fate is fate. Then, George tried to force him down everyone's throat in a special election - that alone caused a backlash, maybe cost Thurman a dime to twenty pct, but even that would not have been enough.

I believe MLB has now rescinded the five year waiting period for ALL deceased players because the whole point of the waiting period was to prevent a comeback AFTER being elected.

But, even with the ridiculous local over touting of the Yankees truest lock, one Mariano Rivera, a pitcher that had held his health and held his great ability to confound hitters with pinpoint control and a cut fastball unseen by this author in his 50+ years of baseball following. if you ask around the majors (not here) who is the toughest relief pitcher they ever saw, and of course, virtually every successful year his teammates feel he is their MVP, they will almost universally say, "Mariano Rivera".

Now before anyone poo-poo's today's relief pitching as inferior to even that of Goose's era, let me remind everyone that the standards that are applied to players is their greatness within their own era, or else virtually no one qualifies against the stats posted in the past. More to the point, two of the aforementioned players to post greater than Cobb percentages (Seaver and Ryan) played under 5 day rotations whereas many greats in the past played under 4 day rotations, and super past pitchers pitched every other day! (Burnout ended countless careers.) Also, Nolan Ryan was barely a .500 pitcher, but his extraordinary talent (strikeouts) was/is no different than Mariano's ability to ignore pressure and get the job done, and with the entire season on the line, quite often! Ryan (1) and Mariano (5) are elites in the category of lifetime fewest hits surrendered for every nine innings pitched.

Resume' points - In 1996, when the Yankees got John Wetteland to close because they didn't know yet what they had in Mariano, he became the set-up man. How did he handle that?

He posted what is very arguably the greatest setup season in history! Want proof? He finished THIRD for the CY Young award - 12th for MVP! No other set up man in history has ever done that.

Regular season - MLB record in games finished, saves, and ERA+ (which measures ERA against the league). His lifetime ERA 2.21 is so low, it compares with all the greats of the game, and right behind Walter Johnson!

Post season is even more amazing - You all know the stats. Mariano has been the single biggest ace-in-the-hole in post season history, where even great closers have been torn to shreds! He hasn't been perfect, but Damn! He's close!

All star games - The next run that Mariano gives up in an all star game will be his FIRST - he's been on 12 all star rosters.

He wears #42, which will be immediately retired for Jackie Robinson, but it will CERTAINLY also be retired as a Yankee number on Mariano's career alone!

He is universally liked, respected, has an equanimity unseen in MLB (tho Derek's is close), and has posted stats for which there is no compare.

If anyone deserved to be the first unanimous choice for the Hall of Fame, it is Mariano!

But he won't be. This retirement game with the press (which has absolutely NOTHING to do with his playing) will cost him votes, as incredibly shallow as that will be!

I think that he wanted to go out a winner last year, but in his own words, he couldn't go out ... "that way"!

So I expect him to try to make the comeback and go on the "retirement tour", giving fans one last look.

If he succeeds, make sure your kids see this "Roy Hobbs of a pitcher", if only to say ... there goes the best that ever was! (Kudos to Tri-star Pictures & Delphi II Productions for the character quote).


MATSUIFAN INC. 2007