On February 17, 1990, the New York Yankees signed a 21 year old Panamanian free agent by the name of Mariano Rivera. He made it to the Bigs in 1995 appearing in 19 games, starting 10 of them and finishing two. In the first round of the Playoffs against the Seattle Mariners, Rivera made 3 appearances out of the bullpen and allowed just 3 hits over 5 innings while striking out 8 batters. The Yankees lost that series.
The next season, he pitched strictly out of the bullpen, tallying 107.2 innings in 61 appearances, saving 5 games and finishing 14. He struck out 130 batters while walking just 34 and had an ERA of just 2.09. He finished third in Cy Young voting behind Pat Hentgen and teammate Andy Pettite. In the playoffs that year, Mo tallied 14.1 innings pitched over 8 appearances and as we know the Yankees won their first of 3 World Series championships in the 90s.
In 1997, Mariano took over the closer role full time for the Pinstripes and has been that guy every since. In his first full season as the Yanks closer, Mo saved 43 games while finishing 56 games and pitching 71.2 innings. He finished with an ERA of just 1.88 and struck out 68 batters. During the postseason, the Yankees lost in the ALDS to the Cleveland Indians and Rivera earned the save in game 1. The Yankees lost 3 of the next 4 and Mo only appeared in one more game, allowing a HR to Sandy Alomar while blowing the save. It was the first of just TWO HRs that Rivera ever allowed in the postseason. The other came in the 2000 Subway Series against the Mets when Jay Payton hit a 3 run HR.
It was during that season, baseball began to realize that something great was happening in the Yankees bullpen. I doubt anyone knew just how great.
From 1998 on Rivera saved 560 games for the New York Yankees, an average of 37 saves a season. He finished top 3 in the Cy Young voting 3 more times and top 10 in MVP voting twice. He saved less than 30 games just once (28 in 2002) and had an ERA above 2.40 just 3 times (2000, 2002, 2007).
In 2008, Mariano Rivers struck out 77 batters while walking just 6 in 70 innings! That's a 12..83 K/BB ratio!
Most importantly we all know that we judge players based on how they perform in the Playoffs. Just ask Alex Rodriguez. In Rivera's postseason career, he has allowed just 11 earned runs over 141 innings. That is a .70 ERA! If the Yankees were winning going into the 9th inning and Enter Sandman came blaring through Yankee Stadium, the other team knew the game was already over.
Rivera holds many MLB records amongst active and former players: ERA, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, etc. Take a moment to read the Baseball Reference page and just wow yourself with just how much better Mariano Rivera is then every other pitcher in baseball.
-New York Mets fan who HATES the Yankees with a passion, but knows greatness when he sees it.