- Last Updated: 10:58 AM, March 8, 2013
- Posted: 3:03 AM, March 8, 2013
JUPITER, Fla. — A Mets official recently asked which Yankee I have enjoyed covering most. And while I sensed this executive meant in a reportorial way in the clubhouse, I told him Mariano Rivera.
Yes, I have enjoyed talking with Rivera since he was a rookie in 1995. But this was more about watching a master of his craft perform.
One of the blessings of covering the Yankees the past quarter century — first as a beat writer and then as a columnist — is so many of the great players eventually pass through the doors. Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki, and a bunch more.
But there has always been something different about watching Rivera — something that has allowed him to stand apart from even his greatest contemporaries.
It is in his dignity and economy on the mound, his grace and humility off it. It is the illusionary ability to win with one pitch — “You are waiting for a single pitch,” Suzuki said of the cutter, “and you still can’t hit it.”
It is in his serenity no matter the intensity of the moment. It is that when the competition got better, the meaning grew and the pressure rose in the postseason, he was better than even in the regular season — and he is the greatest regular-season closer ever.
If Rivera were to give up 21 earned runs without recording an out, his postseason ERA would rise to … 2.00. Think about that. Twenty-one earned runs. No outs. Two ERA.
When people talk Yankees mystique and aura, I think Rivera. He never bragged, always credited his teammates or God for his success, and still walked without peer. He was the most revered player I have covered, even in his own clubhouse. Even Derek Jeter invokes some jabs within the game, mainly out of jealousy. But in a sport fueled by the off-the-record snark, I have never heard a single bad word about Rivera. Not one.
If you love baseball, watching him would be akin to a dance lover seeing Baryshnikov day after day, or an opera aficionado having Pavarotti on endless loop. What made Rivera radiate is hard to put into words, but it goes beyond doing what he does better than anyone else on the field. There is magic about him.
I haven’t cared who won or lost a game since I was a boy rooting for Pete Rose and the Reds. But I have liked the Yankees being up by a run or two late the past 15 years, so I can watch the best ever do something with a unique combination of elegance and electricity, poise and precision.
“He is hard to hit, yet easy to catch,” Chris Stewart said, “because he puts the ball exactly where he wants even with all that break on it.”Follow @NYPostsports