Mariano Rivera nailed down career save No.601 in a 7-6 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Rivera tied former Padres closer, Trevor Hoffman, for first place on the all-time saves list. For Mo it was just another day at the office, but the legendary shutdown closer is on the verge of recording the biggest save of his professional career when it comes to personal achievements. Rivera is a staple of the Yankees dynasty of the late due to his devastating cutter that continues to baffle Major League hitters even at the age of 41. Mo exemplifies the model of consistency throughout his 17-year career hardly ever being rattled when the game is on the line. When you consider how Rivera accidentally came upon his magical cutter while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza back in as long man for Jeff Nelson and Bob Wickman, one can truly understand why Rivera continually claims that he is blessed. Rivera will look to take down the last statistical feat of his career this week as he continues to climb up the pantheon of Yankees legends.
Mariano Rivera joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss not wanting all the attention he has received over the past few weeks, what one reason he would say has allowed him to be so dominant for so long in his career, his emotions never being too high or low during his career, setting up games for John Wetteland being able to control his cutter and hit corners on command, the feeling of having a legendary career, the idea of being the best closer of all-time sinking in his mind and the one moment in his New York Yankees career that stands out the most.
Has it been a pain in the neck to have all the talk surrounding you for the last couple of weeks?
“Yeah it has been. It’s been crazy. You know myself and I don’t like to talk about myself. Sometimes you have to do it I guess.”
Why is Mariano Rivera this good for this long?
“It’s only one answer. The blessing of the lord. God has blessed me in an amazing way. He’s the one keeping me here. It’s not about myself. If I told you it was me I would be lying. It’s the lord that is carrying me. That’s the only explanation. I know my talent. My talent wasn’t enough for me to do what I do. Definitely you have to admit when something else is carrying you and that’s the lord.
Your emotions are so even keel. You’re never too high or low. Do you think that is the reason why you are so dominant?
“I do get upset, but I don’t show it. You know what I mean? Out of respect for the game. For the fans. Definitely if you cut myself I bleed. I am not a machine that doesn’t have feelings. I definitely get upset inside when I don’t do my job, but at the same time I don’t try to show it. I think the game and the fans have been there for me always. I don’t think a blown save here will have a meaning for what I have done for so many years.”
What were you thinking in 1996 when you were setting up games for John Wetteland and blowing away hitters?
“That year to me was something special from so much blessings. I remember I started the year as a long reliever. The set-up man was Jeff Nelson and Bob Wickman at the time. I was doing my job easily you know. I was just going in there and doing my business. In all this fun I ended being called in the 7th and 8th inning and from there we just took off. It was so great that you didn’t have time to even think what happened. It was a year where we did amazing things. John Wetteland was tremendous for myself. He put me under his wing and taught me a lot of things. It worked. It worked. I wasn’t looking for – the reason I say that I was happy to just be in the big leagues and do whatever they told me to do. All of a sudden everything is developing with being the set-up man. It was a great opportunity for me to learn.”
How are you able to control the cutter and be able to put the ball where you want it? What is the reason for your ability to hit corners?
“Since I was a little boy I was always good with accuracy. I was accurate. I remember having a sling shot and I went down to the beach and took my dog and just went hunting. Whatever moved we started shooting at that thing. [Mike Francesa:Where you a good shot?] Oh yeah definitely. I was always accurate. I took that even though I wasn’t a pitcher. I always took that and being a professional player I worked on that over-and-over. I got it to the point where I was 95% accurate.
I take that any time. With the corner?
I learned to control the corner. I would say after three or four years as I was throwing it I had better control of that. I wouldn’t say I have 100% control of it. Again 95% of that is very good. That’s why I have been efficient and I would say so. You learn setting the corners to your advantage.”
How does it feel to have this legendary career breaking records? As you look back on it what do you say about it?
“I’ll tell you the truth I haven’t had the chance to think about everything that has happened in my life as a professional player. There are so many great things and to me they were great because they teach me. All I can say about that is I have been blessed. I have been blessed with a wonderful family, wife, kids and an organization that has supported me for so many years. Teammates that have been there since I was a rookie. Coaches that are always willing to help me. I have been blessed in all areas. With all that at one time I will be able to think about it after I retire. Definitely thank the lord for that.”
Does it sink in when people call you the best closer of all-time?
“I don’t see myself as that. I have seen so many great pitchers that I don’t consider myself that. I consider myself a blessed man that has been with one team so many years. I had the opportunity to pitch in the best team sport. Again it’s a blessing. Whatever people say about me I respect that. Good or bad I do respect that.”
Is there one moment in your Yankees career that stands out in particular?
“There are many, but I think the one that stands out the most was the playoffs of 2003 against the Red Sox when I pitched three innings. [Mike Francesa: In game seven of 2003 ALCS? You were the ALCS MVP.] Exactly. Yes. That game was something special. If there was something that stood out it would be that one.”