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Thought you all may be interested in this feature on Rivera from the NYT Magazine:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/magazine/04Rivera-t.html

-Josh

Denis Bogan wrote:
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Indeed, he is the best ever at what he does.  For a while I held out for Dennis Eckersley, the first modern closer.  He was great but not as great as Riveira and not for nearly as long.  I have watched BB for > 60 years and I admire great pitching more than anything else in the game.  Without Riveira IMHO the Yankees win 1-2 championships in the post 1990 era. 

Before Eck, relievers were not last inning specialists.  Still further back the "Save", the cheapest statistic in baseball, had not been invented and relievers were judged by their W-L record, like everyone else.  There were some remarkable relievers then although none can match Riveira's record of sustained excellence.  In the late 50s Elroy Face of the Pirates had an 18-1 record as a reliever and went 17-0 before losing a game.  In the early 60s Dick Radatz, the Monster of the Fenway, won 15 or more for 3 years in a row in relief, pitching for some truly bad teams.  One year he was 15-3.  He once won both games of a double header in relief, pitching 2 scoreless innings in the first and 7 in the second which the Red Sox won in 16 innings.  He did not last long, as was the pattern for relievers in those days. 

I came of age as a fan in the era of great pitching, Sandy Koufax, best I ever saw, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, and many more.  Marichal, least known of the 3 today, went head to head for 15 innings losing 1-0 to 40 year old Warren Spahn in about 1963.  Spahn also went all the way and if memory serves won his own game with a HR.  I believe Spahn holds the ML career record for winning his own games with HRs, as well as being the winningest left hander in history (363).  I recently heard Marichal interviewed on NPR about that game.  A fan told him later that he had thrown 175 pitches in that game.  Bob Gibson went 22-7 in 1968, a very good but not outstanding stat in that year when Denny McLain went 31-6.  However Gibson started 34 games and COMPLETED 28 with a 1.12 ERA, best ever in the live ball era.  Gibson's will and temper were such that it was said managers were afraid to go to the mound and ask him for the ball.  And, what hasn't been said about Koufax?  He had a great fastball, and the best curve ball I have ever seen, combined with great control.  Mechanics?  Nobody has good mechanics.  Because nobody looks like Koufax.  If you are a fan and can see film of him in his prime, like the 1963 World Series, you owe it to yourself to do it. 

My favorite capsule summary of pitching comes from Greg Maddux whose 355 wins are 1 more than Roger Clemens.  "Pitching is easy; all you have to do is make all the balls look like strikes and all the strikes look like balls."  Maddux was once asked how he could be so good when he grew up in an ordinary family without an athltic tradition.  He said he learned what he needed to know about pitching as a little kid watching his dad in his job (one of many).  He was a blackjack dealer in Vegas. 

Here in DC we are all watching Steven Strasburg with bated breath. 

Please forgive this ramble and any inaccuracies.  Check my facts if you want.  I drew it all direct from the memory banks.  (BB fans are like that.)


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