Save this one for the record books

Always figured the New York Yankees were a love them or hate them kind of team.

Just like their black and white uniform configuration, there was no gray area.

For years, I considered them the Oakland Raiders of Major League Baseball.

Looking back, it all boiled down to jealousy. After all, it didn’t seem fair one ballclub having enough monetary resources to pick and choose amongst the best players.

I’ve put all that behind me and nowadays, I try to find beauty within the game and give teams like the Yankees their due. Particularly the contribution of closer Mariano Rivera. Otherwise known as Mo, Super Mariano or the Sandman.

Since taking over the closer’s role on a full-time basis for the Yankees 17 years ago, Rivera has been able to sustain what others can only imagine doing.

This subject matter only seemed appropriate with what is occurring across the major leagues with teams trying to nail down a closer and others experiencing major hiccups.

Take Tuesday night for example. Atlanta led at Cincinnati 4-3 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. One of the newest sensations, 25-year-old Craig Kimbrel, was one strike away from securing the save for the Braves. But in the matter of five pitches, he allowed back-to-back solo homers to pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco and Shin-Soo Choo for a 5-4 Cincinnati win. Believe me, counting to 10 did not help matters after that heartbreaking defeat.

As a point of reference, Rivera did not allow back-to-back homers until his 15th season in the big leagues. In fact, as a closer he has allowed more than five homers in a season only once. Less than two months into the 2013 season, Kimbrel has given up three gopher balls.

Kimbrel has time to recover, but there are those who come to mind in terms of failed projects in recent years. Does Milwaukee’s John Axford, Chicago Cubs’ Carlos Marmol and Miami’s Heath Bell mean anything? San Francisco’s bearded wonder Brian Wilson has been plagued by injury the past couple of years, while Boston’s investment in former Pirate Joel Hanrahan may have suffered a setback.

Rivera’s career did a 180 last year when he missed nearly the entire season after tearing a ligament in his right knee, but he has bounced back for his farewell tour and is showing the form which has resulted in a MLB record 620 saves. Entering Thursday’s games, he ranked fourth in the majors with 12 this season.

Currently, Rivera is the only player in MLB to wear No. 42, which has been retired league-wide in honor of Jackie Robinson. When the curtain does close on Rivera’s career, the Yankee organization will have a dilemma in terms of how to honor Rivera’s uniform number. An asterisk does not suffice.

  • Poll question: What’s your favorite baseball movie? Recently watched “For Love of the Game” – a movie with an ideal setting (Yankee Stadium); ideal announcer (Vin Scully) and the perfect ending (Kevin Costner pitches a perfect game).

Contact Kerry Patrick at kpatrick@newsandsentinel.com