Sporting News editors pick the 10 best closers of all time.
(as of 7/27/06)
1) Mariano Rivera. Has 34 postseason saves -- 19 more than anyone else. Oh, yeah, and he's one of only four closers with 400 or more saves in the regular season.
2) Dennis Eckersley. Averaged 37 saves -- and about one walk a month -- in his 10 seasons as a full-time closer.
3) Rollie Fingers. Hall of Famer won a Cy Young, MVP and World Series MVP and was No. 1 on the saves list when he finished his career.
4) Bruce Sutter. First pitcher to make the Hall without ever starting a game. Was the first National League reliever to reach 300 saves.
5) Trevor Hoffman. Needs 18 saves to become the all-time leader; is No. 1 all-time with an 89.5 conversion rate.
6) Goose Gossage. With 310 saves and 115 wins as a reliever, shouldn't he be in the Hall of Fame?
7) Lee Smith. Leads everyone with 478 saves and 581 save opportunities, but, like Goose, he has yet to get the call from the Hall.
8) Billy Wagner. Has held opponents to a .184 batting average during his 12-year career.
9) Tom Henke. Not quite as dominant as, say, Eric Gagne but had much greater staying power.
10) John Franco. His longevity -- 21 years, 424 saves -- should not be discounted.
- "The best ever, no doubt about it," says Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, whose 15 postseason saves are second all-time. "No comparison. I didn't have the stuff he did. Not at all. The amazing thing is he's still got the stuff of a 20-year-old."
Eckersley says Rivera will usher in a new line of closers bound for Cooperstown.
"He's first in line," Eckersley says. "When the Hall opens for him, it opens for closers of his era and beyond."
Leo Mazzone agrees. "He's made the Hall of Fame voters rethink things. They were a little reluctant to put in closers, but I think he solidifies any argument about that."
A's third baseman Eric Chavez, one of the few who has hit Rivera well, does not hesitate when asked about Rivera's status. "He's the first guy you think of and the last guy you want to face when you think of closers," Chavez says. "He's definitely the best of our era."
From SportingNews.com 7/27/06