Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sporting News Pro Athlete of 2009: Mariano Rivera

  • Rivera hits foul ball v Mets, 6/28/09, ap photo

"On a team full of superstars, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera went about his usual way in 2009, dominating opponents and helping New York claim its 27th World Series.

  • Because of his performance—44 saves, 1.76 ERA and five more postseason saves—Rivera is Sporting News' Pro Athlete of the Year.
In 15 seasons with the Yankees, Rivera has been an integral part of five World Series titles. He told Sporting News that the nine years since the previous championship was tough to handle.
  • "It felt long—especially the year 2008 when we didn't even make the playoffs. That was horrible," Rivera told Sporting News' Steve Greenberg in a one-on-one interview at his Rye, N.Y., home.
Among the other things Rivera told SN:
  • On being able to peak at the most important time of year, even at his age: In the playoffs, you're talking about something that not many players have the opportunity to be in -- and I'm talking about great players, not just average players. And I've been blessed to be able to be in the playoffs for many years and do the job in all those years. I think that says it alone -- it's the playoffs. You don't want to miss that; you want to be in the middle of it. And when you realize that's your makeup, your ability, your mind, your mentality, you just want to keep going and going and going and never stop.
On how long he'll continue to pitch: "The minute I know that I don't have it, I hang it up right there."
  • On pitching for another team: "With all the respect that all the organizations deserve, it would be hard for me to consider playing for another team. If the opportunities are there, then you don't know. But I believe the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to play for one team."
On what his presence and disposition do for the Yankees, a team captained by Derek Jeter: I think you're asking the wrong man the wrong question. I will never talk about myself in terms of what I have done for the team. I don't even think about it. I just try to help my teammates as much as I can. I don't care if they don't give me credit. As long as we win, as long as what I did helped them to be better, that makes me happy.
  • On pursuing the all-time saves record: "You know what? I'm OK with whatever happens. I'm not a guy who goes looking for numbers or chasing records."
On one day losing his ability to throw the cutter: I didn't learn it by somebody teaching me. It came by the Lord. So it's not within myself to lose it or keep it. It will be the Lord to decide when to take it away." On his successor, the next great closer: There are many good closers. You have Joe Nathan, (Jonathan) Papelbon, (Francisco) Rodriguez. You have the kid (Andrew Bailey) who just won the rookie of the year from the A's. You have Joakim Soria from the Kansas City Royals. (Brian) Fuentes from Anaheim. You have a lot of good guys that can do a great job there, and I always wish them the best. It's not easy to do what we do."
The night Rivera hit the foul ball, he got his first career RBI (via a walk), and his 500th 'regular season save.'

Pro: Mariano Rivera. I think Rivera is kind of an inspired choice for Pro AOY (it's certainly more satisfying than Derek Jeter).

  • I could make a strong case for Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees or Kobe ahead of Rivera, but it's solid."...12/18/09

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