Results tagged ‘ Trevor Hoffman ’

AL reliever award to be named after Rivera

Mariano Rivera’s legacy received some more added cache Wednesday with the announcement by Major League Baseball that from now on the American League Relief Pitcher of the Year Award will be named after him. The corresponding award in the National League will be named after Trevor Hoffman, who was the first reliever to reach the 600-save plateau and whose record of 601 Mo obliterated by running the number to 652.

The new award replaces the Delivery Man of the Year Award that was presented to one reliever every year instead of one in each league as was done previously with the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award. Rivera won the Delivery Man of the Year Award three times and the Fireman of the Year Award five times. Hoffman was a two-time Rolaids Award winner.

Those awards were based strictly on statistics. The Rivera and Hoffman Awards will be a vote of nine former relief artists. In addition to Rivera and Hoffman, the other committee members will be Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage as well as former closers Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.

The committee members may vote up to three pitchers in order of preference with a tabulation system awarding five points for first place, three for second and one for third, similar to that of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year Awards.

Other MLB awards named after former players include the Henry Aaron Award for offensive performance and the Edgar Martinez Award for the top designated hitter in the AL. The BBWAA’s Most Valuable Player Award trophy is named for former commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. The writers’ pitching award is named for Cy Young.

“Both Mariano and Trevor represented our sport magnificently on and off the mound and earned the universal respect of our fans in their legendary careers,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “I believe it is important to redefine an existing award in honor of their contributions to baseball, and I am delighted that many of the most respected relievers decorated relievers in history will select the winners.”

Nice try, Joe, but 2013 is it for Mo

As much as Yankees fans would love to see Mariano Rivera pitch again in 2014, they have to come to grips with the fact that 2013 is Mo’s final season in the major leagues. He made the announcement back in spring training, and one thing you can be sure of is that Rivera is a man of his word.

So why were all these questions about possibly changing his mind asked of Rivera Tuesday night after he reached the 40-save plateau for the ninth time, matching Trevor Hoffman for the major-league record?

A report on ESPNNewYork.com quoted Yankees manager Joe Girardi as saying he would talk to Rivera about whether he might change his mind about next season. Actually, it was an innocent remark by Girardi, who later explained that he wanted Mo to make sure he was comfortable with walking away from the game.

Stories like these get legs, however, and they walked right up to Rivera, who wanted no part of it. He made it clear that he will retire. He has been on a farewell tour all over the continent and been given parting gifts that included several checks to his foundation. He does not want to give back all that truck.

I found it all kind of amusing. After all, Girardi’s contract runs out at the end of this season. I am sure the Yankees will bring him back, but isn’t it kind of presumptuous of a manager to ask a player to think about the possibility of coming back in 2014 when that manager does not know for certain that he will be back in 2014?

I have been paying close attention to Mo since he was pitching in the minor leagues and like most of you have thoroughly enjoyed observing his brilliance over the years. I hate to see it end, but all good things do. Rivera is going out with a flourish. I cannot think of a player who has had a better season in his last one since Ted Williams hung them up in 1960, which is more than half a century ago.

Enjoy it while it lasts. It will not last forever.

Safeco a friendly place for Mo and Tex

The 10-game, 11-day trip to the West Coast that began Thursday night at Seattle starts a soft spot on the Yankees’ schedule. Of the Yankees’ next 11 series leading into the All-Star break, six will be against teams currently under .500, including three of the next four with the Mariners, Angels and Dodgers – nine of 12 games. The other three are in Oakland.

This will be the Yanks’ only visit to Safeco Field this year. They have won eight of their last 13 games there since the start of the 2010. The Yankees’ .594 winning percentage based on a 38-26 record is the highest all time for any American League club at Safeco Field. The Bombers have had four consecutive non-losing road season series against the Mariners.

Mariano Rivera has converted 17 of 18 career save opportunities at Safeco Field, with his only blown save coming Sept. 18, 2009 when current teammate Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mo leads the AL in saves (21), second-most in the majors behind the Pirates’ Jason Grilli (22).

Rivera converted each of his first 18 chances this season, prior to blowing his first and only save May 28 against the Mets at Citi Field. It marked his second-longest streak of converted save chances to start a season behind a 28-game stretch in 2008. He got his 21st save Tuesday against the Indians in the Yankees’ 58th game. That is the second-fewest number of team games needed for Rivera to reach 21 saves behind 2004 (52nd game). He reached the 20-saves plateau for the 16th time in his career, breaking a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the most such seasons in baseball history.

Mark Teixeira has 15 career home runs at Safeco Field, which is tied with Eric Chavez, now of the Diamondbacks, for second most there by someone who never played for the Mariners. The leader in that category is Rafael Palmeiro with 17.

With a two-run home run Wednesday, Travis Hafner has hit 38 home runs in games started by CC Sabathia, the most any player in games the lefthander has started. Teixeira is next with 29.

Earlier this week, All-Star selections were made in the Class A Florida State League and South Atlantic League. Catcher Gary Sanchez and right-handed pitcher Shane Green of Tampa were selected to play for the North Division. Chosen for the Southern Division from Charleston were right-handed pitchers Rafael De Paula and Gabe Encinas, left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns and catcher Peter O’Brien. De Paula was named the Southern Division starting pitcher.

Rivera named AL Player of the Week

The honors keep coming for Mariano Rivera. The all-time saves leader was honored Monday as the American League Player of the Week. And what a week it was.

It started with Mo getting his 602nd career save Sept. 19 at Yankee Stadium against the Twins as he surpassed Trevor Hoffman for the most career saves. Rivera made three appearances during the week and allowed no runs and one hit with one walk (intentional) and three strikeouts in three innings in chalking up two saves.

Rivera’s record-setting save occurred 15 years and 125 days after he notched his first save May 17, 1996, against the Angels. He has saved 63 more games than any other reliever since and went into Monday night’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., with 279 more saves than any active pitcher.

At 41, Rivera has shown no signs of slowing up with a 1-2 record, 44 saves and 1.92 ERA. This year marks the 14th time in his career that Mo has made 60 or more appearances in a season. He reached the 40-save plateau for the eighth time and became the first 40-year-old to do so.

Mo honored for breaking saves record

Mariano Rivera usually likes to avoid being in the spotlight except when on the mound trying to save a game, but he could not avoid it Sunday. The Yankees staged a pregame ceremony before the first game of a dual-admission doubleheader against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium to pay tribute to the closer’s setting the major league record for saves last week.

The Yankees organization commissioned a Waterford Crystal’s firefighter’s helmet with No. 602, the number that broke the previous mark of 601 saves by Trevor Hoffman, as well as an image of Rivera.

Jorge Posada, the catcher for so many of those saves, presented Rivera on behalf of his teammates a Fire Department of New York helmet, also bearing No. 602. Posada also assisted in unveiling a matted collage featuring 15 of Mo’s Topps bubble gum baseball cards and the title, “Best Ever.”

Steiner Sports gave Rivera a 602 saves collage and a check for $25,000 to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which is helping with the restoration of the North Avenue Church in New Rochelle.

Fans wanted the game to go to Mo

Be honest, Yankees fans. Weren’t you rooting against them in the bottom of the eighth inning Monday?

A lot of people in the Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,045 were cheering with each out and let up a roar when Nick Swisher grounded into a double play. They had their eye on the bullpen where Mariano Rivera was getting ready to come into the game to the familiar sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”

The Yankees were ahead, 6-4. If they scored two or more runs, Rivera would have lost the save situation. They had two runners on base in the eighth. If Swisher had put one in the seats, Mo would have had to sit down, and who know how loudly Swish would have booed as he rounded the bases.

The weird thing is that Rivera could never root against his own team. Winning games matters more to him than anything. The more runs the Yankees score the more he likes it. Yet even he understood why everybody was so excited on a day that when a game was not supposed to be played at the Stadium.

Rivera came through and gave those who attended Monday’s rainout makeup game against the Twins a slice of history. With his usual efficiency, Rivera pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning finishing it off with a called third strike with his patented cutter to Minnesota rookie first baseman Chris Parmelee for his 602nd career save.

That makes it official. Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher of all time, which we already knew. He surpassed Trevor Hoffman in career saves that removes any doubts. Not included in that number are the 42 additional saves Rivera has chalked up in postseason play, 42 and counting, just as he has 602 regular-season saves and counting. There are 10 games left on the Yanks’ schedule, and they are going to postseason play again, giving Rivera plenty of opportunities to add to his totals.

You could tell Mo really liked this one. As cool as he was after saves Nos. 600 and 601, this one was different. He could not hide his joy. His wide, toothy smile that he reserves for teammates when they do something special, like when Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit July 9, was evident as he stood on the mound and accepted congratulations from Jeter, catcher Russell Martin, his long-time previous catcher Jorge Posada, manager Joe Girardi, trainer Gene Monahan and the rest of the Yankees.

Posada told Mo to go back on the mount to acknowledge the cheers of the fans who were clearly rooting for this important Yankee at that point. His wife and sons were in the crowd as well for this big day for their family.

“It felt strange,” Rivera said. “Nobody in front of me, nobody behind me; I never had that before.”

I was thinking Monday about the first time I became aware of Rivera. It was 1993. I was sitting in the Stadium office of then manager Buck Showalter. The Yankees weren’t very good in those days, so you spent more time looking at what was going on down in the minors. Mark Connor, then the Yankees pitching coach, showed me a statistics sheet with Rivera’s figures at Class A Greensboro underlined.

“Keep your eye on this kid,” Mark said. “He’s going to have to put on some weight, but all he does is throw strikes, and he’s coming off elbow surgery.”

From that point on, I regularly checked Rivera’s record when he was in the minors. He showed signs of what was to come with outstanding relief work in the American League Division Series against the Mariners in 1995. The next season, he was a legitimate AL Most Valuable Player candidate for his setup work for closer John Wetteland. Mo finished 12th in the voting, which was the highest ranking of any Yankees player that year, the first time in MVP voting history that a championship team did not have a player finish in the top 10.

I remember a player coming up to me the day after Rivera blew that save in Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS at Cleveland on the eighth-inning home run by Sandy Alomar Jr. Rivera had been calm after the game, reiterating that he would have thrown the same pitch but with different location.

“Wasn’t the closer a little too blasé about what happened yesterday?” the player asked me. “Some of the guys commented on that last night.”

The following spring, I mentioned to Goose Gossage what the player had said about Rivera.

“Whoever that guy was doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Goose said. “That is exactly the attitude a closer has to have. Don’t second-guess yourself and move on to the next game.”

Rivera has done that over and over. I was on the official scoring crew for the 1999 World Series and was on the committee that voted for the MVP, which was Rivera. Mo came over to me during spring training the next season and said, “I was told you were one of the World Series MVP voters,” he said. “I wanted to thank you for your support.”

Rivera has been saying all season that 602 is merely a number and that it won’t change him. Good. It would be unfathomable for Mariano Rivera to be anything but what he is, baseball’s ultimate class act.

Mo will go for save No. 602 in final homestand

The Yankees wheezed their way to the end of a 4-city, 11-day, 10-game trip through Baltimore, Anaheim, Seattle and Toronto and were lifeless in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. The Yanks were 4-6 on the arduous trip with four walk-off losses but had a couple of highlights with Mariano Rivera earning career saves Nos. 600 and 601 to tie Trevor Hoffman’s major-league record.

Mo can try to make the record his own at Yankee Stadium where the Yankees will play eight games over the next seven days on the last regular-season homestand of the season. To say it will be good to get home is a major understatement.

With the Rays continuing to encroach on the Red Sox’ lead in the wild-card race and pushing Boston 4 ½ games behind the Yankees in the American League East, manager Joe Girardi had the opportunity to rest some players Sunday, which he did by giving three regulars the day off. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira weren’t even used in pinch-hit situations as the Yankees went down meekly to Brandon Morrow, who pitched eighth brilliant innings, and Frank Francisco, who worked the ninth for his 16th save.

Against Morrow, the Yankees scratched out only four hits – three of them in the infield – and a walk while striking out eight times. Eduardo Nunez, who played second base as Robinson Cano was the designated hitter, had three hits, including a double off Francisco in the ninth, but was thrown out on the bases trying to stretch his second hit into a double. Nunez was the only one of the Yankees to get to second base, which he did twice.

Freddy Garcia had his third straight poor outing and was undone by two home runs from Adam Lind, who had a monster series (6-for-12, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 RBI, 3 runs). Garcia did not get through the fifth inning. He has allowed 15 earned runs and 21 hits, including six homers, in 12 1/3 innings (10.95 ERA) over his past three starts in which his season ERA has swollen from 3.09 to 3.77.

Garcia’s early exit allowed Girardi the chances to see some relievers who are auditioning for postseason roster spots. The most impressive was lefthander Raul Valdes, who began the year with the Cardinals and was claimed off waivers by the Yankees Aug. 16 and pitched at Double A Trenton. He entered the game in the sixth with one out, the bases full and Lind at bat. Valdes got him looking at a third strike and retired Edwin Encarnacion on a ground ball to end the threat. It was one bright spot in a gloomy day for the Yankees.

Splendid setting for Mo’s 601st save

What a terrific game to be the one in which Mariano Rivera tied the career record for saves. After four innings, it would have been hard to predict that Mo would even get into the game because the Yankees appeared buried as they trailed, 6-1, behind a shaky Bartolo Colon, who was scorched for six earned runs and seven hits.

Considering the state of the Yankees’ offense on this trip, a comeback seemed unlikely. The Yankees entered Saturday’s game at Toronto batting .200 in 265 at-bats and averaging 3.5 runs per game on the trip in which they had lost five of eight games. But after the roaring comeback sparked by the power of Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson and supplemented by the hitless work of five relievers, the Yankees have a chance to play .500 on a ragged trip that ends Sunday.

Rivera’s wife Clara and sons Mariano Jr., Jafet and Jaziel were in the crowd of 39,288 at Rogers Centre cheering him on as he bore down for his 42nd save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth that brought his career total to 601, tying him with Trevor Hoffman for the all-time record. One more save, perhaps Sunday or even better when the team returns to Yankee Stadium Monday, and Mo will have no rivals as baseball’s saves master.

Rivera is already acknowledged as the game’s greatest closer. That saves total does not include the 42 he has recorded in postseason play, which is at the core of his legacy. Watching him after the last out as he walked off the mound and toward the center fielder, Granderson, who put away the 27th out and hit a home run that gave the Yankees the lead, gave one a glance at a professional in action, the game’s classiest act.

Later in talking to reporters, Rivera spoke more about the comeback his teammates staged that put him in position to get the save. To Mo, the most important thing about notching a save is that it means his team has won the game.

I had pointed out Friday night that the Yankees, who have had four walk-off losses on the trip, needed to reverse the trend of one-run losses. Saturday’s 7-6 victory was a start. They are now 21-23 in one-run games, including 9-14 on the road. In addition, they kept up their dominance in day games with a 40-11 mark.

Rodriguez was back in the lineup after eight games on the shelf nursing a sprained left thumb. He was not in his familiar cleanup spot but in the 5-hole, the first time he has batted there in five years. Yankees manager Joe Girardi kept Robinson Cano in the cleanup spot where he has done superbly in A-Rod’s absence, although the All-Star second baseman had a strange day Saturday.

The Yankees needed a good dose of Alex, and he did not disappoint. Batting with a split-hand grip with tape on the bat between his hands to protect the thumb, Rodriguez lashed a single his first time up. He hit the ball hard again in his second at-bat but grounded out. Then in the fifth, he bashed the first pitch from Henderson Alvarez over the left field wall for his 16th home run, a three-run shot that got the Yankees to 6-5.

The Yankees were now in a game in which they had botched earlier chances to score. Cano made his second base-running blunder of the trip by passing Mark Teixeira at third base that resulted in a rally-killing double play after a sensational catch on the center field track by Colby Rasmus of a drive by Nick Swisher. The Yankees settled for one run that inning on a Cano sacrifice fly but failed to take advantage of an error by left fielder Adam Loewen that seemed to have opened the door for them. The next inning, Brett Gardner tripled with one down but was stranded.

Granderson, who had a perfect day (3-for-3, 2 walks, 2 RBI, 3 runs) jump-started the Yanks in the sixth with a leadoff double. Curtis has had a rough September, batting .189 this month and .133 on the trip entering play Saturday watching his average drop to .264 and his Most Valuable Player aspirations sink as well.

Perhaps Granderson started turning things around with this game. He scored on a throwing error by Rasmus off a single by Teixeira. Alvarez was coming apart at this point. He hit Cano with a pitch before serving up a first-pitch fastball to A-Rod, who scalded it for his 629th career homer, one behind fifth-place Ken Griffey Jr. on the all-time list.

Carlos Villanueva took over in the seventh, and the Yankees didn’t waste any time jumping on him. Derek Jeter beat out an infield hit on one of four ground balls he hit to shortstop in the game and scored on Granderson’s 40th home run, an impressive blow that cleared the center field wall.

While the Yankees were making all this noise, their bullpen kept the Blue Jays quiet. Colon, who remained winless in eight starts since July 30 and is 0-3 with a 4.98 during that stretch, was gone after four innings. Scott Proctor, Adam Laffey, Hector Noesi, Rafael Soriano and Rivera pitched one inning of hitless relief apiece. Soriano struck out the side in the eighth for the second straight game (he did the same Friday night in the seventh inning).

For Rivera, this was a save to be savored.

CC can’t hold lead in bid for 20th victory

No 20th victory for CC Sabathia, no record-tying save for Mariano Rivera, and no satisfaction in another one-run game. For the second straight game, the Yankees suffered a last at-bat loss on a game-winning hit off Cory Wade, who had been one of the great additions to the staff this year.

Two nights after giving up a 12th-inning, walk-off home run to the Mariners’ Luis Rodriguez at Seattle, Wade allowed a walk-off single to former Yankees catcher Jose Molina in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 5-4 loss at Toronto. Molina was the only batter Wade faced. The loss was charged to Boone Logan, who got into immediate trouble by yielding a leadoff double to Adam Lind, a left-handed hitter.

Logan has been the main – and for a good part of the season the only – lefthander out of the bullpen for the Yankees, but his success rate against left-handed hitters has not been great. Lefties are batting .268 with 7 doubles, 1 triple and 4 homers in 97 at-bats against Logan, who has given up five hits to the past seven lefty hitters he has faced. He has done better against right-handed hitters, who are batting .246 with 4 extra-base hits, all doubles, in 57 at-bats.

But this game can’t be hung solely on the pen. CC Sabathia couldn’t hang on to a two-run lead provided by Eric Chavez, who started at third base instead of thumb-hurting Alex Rodriguez, who may play Saturday. Chavez’s two-out, two-run home run in the fourth gave Sabathia a 3-1 spread to work with, but the lefthander lost it an inning later when he walked two batters to fill the bases and gave up a three-run double to Lind. The Yankees were able to tie the score to get CC off the hook, but that 20th victory will have to wait at least four more days.

Sabathia had another laborious outing as he threw 120 pitches but failed to complete six innings. Over his past four starts, CC has thrown 478 pitches, and that covers only 25 innings. The Blue Jays repeatedly let him off the hook. They stranded 14 runners, including nine against Sabathia.

Yankees bats also went silent against Toronto’s relief corps. After Nick Swisher tied the score at 4 with a two-out single in the sixth, the Yankees made 10 consecutive outs. They could not push across that run that would give Rivera a chance for his 601st save to tie Trevor Hofffman’s career record.

Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the seventh, and David Robertson pulled another Houdini act by getting himself in trouble by loading the bases in the eighth only to come away unharmed.

The Yankees are having a terrific season with the best record in the American League and a 3 ½-game lead over the Red Sox in their division, but one disturbing aspect is their record in one-run games, which are becoming more frequent of late. Their past three games, eight of 11 and nine of 14 have been decided by one run. Six of the eight games on this trip have been one-run games. The Yankees are 3-3 in those games but 20-23 overall this season, including 8-14 on the road.

It is a trend in need of reversal.

Mo getting to 600 makes it a magic number

Oh, those nice round numbers in baseball – 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 victories, 3,000 strikeouts.

But 600 saves?

It remains to be seen whether the 600-save plateau for relief pitchers will ever be viewed as the equivalent of 300 victories for a starter. The save statistic have always been a debated issue, but somehow I feel that now that Mariano Rivera has hit that number, 600 will forever be considered a major milestone in the game.

Mo is only the second pitcher to get there. The other, Trevor Hoffman, is merely one save ahead of him. Not to take anything away from Hoffman, but the 600-saves achievement became truly legitimized Tuesday night when Rivera got his 41st save in his 41st year on this planet preserving a 3-2 victory for the Yankees and A.J. Burnett, who desperately needed a victory to keep his slim hold on a rotation position.

Rivera’s 600th career save came in a game in which he did record the final out. Ichiro Suzuki tried to steal second base with two out and was cut down by Russell Martin’s throw with the tag applied by Derek Jeter. How appropriate. Jeter has been on the field for nearly all 600 of those saves. The only thing that would have completed the picture was if Jorge Posada had been the catcher.

Rivera really didn’t need to get to 600 saves to be considered the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Remember, that total does not include the 42 saves he notched in postseason play, which is a bit like when Babe Ruth retired with 714 career home runs, not including the 15 he hit in the World Series.

But baseball fans love round numbers. Ask Al Kaline, who finished his career with 399 home runs. Mickey Mantle always said his greatest disappointment was that his career batting average fell below .300 at .298. Early Wynn took forever to get his 300th career victory, but there was no way he could walk away from the game without getting there.

Rivera took the congratulations from his teammates in his usual, cool manner. Just like Jeter, Mo is all about winning, and the most important thing to him about his saves total is that it means he was a part of 600 Yankees victories.

Somewhat obscured by the way the game ended was the start by Burnett, who had a devastating curve that helped him to 11 strikeouts in six innings. Oh, sure, A.J. had his usual control issues (two wild pitches, two hit batters), but he limited the Mariners to two runs and four hits and won for only the second time in 13 starts since June 29. In his previous four starts, Burnett was 0-2 with an 11.00 ERA, so this was a victory he needed and has reason to savor. And years from now he can always say he was the winning pitcher in the game that Rivera scored his 600th save.

The Yankees’ offense was a bit spotty. One of their runs scored on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano drove in the other two with his 26th home run and a fielder’s choice to run his RBI total to 111, tying Curtis Granderson for the team lead and continuing to make the American League Most Valuable Player situation a two-man race for the Yankees.

But in the end, it was the end that was the story of the game as a player got to a magic number. The save has only been an official statistic since 1969, which was the year Mariano Rivera was born. There is some mystical symmetry to that.