In the end, after Mariano Rivera had broken baseball’s saves record by earning his 602nd, he stood alone on the mound, acknowledging the cheers of the Yankee Stadium crowd.
It wasn’t his idea. Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez insisted he do a bit of basking after he quickly dispatched the Minnesota Twins to preserve a 6-4 victory. It was a poignant moment as well as a historic one.
“For the first time in my career, I'm on the mound alone, there is no one behind me,” Rivera said. “I can't describe that feeling. It was priceless. I didn't know it could be like that.”
Rivera, the first pitcher to appear in 1,000 games with the same team, isn’t accustomed to speaking about his achievements, but was forced to do so Monday after passing Trevor Hoffman. Specifically, he was made to discuss whether he might be ready to pronounce himself the greatest, whether 602 regular-season saves (42 in postseason) and the all-time best save percentage (89.3) are enough to convince him.
“You know that's not me,” he said. “I don't consider myself the greatest. I consider myself a man blessed.”
As when Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit in July, there was the sense that Rivera, at 41, is closer to the end of his career than the beginning in spite of his 43 saves this season.
“At some point I have to move on, I have to continue my life,” Rivera said. “Baseball will move on without me. There will be other guys that close games. And I will be watching.”