Is Mariano Rivera finally declining? Finally?
Just to be clear, “declining” does not mean “finished.” Declining is simply something that everyone does.
Michael Jordan did it. Remember those Wizards years? Desperately clinging to what was once greatness, as he all of a sudden didn’t have Scottie Pippen by his side, minus the perfect complement of role players as well.
Craig Biggio did it. Remember Biggio sticking around trying to get his 3.000th hit? And how he was just a shell of the great middle infielder/center fielder/catcher/ultimate team player/Bill James proclaimed “overachiever”/Hall of Famer?
Emmitt Smith did it. Went from one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled, to a line that wasn’t quite that, to a team that didn’t have nearly the talent of those early Cowboys teams.
All three weren’t as they used to be.
But there is a difference. Those examples were merely examples of great players who were no longer great, players that declined.
Rivera still might be great.
After all, 8 and 2/3′s innings is far from enough to come to a conclusion.
But Rivera has given up two homers in, let us say nine innings. That is half of what he gave up in 2008, half of his 2007 total, 2/3′s of his 2006 total, all of his 2005 total…
Rivera just doesn’t give up many home runs, he doesn’t walk many, and he rarely makes mistakes.
This year is a little different, however.
Rivera made a costly mistake to Jason Bay. And Rivera made a costly mistake to Curtis Granderson (although not that costly to CG in terms of the game situation).
And John Kruk mentioned that Rivera may have a problem with his hip, even though it may be minor.
That could be the “problem” to these past few appearances.
But it isn’t unlikely, that since Rivera is older, he could make a few more mistakes, leading to a few more losses.
But I have a hard time believing that he will decline too much. For just last season, Rivera was the best closer in baseball.
Maybe he won’t be the best, but top five seems pretty realistic seeing how Rivera IS Rivera.