Forever a cut above
Let's be honest. Luis Gonzalez didn't exactly smoke his single off Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. He fought off a cutter and fisted it just out of Derek Jeter's reach. But that's the Rivera appearance I think of first when I think about his great career – one time he failed, not any of the 42 times when he nailed down a postseason save. That's how great Rivera has been.
His ability to maintain his peacefulness on the mound in huge spots, time and time again, for more than 15 years put him on a level beyond the five relievers already in the Hall of Fame – Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Hoyt Wilhelm, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter. He's the best that ever lived. Go ahead, waive the five-year rule.
He's an airtight pick
Juan C. Rodriguez
The all-time saves leaderboard says Mariano Rivera (608) is the best closer ever.
Though Rivera won't finish with blinding daylight between him and Trevor Hoffman (601), few if any are in the conversation. With the exception of last season, Rivera's durability has been phenomenal. He has appeared in 60 or more games in 14 of 17 full major league seasons.
The only missing component of his first-ballot Hall of Fame career is an AL Cy Young Award. Five times Rivera has finished among the top five in balloting. Playing in seven World Series and winning five of them more than makes up for it. Factor in the career postseason numbers (8-1, 0.70 ERA, 141 innings, 21 walks, 110 strikeouts, 42 saves) and Rivera's case for best ever is airtight.
Numbers say it's a lock
Los Angeles Times
Rivera will be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He is the very definition of a Hall of Famer: a sustained era of dominance at his position, and dominance in the postseason. In 141 postseason innings, his earned-run average is 0.70.
But he dominated far beyond October. There is a statistic called ERA+ — in a nutshell, the statistic controls for ballparks, then assigns the average pitcher an ERA+ of 100. The all-time list, according to baseball-reference.com, includes 76 pitchers with an ERA+ of at least 125, and 14 with an ERA+ of at least 140.
The two pitchers with an ERA+ above 150: Pedro Martinez at 154 and Rivera at 206.
Yankees haters say yes too
Want the best evidence that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time?
Pose the question in a bar in Boston or Baltimore or Queens, and even the most ardent of Yankees haters will concede that nobody's resume compares with Mo's.
Perhaps the most impressive line on it is Rivera's performance in the postseason, where he has gone 8-1 with an 0.70 ERA and 42 saves.
He wasn't invincible – he blew a two-inning save opportunity in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona, and the Red Sox famously came back against him in Game 4 of the '04 ALCS. But those moments were so memorable in part because they came against the greatest to ever trot out into that late-inning crucible.