Yankees must achieve closure

What sets Mariano Rivera apart from other closers, is what he does in the postseason.

Updated: March 11, 2004, 8:55 AM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
Does Mariano Rivera of the Yankees deserve to be the highest-paid closer in baseball? George King of the New York Post suggests that Rivera and his agent will be asking for the kind of money that would make him just that when they meet with team officials about a contract extension today. Rivera currently makes $8.89 million per season, but King suggests a salary in the $12 million range is not out of the question. This would, in fact, put him at the top of the heap among those who ply his trade.

Without getting into the relative merits of the very concept of the closer, one thing is certain: Rivera is about as good as anybody who has ever tried the job. While Hall of Fame voters have -- understandably -- dragged their heels on including a host of savemeisters on their ballots (I say "understandably" because it is not easy sorting out what all those saves mean in the context of their times), they are going to be hard-pressed to come up with a reason not to include Rivera on a ballot.

Since John Wetteland left the team prior to the 1997 season, Rivera has gotten about 80 percent of the team's saves. Half of all American League wins in this time have resulted in a save and the Yankees, as a team, are right at that half and half mark during this period as well. His save numbers are not particularly remarkable in and of themselves. His regular season numbers are excellent, but are fairly comparable to those of Billy Wagner -- although I would argue that Rivera has a slight edge over the last seven years. What really sets them apart, however, is what Rivera does in the postseason.

Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at bottlebat@gmail.com.