Results tagged ‘ John Franco ’
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.”
The Mets invited the pitcher who has done the best job at throwing the last pitch of games to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday night’s Subway Series game, probably the last time Mariano Rivera will be at Citi Field in a Yankees uniform. Rivera was honored with a film tribute on the center field video board before handling the duties and making the toss to former Mets closer John Franco.
In the interview room before the game, the start of which was delayed for an hour and a half because of rain, Rivera was presented with a plaque of an authentic fire hose from Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and another of an authentic call box by New York Fire Department commissioner Salvatore Cassano.
“Mariano has been a great friend to the FDNY for many, many years,” Cassano said. “He has been at many of our widows-and-orphans events. This is just a little token of our appreciation for your last visit at Citi Field.”
Wilpon called Rivera the ultimate fireman in baseball and added, “We have watched you for so many years. It’s a great honor to have you be here for the last time. I wish we could see you in the World Series, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen this year.”
“You never know,” Rivera quipped.
Baseball’s all-time saves leader continued his farewell trip with the two-day visit to Citi Field. He met with long-time season ticket holders and club employees Monday. He made special mention of Jimmy Crupi, a security guard in the visitors bullpen both at Citi and the old Shea Stadium.
“Jimmy’s my man,” Rivera said. “These [plaques] will have a special place in my home. I have enjoyed every game I played here. I saved some games  and blew some games , but it was always special.”
The Yankees activated Joba Chamberlain for the game and designated pitcher David Huff for assignment. Manager Joe Girardi said that first baseman Mark Teixeira and infielder Kevin Youkilis will report to Double A Trenton for injury-rehabilitation assignments. It is possible they may be activated for the upcoming series against the Red Sox beginning Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
A Yankee Stadium crowd of 43,201 on a sun-splashed afternoon not only got to see the Yankees win a game against the Blue Jays but also to watch Mariano Rivera step into another level of baseball history. In what was not a save situation but an opportunity to get in some work for the first time in a week, Rivera made the 1,000th appearance of his major-league career and pitched a shutout ninth inning.
Rivera became the 15th pitcher to reach four figures in games – all are pitchers, primarily relievers – but the first to do so with just one team, an extraordinary accomplishment in the free agency era of player movement. His reaction to the milestone was similar to so many of his other reactions – tinged with humility.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I mean, when I first started, something like this never crossed my mind. I was just happy to be in the big leagues. This is special, especially to do it with one team, the Yankees, and be able to play with so many great players. They showed a lot of faith in me in the early days. I thank God for his help and the support of my wife and family.”
Mo was quick to point out that he lost the first game he ever pitched for the Yankees, a start May 23 at Anaheim when he gave up five runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 10-0 loss. He also mentioned that he blew two saves in his first week as the team’s closer in 1997, the year after he had been an outstanding setup reliever for John Wetteland, whose pursuit of free agency opened the door for Rivera to begin a run as the greatest closer in baseball.
The Yankees’ catcher in those years was Joe Girardi, now the manager who brought Rivera into Wednesday’s game.
“I reflect on when I first came here in 1996 and caught him in spring training.” Girardi said. “I remember thinking, ‘Who is this kid?’ His stuff was excellent. He threw 97 [mph] and put the ball where he wanted it. He elevated. I was a National Leaguer. I had never heard of him, but I knew this kid was something special. Even before he became the closer, he was special. In those days, if you didn’t get to us by the sixth inning, the game was over.”
Rivera entered games in the seventh inning in 1996. A year later, he took over the ninth and has made that inning his ever since, to the point that when he does blow a save as he did last week at Baltimore it is headline news. Closing relievers are like housekeepers; nobody notices your work unless you don’t do it.
“I was surprised,” Rivera said about being named the Yankees’ closer in ’97. “We had just won the World Series. It was a lot of responsibility, but I took it as a challenge. You have to be proud of what you do.”
Of the other 14 1,000-game pitchers, four have connections with the Yankees, including the all-time leader, Jesse Orosco, who appeared in 1,252 games over four decades and 24 seasons. His best seasons were with the Mets in the 1980s, and Orosco was reunited with former manager Joe Torre with the Yankees in 2003, the lefthander’s final season in the majors.
Second to Orosco on the list is another lefthander, Mike Stanton, with 1,178 games. Stanton was an integral part of the Yanks’ bullpen from 1997 through 2002 and a portion of the 2005 season. Lee Smith, who held the saves record before Trevor Hoffman broke it, is tied with Jose Mesa for 10th place on the list with 1,022 games, eight of which were with the Yankees at the tail end of the 1993 season.
The most prominent former Yankees reliever on the list is Goose Gossage, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. Goose was the Yankees’ closer from 1978 through ’83 and came back to pitch for them briefly (11 games) in 1989. He ranks 14th with 1,002 games.
What those who pitched for the Yankees save Rivera have in common with nearly everyone else on the list is that they wore quite a few different uniforms. Orosco and Gossage pitched for nine teams apiece, Stanton and Smith eight each.
The least traveled 1,000-game pitchers prior to Rivera were John Franco, Kent Tekulve and Hoffman, each of whom who played for only three teams. Franco is third on the list with 1,119 games, Tekulve eighth with 1,050 and Hoffman ninth with 1,035.
The other pitchers to appear in more than 1,000 games with the number of their teams in parentheses were fourth-place Dennis Eckersley (5) with 1,071 games; fifth-place Hoyt Wilhelm (9) with 1,090; sixth-place Dan Plesac (6) with 1,064; seventh-place Mike Timlin (6) with 1,058; 10th-place Mesa (8) with 1,022, tied with Smith; 12th-place Roberto Hernandez (10) with 1,010 and 13th-place Mike Jackson (9) with 1,005.
Eckersley, Wilhelm and Gossage are the only Hall of Famers on the 1,000-game list. Wilhelm was elected in 1985 and Eckersley in 2004. Hoffman retired this year and won’t be eligible for the ballot until 2016. Rivera, of course, is still active – very much so.