NEW YORK -- The intense showdowns are coming; those matchups between batter and pitcher that determine the outcome of a team's postseason. No one knows better than Mariano Rivera what it takes to prevail with everything on the line.The owner of a Major League-record 652 regular-season saves, plus another 42
NEW YORK -- The intense showdowns are coming; those matchups between batter and pitcher that determine the outcome of a team's postseason. No one knows better than Mariano Rivera what it takes to prevail with everything on the line.
The owner of a Major League-record 652 regular-season saves, plus another 42 in the postseason (also a record), the surefire Hall of Famer will be watching with interest as 10 teams are reduced to one World Series champion this month. As always, Rivera will be most captivated by how a new generation of closers handles the drama of the ninth inning.
"First of all, it's the determination and the passion that you have to have to succeed," Rivera said. "I was always confident, knowing that I was there for a reason and trusting the Lord gave me the talent to do everything that I did. That was the main reason.
"I knew that I was going to win. I didn't like to lose at all. That helped me to learn to believe and have that belief in myself. It didn't matter where I was or who I was against. I never doubted myself, I never second-guessed myself, even the times that I didn't do my job."
Learn more about how the greatest closer of all time prevailed in the clutch
Rivera has additional incentive to pay close attention. For the third year, the top reliever in the American League will receive what has been re-named as the Mariano Rivera Award, while the National League's award has been named in honor of Trevor Hoffman. A presentation will be made at the World Series.
The Orioles' Zach Britton has been elite, saving 47 games with a 0.54 ERA, and Rivera said that he tracked how the Indians' Andrew Miller performed after being traded by the Yankees at mid-season. Rivera also mentioned Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel as someone who has impressed him.
"I know that you will see numbers and what they have done for their teams. It's something important," Rivera said. "It's a privilege and an honor to have that award named after yourself. But at the same time, it's great for the others to recognize that and just trust what they have to do for their teams. There are a lot of great closers out there."
Rivera's Yankees broke up their dominant late-inning trio in July, shipping Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs and Miller to Cleveland and installing Dellin Betances as the new closer. Perhaps taxed by a heavy workload, Betances stumbled some down the stretch, and Rivera said that he is curious to see how the right-hander responds next season.
"You're facing the best of the best," Rivera said. "I always believe the difference is how much trust you put in yourself. That will be the trouble, if you don't trust yourself or you second-guess yourself. That will be the problem. I don't doubt that he has the talent and the ability.
"He's capable to do it, and he has done it. The question is if he has the mind, the strong mind, enough to carry on for a long time. That's something that has to come from within him. No one can put that in him but the Lord and himself. We can work all we want, but the determination has to come from within."
Rivera made an appearance at Yankee Stadium during the team's final homestand, taking part in a farewell sendoff for retiring Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Though Ortiz was a persistent thorn in the Yankees' side for years, Rivera embraced Big Papi at home plate, helping unveil a custom oil painting that depicted Ortiz doffing his cap in the Bronx.
"It's great to be part of a thing like that," Rivera said. "David has been a great guy and had a great career, going out the way he is. It's fun that he is leaving the game on top. He's doing it, so I thank God for him."
Obviously, Rivera would be rooting for the Yankees this month, had they qualified for postseason play. Since they did not, Rivera was asked if he could entertain the idea of pulling for the Red Sox to see Ortiz finish his career with one last championship.
"I doubt it," Rivera said, following a pause. "But I will be watching him because I love the game, my passion is always there for the game. They're in the playoffs, so what can I say? They have to fight for it and so will the other teams. So we'll see what happens. I won't be rooting. I'll be watching baseball."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.