Jim Caple has a piece up on Mariano Rivera. He calls Rivera overrated, which ... well, read the piece. Eric Karabell and myself discuss Jim's suggestion and compare Rivera to his longtime teammate, Andy Pettitte.
Let me lay the groundwork: Everyone says Rivera is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, or as Buster Olney wrote the other day, potentially the first unanimous selection ever (if it's not Greg Maddux).
There's no denying Rivera was great his job, certainly the best modern closer ever. But the crux of Jim's argument is that the closer position itself is overrated. Which gets us to Andy Pettitte, who has 255 wins and has thrown 2,000 more innings in his career and has won 19 career postseason games, the most ever (yes, Rivera has saved many of those, but it's also true that Rivera doesn't get the save opportunities without Pettitte and the offense).
Anyway ... career Wins Above Replacement:
That doesn't include postseason, but again, it's not like Pettitte didn't do a lot of good things in the playoffs. But whose career was more valuable? The durable starter -- maybe not quite an ace -- who gave you 200-plus innings every year or the guy who pitched 70 innings a year? The point here: Why is Rivera a slam-dunk Hall of Fame while Pettitte's best hope is probably the Jack Morris route ... and Morris hasn't made it in yet.
I know, I know ... Rivera is the best ever at his role. Does that make him a unanimous Hall of Famer?
As a point of argument, how about this: Keith Hernandez is widely regarded as the greatest defensive first baseman of all time. Like Rivera, he was the best at a specific role. But he was also an MVP winner (he also finished second in another year). And a two-time World Series champ who had a great Game 6 (four RBIs) and Game 7 (2-for-3, 2 walks, 2 RBIs) for the Cardinals in 1982. And a guy with a .296 career average with a .384 on-base percentage and over 2,000 hits. In other words, he was much more than just a good glove. His career WAR is 60.1.
He didn't sniff the Hall of Fame and eventually fell off the ballot before his 15 years were up.
Just some food for thought.