O'Connell's Corner: 600 > 3,000

by Andrew O'Connell
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photo by Keith Allison

Why Rivera's milestone should get more coverage than Jeters, but never will

Listen closely, because I’m only going to say this once.  Mariano Rivera is good. 

As a die-hard Red Sox fan, those four words literally pained me to write.  My fingers seized up as I went to stroke the G-key on my laptop, my heart dropped to the bottom of my stomach and I broke out in a cold sweat.  I think I have I go pay homage to the statue of Ted Williams outside Fenway just to make amends for my trespasses.  But now that it’s said, let me ask one simple question: where is the hype?

The beginning of the summer, with the media sideshow of Derek Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits, sickened me worse than any bout of food poisoning ever could.  Why, I continually asked myself, why are we making such a big deal about this guy reaching this milestone?  The 28th man to join the 3,000 hit club, Jeter joined the ranks of such players as Craig Biggio, Rafael Palmeiro and George Brett, all great players but by no stretch of the imagination members of baseball’s all–time elite.  If you were a consumer of the New York media market, however, you could have easily deduced from the hype that Jeter was on the cusp of destroying the all-time hits record, curing cancer and ending world hunger all in the same week.  Forget Cooperstown. I’m fairly certain the Yankees’ DJ3K campaign was the initial step in their pitch to the Vatican for Jeter’s canonization. 

Given the all-out circus surrounding Jeter’s milestone, why, then, has Mariano Rivera’s chase for 602 career saves, which just happens to be the Major League Baseball record, gone relatively unnoticed?  Before Rivera notched his 600th career save last night, I can’t recall any major media coverage chronicling his chase for the mark, whereas I’m pretty sure the New York papers started their countdowns to 3K sometime during the middle of the 1997 season.

The biggest problem I had with Jeter’s coverage was that, although 3,000 hits is nothing to shrug your shoulders at, the shortstop still remained over 1,200 hits shy of the MLB record when he hit his 3,000th.  Mo, on the other hand, will stand completely by himself when he reaches number 602, and with the short lived shelf life of many MLB closers, one could confidently say that no closer may ever pass that mark. 

Where, then, is the HBO documentary?  Where is the public relations campaign that disgusted me more than a picture of Roseanne Barr in a mini-skirt?  Where is the near popular uprising that I thought would result in Jeter as a write-in candidate for the next mayoral election? 

The answer is nowhere.  Instead, when Rivera picks up save 602, which given the Yankees’ upcoming schedule will most likely come on the road, his teammates will simply greet him in celebration on the mound and he will receive about a day’s worth of coverage in the New York media.  Then the next day he will quietly make his way out to the bullpen and continue to defy age as the best closer in baseball history.

Well, as I feel the need to point out, the best closer in baseball history with the exception of games four and five of the 2004 ALCS.