There are people who accuse me of being a Yankee hater. I don’t know where they come up with such an outlandish idea. I assume there are actual Yankee lovers who agree with me that GM Brian Cashman has been in his job too long.
I’ve admired many Yankees over the years. Back in the 1970s, I secretly wished that Thurman Munson could be the Red Sox catcher, instead of that preening Carlton Fisk. I envied the Yankees having Willie Randolph, a leader who knew how to get on base. Paul O’Neill was one of my all-time favorites.
And even though I despise closers as a rule, I’m in awe of Mariano Rivera. There has never been a reliever remotely like him. His right arm should be donated to scientific research. His cutter could be the single most amazing pitch in the history of baseball.
You know what would be great? If Rivera got the save in tonight’s All-Star game at Citi Field. For one thing, it would give the American League home-field advantage in the World Series. That would come in handy if the Red Sox (whom I picked for last, remember) managed to get that far.
What an emotional scene it would be, a 43-year-old Rivera sawing off some overmatched NL hitter to nail down the AL’s first victory in the All-Star Game since 2009. If the NL is winning in the eighth, Jim Leyland should let Mo get the last out of the eighth, just to make sure he plays.
Rivera could add to his own record by saving a fifth All-Star Game win. The guy sets a record almost every time he takes the mound for the Yankees. The amazing thing is, he’s almost as good at age 43 as he was at 33. But he’s retiring after the season, so he deserves to go out in style.
Records? Mo is a one-man trivia bowl. He is baseball’s career saves leader with 638 in the regular season. He recently notched his 30th save, giving him 15 30-save seasons to break a tie with Trevor Hoffman. Earlier, he had recorded his 16th 20-save season, breaking another tie with Hoffman.
Rivera is on pace to save 40 games after his 40th birthday. Only one man has ever done that. Him. Rivera did it two years ago, when he saved 44 games at 41.
He has 11 seasons with an ERA under 2.00. His career WHIP (walks and hits/innings) is just a shade over 1.00, the lowest of any pitcher to throw more than 1,000 innings in the live-ball era.
But the thing that sets Rivera apart is that he’s at his best on the biggest stage. He has won five World Series. He has the postseason record for saves (42), consecutive saves converted (23) and consecutive scoreless innings (33∑). In 141 postseason innings, he has an 0.70 ERA.
Rivera is also a great teammate and family man, a devout Christian. He’s easy to root for (unless he’s trying to close out the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, but that’s another story).
So I am dedicating my 23rd annual baseball trivia quiz to Rivera. The quiz will be heavy with closer questions, in Mo’s honor. Like his signature cutter, it is also guaranteed to boggle your mind and bring you to your knees.
There are 53 possible answers, one for each of Rivera’s saves when he established the Yankee record in 2004. I’d consider anything over 25 respectable. If you get 40 or more, you don’t get outside enough.
Remember, in my quizzes all statistics are from 1900 or later:
1. Chris Davis of the Orioles hit the All-Star break with 64 extra-base hits. That puts Davis on pace for 108. Name the five players who have finished a season with 105 or more extra-base knocks. I’ll narrow it down: No one did it from 1931-2000. One of them is active and is the only player ever to get 100 extra-base hits in consecutive years.
2. Like Mo Rivera, this former Yankee began as a starter but was soon moved to the bullpen and became the best reliever of his day. He held the Major League career saves record from 1946-62. A three-time All-Star, he won seven World Series, the most ever by a pitcher. He was general manager of the 1969 Mets.
3. There are seven active players with 100 home runs, 100 stolen bases and a .300 career batting average. Three are on the same team. Two are starting in tonight’s All-Star game. One got his 100th homer and 100th steal this year and nudged his career BA to an even .300.
4. Rivera is on pace to save 50 games in a season for the third time (he did it in 2001 and 2004). Name the only other pitcher to save 50 games more than once in a season.
5. Miguel Cabrera is on pace to drive in 163 runs this season. Who are the only two players since 1940 to drive in 160 runs in one season?
6. There are only two pitchers who had 2,500 strikeouts and 200 wins, but never won 20 games in a season. They’re both lefthanded and had their best seasons with the Angels, though they were never teammates.
7. There are nine switch-hitters with 300 career home runs. Name the five who hit at least one homer for the Yankees.
8. There are 13 pitchers who have saved 100 games for two franchises. Name the only one who did it for two American League teams. He has the same name as a current AL starting hurler. I never said the quiz would be easy.
9. Everyone’s favorite, Alphabet Trivia! Jose Bautista recently hit his 200th career home run. Name the other five active players with 200 career homers whose last name begins with the letter “B”.
10. He saved all three Red Sox wins in the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees, but did not pitch in Game Seven. He watched helplessly when Tim Wakefield served up Aaron Boone’s pennant-winning homer in the 11th inning.
11. Who was the only man to wear the uniform of all four of New York’s major-league teams? A clue? He hit an inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning to win the first game of the 1923 World Series.
12. Who was the last Yankee other than Mariano Rivera to save a postseason game? Pat yourself on the back if you get this one.
13. Who is the only player ever to have a season with 200 hits, 125 runs, 50 doubles, 30 homers and 40 stolen bases? OK, he’s active.
14. This durable sinkerballer is the only pitcher with 100 wins and 100 saves for the Red Sox. He’s also the only man to pitch in the Bucky Dent and Bill Buckner games. He holds the AL record for relief innings in a season with 168.1. Help me here, Bisons fans.
15. Who is the only man to drive in 150 runs in a season without hitting 30 home runs? That year, he became one of only three right-handed hitters to have 230 hits in a season in the last 75 years.
16. He set a big-league record with 32 saves for the 1966 A’s. In ‘69, he joined the expansion Seattle Pilots and saved the first game in franchise history. The Yanks picked him up later in ‘69 and he led them in saves with 11.
17. Who is the only player to have 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season for five different teams?
18. Alphabet relief trivia: Name the five pitchers with 200 career saves whose last name begins with “W.” They’re all retired.
19. In 1967, he finished in the Top 10 in the AL in runs, hits, doubles, triples and steals. He got the lone first-place MVP vote that didn’t go to Carl Yastrzemski. He once played all nine positions in a game. Name this versatile Venezuelan, who finished his career with the Yankees in 1976.
20. At 42, this lefty is the second-oldest pitcher in baseball after Mo Rivera. He and Nolan Ryan are the only men to play for all four original expansion teams (Astros, Mets, Angels, Senators/Rangers). He threw the first pitch ever in interleague play in 1997. He was the starter and winner for St. Louis the night Mark McGwire hit his 61st homer. That enough clues?
21. Who were the four pitchers who had 40 saves in a season for three different teams?
22. The top 30 batters on the single-season list for singles all hit left-handed or were switch-hitters. Who holds the record for singles by a righty? He’s better-known for his actions off the field.
23. The players who finished 1-2 in the 2001 AL rookie of the year vote are still active. In fact, they’re on the same team.
24. This Oklahoma righty finished with 141 wins and 172 saves. In 1970, at 35, he saved 29 for the Yankees, tying Luis Arroyo’s team record. The Yanks traded him in a deal for Lou Piniella. He made three all-star teams and appeared in 987 games, but never played in the postseason.
25. Short-term memory check: Who drove in the winning run for the Giants in the 10th inning of the decisive game of the World Series last year? He tied a record with 14 hits in the NLCS against the Cardinals.