Mariano Rivera (aka “Mo” or “The Sandman”) will be remembered as the greatest closer in baseball history for a long time, possibly forever. In baseball speak, the “closer” is the guy who comes in at the end of the game to preserve or “save” a win for his team. In other words, if his team is leading by 3 runs or less, he is called on to come in and get the final 3-4 outs, to keep the other team from getting any more runs that would allow THEM to win.
He played for the Yankees for 19 years–his whole career–and he was a huge advantage for them because he was so effective and so dominant. As a Red Sox fan (mortal enemies of the Yankees), it was always a bummer when he came in, because he was usually going to finish you off (fortunately, not so in the 2004 ALCS). It was usually a foregone conclusion that when he came in, it was lights out for the team he was facing (thus the nickname, Sandman). Because of his dominance, the Yankees not only had a huge strategic advantage in him, but a huge MENTAL advantage as well. Imagine being the manager in the 7th or 8th inning with a one or two run lead, knowing that The Sandman has your back! His teammates’ as well! And conversely, imagine being in the other dugout, and the pressure they must have felt to make something happen and get some runs prior to Mariano coming in! I won’t bore you with all his stats, but I’ll just say that he retired this year with 652 saves and that took him 19 years to accomplish. The next closest player is in the 200s–not even halfway.
But what struck me most this past year is the way he was treated by opposing teams as he made the rounds to their stadiums on his “farewell tour”. Each team, in their own stadium and out of respect for him, made time in the pre-game ceremonies to recognize him, his contributions to the game of baseball, and his remarkable career. Even the Red Sox. How often do we see that happen, especially in major sports? To me, it was a huge testament to him and about him, not only as a professional, but as a person. We never heard about him being involved in any personal indiscretion off the field. We never heard any stories–or even rumors–about any sort of performance enhancing substances. And I don’t think I ever saw him punch a wall or shout an expletive in frustration after blowing a save. He took care of himself physcially. He conducted himself professionally and with grace. He was truly a class act, as evidenced by all the players and fans that took the time to shake his hand or cheer for him as he said goodbye. That’s the way it should be, right?
In short, he was the best he could be. And that positioned him as an advantage for his team. Which, in turn, created advantages for himself and his family in the form of compensation, sponsorships, book deals, friends for life, etc. OR, was he an advantage to his family FIRST, with a maturity and responsibility to maintain his work ethic and health and integrity in order to become the dominant player that he was? An argument could be made either way, but regardless, by being his best, he was able to empower those around him. And THAT is the essence of what I am trying to capture with the Advantage Up blog and site. I want to be the best husband/father/employee, etc., I can be, and in turn, be an advantage in the lives of those around me in helping them become the best they can be. Thank you, Mr. Rivera, for being your best.