TBS studio analyst Dennis Eckersley sat down with the Yankees' Mariano Rivera for a chat between two of the best closers of recent decades.
Some excerpts here, via TBS p.r., of the interview, which will be used this weekend on TBS' playoff coverage:
Eckersley on which championship means most to Rivera: “I mean, five world championships, always on the mound, which one stands out more?”
Rivera: “I always say that my number one was 1996, but I have to change it to 2009. That was my fifth one, but I enjoyed it like it was my first one because it was a tremendous joy after 2000, almost nine years and you appreciate it more because of my age…Again, I gave everything that I had to win that World Series, and we did, thank God.”
Eckersley on Rivera’s first Yankees World Championship in 1996: “How about 1996? I mean that was the year because I never really had to do that, the year that led to closing…the year you were setting up (John) Wetteland – (you pitched) like 100 and something innings, you only gave up one bomb. That’s hard to do.”
Rivera: “I was young back then and I was just happy to be in the big leagues, regardless. I didn’t think about it, I just went and did it and thank God it came out nice. Now, as I’m thinking about it, I’m like ‘Oh my God.'"
Eckersley on the pressures of closing: “When I used to do it, man, I was uptight. I wouldn’t tell anyone that – but when I see you, this is why I admire you so much because you’re so unlike me. I was like, demonstrative, I would go off and stuff, I couldn’t hold back…And I would watch you in the dugout and you just sorta…it doesn’t seem like anything affects you, it’s incredible.”
Rivera: “I think the pressure is there, obviously. It has to be there. The adrenaline, the nervousness is there in the bullpen, I would say in the bullpen I feel like, I kinda like nervous, like ‘what’s gonna happen’ but once I close that door it’s like bang!”
Eckersley on playing big saves: “I look back at my career and the bad ones, I remember the bads, you know what I mean? And they talk about ‘turning the page’ and all that…Does a loss, like the Arizona thing (in the 2001 World Series), is that anywhere compared too…because you know, that is as bad as it feels.”
Rivera: “I’ll tell you the truth, if felt bad, but again, I give everything I have. Everything. I was sore, hurt, but I was there and you know, everything in my power wasn’t enough, you know, so I have to tip my cap, I have to tip my cap and say ‘I have to tip my hat and you guys beat us’…And you remember ’97 and the HR against Alomar, I remember that, you don’t forget those moments because those moments have made me better, has made me a better pitcher, better person, better teammate, better player, all around, so I think you appreciate those moments, God allows those moments to happen for you to be humble and then he give you what he has for you.”
Eckersley: “It builds character…I got enough character, I don’t want anymore (laughs).”