This isn’t the way Mariano Rivera was supposed to go out

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Maybe it’s still arguable on a quantity basis, but going strictly by quality, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in major league history. The game’s all-time saves leader, Rivera has a 206 ERA+ in 1,219 2/3 career innings. The only reliever anywhere near shouting distance of that is Billy Wagner, who came in at 187 in 300 fewer innings. The only pitcher besides Rivera with even at 150 ERA+ in at least 1,000 innings is Pedro Martinez, who finished up at 154.

That’s just one way of trying to describe how awesome Rivera was statistically. There are more.  In his 17 seasons going into 2012, Rivera finished with a sub-2.00 ERA 11 times. His postseason record is ridiculous: a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings. Because of the way the game has changed, is should be nearly impossible in this day and age for a pitcher to make a dent on the all-time performance lists, but there’s Rivera 13th all-time in ERA and second in WHIP among those to throw at least 1,000 innings. The next best post-WWII pitcher on the ERA list is Hoyt Wilhelm at No. 45.

After Rivera at 2.21, no active pitcher with at least 1,000 innings has a career ERA under 3.00.

Fairness dictated that Rivera set his own path for leaving the game. It looked like he had done so; even though he hadn’t made it official, expectations were that this would be his last year.

But life is rarely fair. Rivera is a big long shot to make it back from a torn ACL this year, though what a story it would be if he could return in October. It’s doubtful he’ll rush into anything, but he’ll now have to decide whether to come back at age 43 next year. His arm will likely be up to the task, but this matter will come down to his head and his heart.

It’d be a huge shame if we’ve seen the last of Rivera on the mound at Yankee Stadium. He’s been a rock, completely unflappable, and the absolute greatest of all time at nailing down leads in the ninth. Life without him in the bullpen won’t be quite the same.

Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Tuesday’s game

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The Mets are off today, and that day off may be just enough to get outfielder Yoenis Cespedes ready to start their next game, on Tuesday, against the Braves. At least that’s what he’s telling Mets manager Terry Collins.

Cespedes did not play in the weekend series against the Nationals, but was available as a pinch hitter yesterday. He was even on the on-deck circle at the end of last night’s game.

Cespedes, who tweaked his hammy running to second base on Thursday, is hitting .255/.364/.636 with six homers and 10 RBI in 15 games on the young season.

Marcus Stroman was called for an illegal quick pitch for some reason

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A “quick pitch” is an illegal action in which the pitcher pitches the ball before the batter is prepared. What makes a quick pitch a quick pitch? According to Rule 6.02(a)(5), it’s this:

 . . . Umpires will judge a quick pitch as one delivered before the batter is reasonably set in the batter’s box. With runners on base the penalty is a balk; with no runners on base, it is a ball. The quick pitch is dangerous and should not be permitted.

There are a couple of reasons why you don’t want quick pitches in baseball. In one respect, it’s about safety, as mentioned specifically in the rule. You don’t want a pitcher throwing a 90 m.p.h. fastball in the batter’s general direction if he’s not ready for it, because if it goes off course the batter will have no ability to defend himself and bail. But there’s also a spirit-of-the-game reason for it. The essence of baseball is the face-off between batter and pitcher. While everyone wants the game to move along promptly, the game isn’t really the game if the batter isn’t ready.

There is more art than science to all of this, of course, as all batters and pitchers have different pre-pitch routines, but when you watch a game, there’s a rhythm to all of that. You know the batter is gonna take a couple of practice swings and settle in. The pitcher tends to respect that. The quick pitch rule is rarely invoked for this reason.

It was used in yesterday’s Angels-Blue Jays game, however. And used badly in my view. Watch Marcus Stroman pitch to Kole Calhoun. The ump is Ramon DeJesus. The count was 3-1, so the automatic ball resulted in Calhoun being awarded first base:

Calhoun was obviously upset about something, calling time after Stroman is into his motion (which is not allowed) throwing his hands up and stuff after the pitch. But tell me, in what way was he not “reasonably ready” for that pitch, to use the language of the rule? He’s facing Stroman, looking at him. He’s done with his warmup swings, his bat is up and cocked and he’s standing in hitting position. I understand that it’s a judgment call by the umpire, but it seems to me like the umpire just called time too late because Calhoun didn’t feel ideally comfortable or something.

Either way, it set off Stroman and manager John Gibbons. Gibbons was ejected arguing the call. Stroman, who was otherwise excellent yesterday, was rattled for a bit, giving up a couple of hits and a run afterward. It was Calhoun who scored, natch.

It didn’t affect the outcome, but it certainly seemed like a bad call. And possibly a bad precedent, as batters may now try to lobby harder for quick pitch calls, given its success yesterday. Or, if umpires tend to think that was a bad call too, maybe they’ll overcompensate for it and be less likely to call quick pitches? You never know how this stuff will play out.

Whatever happens, I’ve been against Major League Baseball’s habit of increasingly taking judgment calls away from umpires, trying to make the subjective objective and making a flawed instant replay system the Supreme Court of Baseball Calls. But jeez, it’s hard to argue for allowing umps to hold on to judgment calls when they blow ’em like this.