Soriano the "second greatest" of all time?How a three-save span will help the closer make Yankees "history"
Sunday marked the Yankees’ ninth straight win, and when Rafael Soriano recorded his 13th save of the season by closing out the 4-1 victory over Washington, he put himself into the record books in one category and also on the precipice of another entry.
With that 13th save, Soriano became the leader of an ancillary group that has likely been taken for granted by Yankees fans over the last 15 years – as he is now the man with the most saves in a single season other than Mariano Rivera in the Rivera era.
Since 1997, when Rivera took over as the closer full-time, a total of 32 Yankees pitchers have recorded 729 saves. “The Sandman” has notched 603 of his MLB-record 608 in that span, and the “other” group of 31 includes many notable setup men (including, at least in the past, Soriano), a handful of journeyman relievers, and even some guys you’d never expect to see close a game – like Dwight Gooden, who recorded a pair of saves in 2000.
But in that span, no one who isn’t Mo had recorded more than the 12 saves in a season…at least until now. That “record” used to belong to Steve Karsay, who nailed down a dozen games with while filling in for a sidelined Sandman in 2002.
Lucky 13 made Soriano that leader, and when he records his next two saves – perhaps as early as this week against his old team, the Atlanta Braves – he’ll also make himself the leader in another category among those 31 men.
As he recorded two saves last season, Soriano’s 14th of this year will give him 16 total as a Yankee, tying him with Ramiro Mendoza for the most total of any Yankee not named Rivera since 1997. Mendoza notched 16 total saves from 1997-2002, so Soriano will tie that mark with his next save and then pass it to become the “leader” when he nails down No. 15 sometime in the near future.
Even though the nominal closer almost never records 100 percent of a team’s saves in any given year for various reasons, teams with a durable, elite closer like Rivera usually chalk up the remainder as part of the collateral damage of properly managing their human resources.
But this year, Soriano (just like Karsay a decade ago) isn’t just picking up Rivera’s scraps; instead, he has ended up taking over for the future Hall of Famer, filling in semi-permanently for the greatest of all-time while he is sidelined by injury.
Now, in what could realistically be a span of the next 48 to 72 hours, he could transform himself from nominal replacement to the Yankees’ bullpen general’s most successful lieutenant – against the team where he first became a full-time closer and recorded 39 of his 103 career saves, no less.
The specifics of this season may not necessarily be the ones Soriano wanted to work under en route to the spot, sure; but when all is said and done, whether he succeeds Rivera completely or ends up as just a one-year stopgap, Soriano will at least have that.
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