A while back I compared Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, to Brooklyn born MC, Jay-Z, the greatest
living rapper of all time. Mariano holds the record for most saves as Jay holds the record for most number one albums by a solo artist. Each in there 40s now (they were born five days apart,) are still at the top of their game, a game that usually favors the young. Let’s look at how exactly they mirror each other
The Formative Years
Mariano Rivera’s 1996 Season Vs. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt
Mariano’s 1996: IP 107.2 SV 5 K 130 BB 34 ERA 2.09
Reasonable Doubt: The Source 5 Mics XXL XXL Billboard Chart 23
Mo and Jay each “arrived” in 1996. Jay-Z released one of his greatest albums while Mariano had one of his best seasons, finishing third in the Cy Young race as a set up man (that’s unheard of). But, that’s not where the similarities end, Mo finished with his lowest single season save total, while Jay’s Reasonable Doubt is his lowest charted album.
Mariano’s 1999 Season Vs. Jay’s Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life
Mariano’s 1999: IP 69 SV 45 K 52 BB 18 ERA 1.83
Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life: Billboard Chart #1 Sales 5.3 mill Grammy Noms 3 (1 win)
By this point each had been on the rise, but they experienced their true breakout here. Jay releases his first number one album, goes quintuple platinum and wins a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Mo leads the league in saves, wins his first AL Rolaids Relief Award (given to the best Relief Pitcher of the year), and is rewarded the World Series MVP.
Mariano’s 2005 Vs. Jay’s The Blueprint
Mariano’ 2005: IP 78 SV 43 K 80 BB 18 ERA 1.38
The Blueprint: The Source 5 Mics XXL XXL Billboard Chart #1 Grammy Noms 3
Each had already established themselves as premier players in their respective roles, but this pushes them over the top. Mo and Jay each put in arguably the best effort of their career. Mo wins another AL Rolaids’s Relief Award, finishes second in the Cy Young voting and posts an inhuman ERA+ (an advanced metric statistic) of 308. The Blueprint ranks among many music publications as one the best albums of the year and eventually lands on The Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Mariano’s 2007 Vs. Jay’s Kingdom Come
Mariano’s 2007: IP 71.1 SV 30 K 74 BB 12 ERA 3.15
Kingdom Come: Grammy Noms 1 Billboard Chart #1 Sales 1.5 mill
Not bad numbers for a couple run of the mill guys, but these aren’t supposed to be run of the mill guys. Mo posts the highest ERA of his career and the least amount of saves since he became the closer. Jay receives a lot of sour reviews, while selling the lowest amount of units since his In My Lifetime Vol. 1, ten years ago. A lot of talk starts to build over whether or not these guys are washed up.
Mariano’s 2008 Vs. Jay’s The Blueprint 3
Mariano’s 2008: IP 70 SV 39 K 77 BB 6 ERA 1.40
The Blueprint 3: Grammy Noms 10 (6 wins) Billboard Chart #1 Sales 1.9 mill
After questions arise over whether or not these guys still have it, they answer back with a resounding, YES. Mo hangs the second lowest ERA of his career, finishes in the top 5 for the Cy Young and even more amazingly walks only six guys all season. Jay brings home six Grammy Awards and records his first number one single with “Empire State of Mind” (replacing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” as the city’s unofficial anthem).
Mariano’s 2011 Vs. Jay’s Watch The Throne
Mariano’s 2001: IP 61.1 SV 44 K 60 BB 8 ERA 1.91
Watch The Throne: Grammy Noms 3 (1 win) Billboard Chart #1
Even into their 40s these too keep chugging away. Last season Mo was terrific, as usual, with an ERA under two, 40+ slaves and a top 10 finish in the Cy Young race. Jay teamed up with Kanye to produce one of the biggest records of the year, critically and commercially.
What more can I say, “There’s never been a ni**a this good for this long…”