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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Leyland unstinting in praise for Mariano Rivera

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is an unapologetic, unabashed fan of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Always has been.

Rarely does a general discussion of the position of the position of closer come up in the manager’s office without a mention of the all-time great.

Naturally, Leyland was unstinting in his praise for Rivera on Thursday, when he heard the reports that the 43-year-old was planning to announce on Saturday his impending retirement at the end of the 2013 season.

“Obviously, one of the greatest of all time. You know, I’ve really enjoyed watching him, when I was not managing, and I enjoyed competing against him when I was managing,” Leyland said. “He’s the ultimate professional. You never hear anything, he never says anything. He never showed anybody up. He just did his job. He’s an absolute, absolute, total credit to the game.”

Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader has been with the Yankees since 1995, but missed the majority of last season after tearing up his knee shagging fly balls in batting practice. Limited to just nine appearances, it was the first time since 1997 Rivera had finished with fewer than 30 saves.

“I think there was a few years when he was with the Yankees, that he was actually the MVP of the league. That’s how I feel. I felt when he was saving all those playoff games, and the job he did in the postseason, I felt he should’ve been voted Most Valuable Player — for the season, not the playoffs,” Leyland said.

“I thought you could make case for him being the MVP. That’s how good I thought he was.

“What I think he meant to the Yankees — we talk about this all the time when we talk about our closer situation — the mentality the Yankees had because they had him was totally different. When the Yankees took the field in the ninth inning, they never thought they were going to lose. Never. I’ll guarantee you. They never thought they were going to lose. The game was over. That’s pretty good.”


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