I’m a sucker for applying the Kevin Bacon Game to baseball. Stephen Strasburg was a teammate of Ivan Rodriguez, who was a teammate of Nolan Ryan, who played with Ken Boyer, who played with Stan Musial. Boom.
In 1995, a 25-year-old Rivera started 10 games, finished two, had no saves and went 5-3 with a 5.51 ERA.
“I remember him just getting hit second time through the order,” Mattingly recalled. “He’d get through the order once, the second time through he didn’t seem to have enough to get starters out. … It’s funny because he’d be a young kid just doing well and you don’t really notice until he’s in the payoffs just mowing people down. Then you start paying attention.”
The comparable Dodgers pitcher, at this stage of his career? Stephen Fife.
“He was just like a regular starter,” Mattingly said of Rivera. “I think when he went back down he found that thing (cutter). It would be a player like Fife going down, then coming up and being a Hall of Famer. You don’t really notice, then, how many years later he’s a Hall of Famer.
“It’s not like you knew this guy was going to be good. I can’t really say that.”
Echoing the essence of the Rivera legend, Mattingly added: “He’s such a class guy. Mariano’s really a class act as far as his demeanor, professionalism, the way he treats people, just his beliefs. He’s solid. The way he handled everything from the wins in the World Series to the losses, there’s still dignity with him.”