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Chris: When it comes time to deciding the best closer ever, it may as well be a discussion on the best facial hair ever. One of baseball’s unwritten rules is that closers must have varying degrees of thatch on their face, be it “I lost my razor” style (Bruce Sutter), “I just arrived from the 1800s in a time machine” style (Rollie Fingers) or “I am charging rent to woodland creatures to live in my beard” style (Brian Wilson).
Joe: Mariano Rivera is arguably the best closer in history because he is essentially unhitable. His cutter is lights out, and that is why he has four World Series rings, a World Series MVP, and over 640 career saves. His under 1.00 ERA in postseason play is just awesome. And to top it off, he was selected as the MVP of the 2013 All-Star classic.
Ralphie: Mariano Rivera is not the best closer ever because his own team could do alright without him.
Brad: I feel Mariano Rivera is the best closer ever because he is in the game because he has a love for baseball. He has overcome hardships and still has the same dedication to play that he always had. He doesn't seem to be a troubled player, always in trouble and just out for money.
Chris: I have seen Mariano Rivera blow saves, including Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. I’ve seen him give up homeruns. And he doesn’t have any facial hair, so he’s automatically disqualified. But he is the best set-up man ever. However, I have never witnessed Dennis Eckersley blow a save. I have also never seen Eckersley allow a hit or a walk, though this may be because I was too young to remember. Eckersley did not have the longevity of Rivera as a closer, but he did win the American League MVP in 1992. And he bears a remarkable likeness to George Harrison, which probably made it real hard for him to concentrate while pitching amidst mistaken Beatlemania.
Joe: Although Dennis Eckerslely is one of the all-time great closers, he ranks sixth all-time with 390 saves. The HOF'er was a pioneer in pitching only one inning for Tony La Russa and won the Cy Young and the MVP. His accomplishments are great but fall short to Rivera.
Brad: I don't consider him to be the best because, while he is a great player, I feel his first love was for football.
Ralphie: Dennis Eckersley is not the best closer ever because he favored lefties with his pitching.
Chris: In a fact that possibly only he may remember, Trevor Hoffman was Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader until Rivera eclipsed his record in 2011. Hoffman may have been weighed down by the considerable ball he kept in his cheek during each game, which prompted him to spit frequently. However, if it was a giant gobstopper, he may have to be considered the best closer ever, due to the sheer size of his mouth.
Ralphie: Trevor Hoffman is not the best closer ever because his stats are pretty good but will not stand up over time.
Joe: Trevor Hoffman set many records as closer for the San Diego Padres as the all-time leader in saves; however, he did not accomplish postseason saves and awards to compare with Mariano. Mariano did it with championships on the line. If Trevor had played for a bigger media market or contender year in and year out, he would have been my choice.
Brad: Trevor is a good player and a great team player. He is dedicated to his team and to playing and comes from a sporting family. I don't feel that he rises to the level of greatness, but I do feel he has had a good playing career.
Ralphie: Craig Kimbrel is the best closer ever because he is so great at such a young age, and his pitches are powerful and unlike other pitchers'.
Brad: I feel he is just another really good player, but don't see anything spectacular to give him the title of greatest.
Chris: I am not a good baseball fan. I missed the player introductions at this year’s All-Star Game, robbing me of my opportunity to see Craig Kimbrel doff his cap. (I just said “doff.”) I’d like to take this opportunity to blame not knowing about Kimbrel to not having Braves baseball on TBS.
Joe: Craig Kimbrel is a great young pitcher. His 100 MPH fastball and vicious slider are dominating. He is working on his fourth year in a row of 40 or more saves. He just does not have the longevity of the other greats. YET!
Try on a new pair of Sports Briefs with the Gab Four every Friday. Find out more about Joe, Chris, Brad and Ralphie, and read their solo columns on their individual pages.