Rob Gronkowski X Mariano Rivera
I went to a football game this past weekend.
This week, I’ll tell you about it through 5 stories.
Today is Rob Gronkowski x Mariano Rivera – “A story of knowing who to trust.”
It takes a lot to build trust from the people around you. Like a lot of the most important feelings to have towards others- see: respect and love- trust is something that needs to be earned over time. In the professional workplace this trust can be earned by submitting good work, being a productive member of a team, and filling in for overtime when necessary to name a few. The employees who show that performance are often able to get promoted, earn more responsibility, and will be bothered less by their bosses. In the sporting world this trust can be earned by being productive during a game, being a good team-player, and by doing the extra things in and out of practice to get better. The athletes who go this are often targeted more, given more opportunities to play, and will become fan favorites.
Two players- one a great Yankee and the other a great Patriot/Buccaneer- I can think of fit this mold. Two players who otherwise would very rarely be associated together.
Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in the history of the MLB. There is no question about it. He has the most saves (652), the most games finished (952), and the best ERA+ (205) of all pitchers in MLB history. There is a reason that he is the only player to be unanimously elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Retiring from baseball after the 2013 season, Mariano was still a good yearly choice as an All-Star at age-43 as he put up a 2.11 ERA (190 ERA+) over 64 games and 64 innings pitched with 44 saves. If he replicated those numbers in 2021, Mo would’ve have the 12th best ERA by a reliever while recording the most saves. For good reason, people still think that if he- as a 52-year-old man- could still pitch well in the MLB thanks to his world famous cutter.
Rob Gronkowski is one of the greatest tight ends in the history of the MLB. There is no question about that. After retiring following the 2018 season, he was selected as one of 5 TE’s for the NFL 100 All-Time Team in 2019. Then, he came out of retirement to join the Buccaneers in 2020 and has continued to impress as one of the top TE’s in football week-in and week-out. Gronk has the 5th most receiving yards (9149) across tight ends, 3rd most touchdowns (93), all while being only 10th for most receptions (614) by tight ends. It’s unknown how much longer Gronk will play (he does have an extensive injury history) but he has a good shot moving up those lists if he plays for 2-3 more years. This is also not to count how rare it is to find a tight end who is both a top-tier receiver as well as being a good blocker.
The most important place to trust somebody is in the playoffs. This is where Mariano Rivera and Rob Gronkowski have both excelled.
Mariano Rivera is the all-time pitching leader in postseason ERA (0.70), games played (96…next closest is 57), Saves (42…next closest is 19), Win Probability Added (11.7…next closest is 4.1), and Championship Win Probability Added (183.0…next closest is 132.6), and he is 4th in WHIP (0.759).
Rob Gronkowski in his postseason stats- across all receivers- is 4th in receptions (79), 5th in receiving yards (1273), and 2nd in receiving touchdowns (14).
Very few players in either sport hold up to what these men did in the most important games…time and time again.
With his career numbers it is no surprise that he was a player the Yankees deeply trusted. Though, it wasn’t always that way. In his rookie season of 1995, Mariano Rivera was a starting pitcher who produced to a 5.51 ERA over 19 games (10 starts) and after being moved to the bullpen in 1996, it took a season where Mo placed 3rd in the AL Cy Young to get him the closer role (starting in 1997). And, even though the Yankees trusted him greatly, it didn’t mean that everything was easy-going. I don’t need to remind Yankees fans about how the 2001 or 2004 seasons ended. However, Mariano Rivera was a pitcher that the Yankees organization, players, and fans trusted no matter what.
With his career numbers it is no surprise that he was a player the Patriots trusted and the Bucs trust now. However, the biggest thing against Gronk has been his availability which goes to show the trust that he has with his teams. Though Gronk has played in 80%+ of his teams games in a season just 4 times, he still is somebody that gets targeted often and is somebody that is quickly brought back into the offense. Now, it does also help that he’s only ever played for 1 quarterback, so integration back into the game does come easier, but the point still holds. Gronk has been a dependable tight end for the greater part of his career, as a receiver, blocker, and a guy who comes up clutch.
The last game I saw Mariano Rivera pitch was on July 28th, 2013 against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees had full faith in Mariano Rivera as they had him come in and pitch the top of the 9th in a 5-5 tied game. Mariano delivered by pitching a perfect 9th inning: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K- to hold the 5-5 tie going into the bottom of the 9th inning. In the bottom half of the 9th, Brett Gardner worked a lead-off walk before a wild pitch to Derek Jeter helped him get to second base before he was intentionally walked. After a strikeout to Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano stepped in and hit a single scoring Brett Gardner. On “Hideki Matsui Day” when the Yankees signed Matsui to a 1-Day MiLB contract so he could officially retire a Yankee, they won the game on a walk-off hit. This also secured Mariano Rivera a win, which was the 3rd to last of his career.
In the game from his past Sunday, the trust that Tom Brady has in Rob Gronkowski was in full effect yet again. Tom Brady went to Rob Gronkowski on 10 targets, where he caught 7 of them for 115 yards. While being at the game, it felt like Gronk was always available for Brady as an option on the field and while his two best drives (2 catches for 35 yards, and 2 catches for 28 yards) did not result in any points, it was clear Gronk was a threat. This game also put Rob Gronkowski in a tie with Tony Gonzalez for most 100+ yard receiving games as a tight end (31).