Rounding Third: Closing Time: Rivera has been in his own league

It was the news every New York Yankees fan knew was coming, yet it still stung.

Maybe because it capped a week that saw general manager Brian Cashman break a leg skydiving and Mark Teixiera go down with a wrist injury that will cost him 2 1/2 months, or maybe it's just because Yankees fans don't want to think of a future without Mariano Rivera in it.

Rivera, the best closer the game has known, will call it quits after the season. He is expected to make it official on Saturday with a morning press conference.

"Greatest closer of all time," manager Joe Girardi said when news of the announcement leaked. "No question in my mind. I've had the thrill of catching him, and I was there when he really burst onto the scene and was a dominant setup man. To see what he's done as a closer has been a thrill for me. I know there's a press conference on Saturday and we'll go from there."

The Yankees got a glimpse of life without Rivera last season when the 43-year- old went down with a torn ACL in May and missed the remainder of the season. Luckily, Rafael Soriano made things easy, as he performed almost as close to Rivera as can be expected.

But, he wasn't Rivera. Nobody is Rivera and it'll likely be a long time before we ever see someone the likes of him.

Rivera's not only the best closer in history, but you can make an argument that he is the best player of this generation, period. Understandably it's hard to justify that for a player who appears, for the most part, one inning a night, 60 times a year.

But if you can find me a more dominant or important player in this era than Rivera, go right ahead.

The stats on Rivera are mind-boggling. His 2.21 lifetime ERA is the second- lowest in history for a pitcher with more than 1,000 innings, since ERA became an official statistic in 1913.

Actually, the more amazing thing about that is that Babe Ruth is fourth on the list.

As impressive as the 608 regular-season saves are for Rivera, it's the 42 that he has in the postseason that separates himself from just about anyone who has ever pitched in October.

Comparing Rivera to anyone in the postseason, though, is ridiculous. It's his domain. He's appeared in 96 games and has pitched to a 0.70 ERA. He's so good that his blown saves have become actual events. He has thrown 141 postseason innings with just one loss.

That's right, one loss. He's about the closest thing to automatic as there has been.

If this is in fact it, mark your calendars for July 2019 because that's when he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's not a question of if he gets in, the only question is will he receive more votes than any player? Nolan Ryan currently holds that distinction with 491 votes, while Tom Seaver has the highest percentage of votes, as he was named on 425 of 430 ballots.

Rivera may challenge both. One, because he was that good and, two, there may not be a player who was more respected and revered by the media simply because he doesn't show anyone up and treats his opponents with the same respect he shows his teammates.

"Mariano's a great person," Yankees starter Ivan Nova said. "He's a great person, a great teammate, and he was the one who was on top of me in 2011, pushing me, pushing me, pushing me all the time. And one thing that he told me when I saw him this year was that he was going to be on top of me. ... When a veteran like that motivates you that way, it means a lot."

The best quote about Rivera, though, comes from former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly.

"We don't want to face him anymore," Kelly said. "He's too good. He belongs in a higher league. He should be banned from baseball."