By Christian S. Kohl
Two of the elite talents in the American League, Miguel Cabrera and Mariano Rivera, have begun this year no differently than any other they have played. Both have dominated in a fashion that is so consistent we as fans become oddly accustomed to it. So, given that the numbers of both players are absolutely monstrous, who has been most impressive in the early going?
Miguel Cabrera created a situation for himself last year which made his 2013 performance impossible to improve upon. As both the MVP and triple crown winner, the best he could do would be an unfathomable repeat of both those accolades. His .375 average and league leading 41 runs batted in are nothing shy of astonishing, with a more than respectable eight home runs as well. In order to approach his accomplishments from last year, he’ll need to connect for more home runs as the summer approaches. Still, he sits right now on pace to drive in 175 runs, and is unquestionably the finest offensive player in the American League right now.
One has to wonder, however, if enough can be said about both the start to the season and the entire career of Mariano Rivera. The last man in baseball to wear the number 42, Rivera has amazingly returned to form a season after tearing his ACL, featuring an age higher than his jersey number. The greatest closer of all time has been perfect so far this season, converting all 16 save opportunities, 6 of which did not even allow a base runner. His ERA sits at a criminal 1.56, and he sports 13 strikeouts, proving once again to any doubters that it is in fact the movement, and not just the overpowering velocity his cutter once featured which confounds hitters and shatters bats the league over.
It is almost inconceivable to say comparing these two could be easy, especially given the tear Cabrera is on. Not to mention a direct comparison of a position player and a closer as a value proposition is ordinarily next to impossible. But Rivera has been perfect. There is no way his numbers could be any better, and at age 43 with one working knee, there is nothing to be done about Rivera except sit back and watch in amazement at one of the truly greatest players in the history of the game.
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That doesn’t mean for one second a fan should take his eyes off Cabrera, however. He is doing amazing things a cut above even the elite offensive players in the game right now, and his contributions to his team, the season, and the game itself are right now no less special than the artistry of Mariano. The clear edge here is Rivera so far this year; still, with Cabrera at age 30 now and Rivera presumably at the tail end of his career (though once could conceive of him still splintering bats at age 50), in just a few short years their exploits will be memories, and their exploits enshrined in Cooperstown. Enjoy them both while you still can.