Think back about 15 years, back to the hustle and bustle of the mid to late 90's. How old were you back then? How differently would your life have turned out if you had made one choice differently? You may not know the answer, but let's pose the same question to the Seattle Mariners: how differently would the Mariners' fortunes have turned out over the past 14 seasons if they had traded pitcher Randy Johnson for New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera back in 1997?
According to this article, the Mariners had the opportunity to trade a 34-year-old Johnson for a 27-year-old Rivera, but decided against it due to the team's demand for a starting pitcher and concern about Rivera's shoulder. It's unfortunate: Rivera has cemented himself as one of the best pitchers of his generation with an 89.29% save rate (best all-time amongst pitchers with over 250 save opportunities) in addition to 879 games finished (best all-time) and 600 saves (second best all-time).
Johnson, a 10-time All-Star who led the league in strikeouts for four straight years with the Mariners (1992-1995), played nine total seasons in Seattle. He left the team in 1998 though, just one year after the proposed trade for Rivera. If Seattle had flipped Johnson for Rivera, how differently might their fortunes have turned out over the past 14 years? Would the Mariners have advanced past the American League Championship series during their impressive 2000 and 2001 campaigns with Rivera in the lineup? Would the team have made the playoffs more often with Rivera on the mound?
At this point it's all just wishful thinking, but hats off to Rivera for an amazing career thus far. He got his 600th career save Tuesday night in a 3-2 win against the Mariners and has established himself as one of the greatest closers to ever play the game.