Major League Baseball already had relief awards annually, but they never caught on in the same way that the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, or even Rookie of the Year honors did. That could change with the simple change of a name in the near future, however, as CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that MLB is going to announce new relief awards named after closing legends Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.
They aren't two separate awards, exactly, but the same award with two different names, one for the American League and one for the National League. Rivera, who spent his entire 19-year career with the Yankees in the AL, and Hoffman, who similarly never left the Senior Circuit, rank first and second all-time in saves, at 652 and 601, respectively.
It's intelligent branding, as they're both well-known league-wide, are currently record holders for saves in the league they spent their entire, (likely) Hall of Fame careers in, and are sure to generate more recognition and interest than the "Rolaids Relief" award, which was always more not-so-subtle corporate joke -- get it, closing can cause heartburn because of stress! -- than it was something fans could actually feel some connection to.
In addition, Rivera and Hoffman will have a say in who receives the awards each season, so it won't just be going to whoever leads their league in saves, or anything else as simple-minded and basic. According to Heyman, "there will be an added interesting twist to the award, as a small panel of all-time great relievers, including Rivera and Hoffman themselves, will do the voting for the annual honor." MLB announced that the voting panel will also include Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner.
Over 19 years, Rivera finished in the top-five for the AL Cy Young five times while compiling 1,173 strikeouts and a 205 ERA+, the best ever for a pitcher with at least 1,200 career innings. He led the AL in saves on three separate occasions, and was a driving force behind the five Yankees' World Series championships that occurred during his storied career.
Hoffman might not have the postseason credentials of Rivera, but his career merits attention as well. He twice led the NL in saves, finished in the top-five of the Cy Young three times, made seven All-Star teams, and helped lead the Padres to the 1998 World Series, where, coincidentally, they were defeated by Rivera's Yankees. Of Hoffman's 19 years, 16 of them came with the Padres, but he began his career with the then-Florida Marlins all the way back in 1993, and finished with the Brewers in 2009 and 2010.