We celebrate big round numbers, and we celebrate records.
We followed every step Derek Jeter took as he closed in on 3,000 hits. We weren't thrilled with the idea that Barry Bonds was passing Hank Aaron, but we watched.
Now Mariano Rivera has 600 saves. He's one save away from Trevor Hoffman's career record.
And we're not really sure what to make of it.
We don't know what to make of 600 saves. We don't know what to make of the saves record.
What to make of a record obscure enough that Jeff Reardon once held it? What to make of a record that Lee Smith held while he was on the Hall of Fame ballot, but wasn't enough to get him even 50 percent of the votes?
It's not like with two more saves, Rivera is going to replace Hoffman as the greatest closer ever. With all respect to Hoffman, who had an outstanding career, Rivera has long been seen as the greatest closer ever.
We don't need a number to tell us that, any more than we've needed numbers to acknowledge Rivera's greatness through his career. He's led the league in saves just three times in 15 years as a closer (and not once since 2004), even though almost every one of those years he was the best closer in the game.
And if 600 gives us a chance to recognize that, so much the better. If the record helps us demonstrate that, well, fine.
We know that saves don't measure a closer's worth. We know that the save stat is flawed.
Rivera can go weeks without a save (as he did earlier this year) without doing anything wrong, simply because the Yankees scored too many runs in the games they won, never creating a save opportunity.
A day after Rivera reached 599 on Sunday in Anaheim, he sat unused Monday in Seattle, where the Yankees won, 9-1. Until the Yankees took the lead in the sixth inning Tuesday, there was no certainty he would get 600 that night, either.
But they did score. And when they took a 3-2 lead to the ninth, he held it, as he had done 599 times before.
He depends on his teammates more than anyone, because he can't get a save unless they lead -- and not by too much.
The biggest reason Rivera has never had a 60-save season: The Yankees have never created 60 save opportunities for him.
A hitter goes to the park every day with a chance to a hit or a home run. A starting pitcher goes to the park every five days with a chance to get a win (assuming, of course, that his team doesn't get shut out).
A closer has no idea whether there will be a save opportunity today, tomorrow or this week.
Thus, we have no idea when Rivera will get a chance at his 601st save. It's a hard chase to follow, much harder than Jeter's run at 3,000 hits or Jim Thome's chase of 600 home runs.
It's nothing like a starter going for 300 wins.
What to make of 600 saves? I'm still not sure.
But I know what to make of Mariano Rivera, and this is as good a time to recognize it as any.