The 2019 MLB Hall of Fame ballot voted on by the Baseball Writers of America was released yesterday, and what a class it was.
Edgar Martinez, the best DH of all-time made it in. The late-great Roy Halladay is now wearing a gold jacket in heaven along with a lot of other HOFer’s. Mike Mussina, a Yankees and Orioles great, is now deservingly in the Hall.
The coolest thing about this year’s class though is that for the first time ever, all 425 ballots had a check mark next to the same name. That name was none other than Mariano Rivera, who started his life of baseball as a kid in a fishing town in Panama with cardboard for a baseball glove is now immortalized forever in baseball history.
Rivera, a failed starting pitcher turned best closing pitcher of all-time, is a classic story of failure. He started his career as a starter who couldn’t get deep into games and gave himself a lot of arm issues. Then, something amazing happened. He was told he would not be a starter anymore and was being moved to the bullpen. He then made his MLB debut as a set up man for the Yankees in 1995. In 1996 he recorded his first save, and the rest as they say, is history.
Along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, “the core 4” went on to win five World Series titles on the back of Rivera. Mo was known for running into the game from the bullpen to the tune of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica and shortening the game to whenever he stepped foot on the mound. Rivera was feared by many hitters and teams as a whole because most of the time when he came in the game it was time to pack up for the opposing club.
652 times in the regular season Mariano Rivera saved a game. Not only is that an impressive number, but its the record for most saves of all time. Trevor Hoffman is the closest to that number, but even he is still 51 saves short. The closest active player in terms of saves is Boston’s Craig Kimbrel with 333 saves. If he wanted to catch Rivera he’d have to keep his pace for the next nine seasons, meaning Kimbrel would have to pitch to until he is 40-years-old.
The most impressive part of Rivera’s record save number, is that he did it with one single pitch in his arsenal. Opposing batters knew what was coming; a cutter roughly 93-95 MPH and he dared you to hit it, but you couldn’t. Another amazing part of this cutter is he learned how to throw it completely by accident. Early in his playing career as he was playing catch he noticed his ball kept cutting and tried to fix it to no avail. Coaches tried to fix it and nothing worked. Luckily for Rivera, he used that pitch to immortalize himself.
The most amazing thing about Rivera, besides his regular season stats, are his amazing postseason numbers. 141 postseason innings is almost as impressive as his 0.70 postseason ERA. He made one mistake in his playoff career, giving up a walk-off hit to Luis Gonzalez to lose the 2001 World Series. Gonzalez should consider himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. Almost no one scored on Rivera in the playoffs.
Fun Fact: more people that have walked on the moon (12) than have scored on Rivera in the playoffs (11).
Aside from baseball and all the accolades he has won from playing the sport, Rivera will be remembered as an amazing human with an awesome heart and genuine care for people. His teammates, the front office, fans and members of the media loved him because of how kind of a person he is. He is beloved throughout the entire baseball world and his personality is probably a big part of why he was made the very first player unanimously voted into Cooperstown. Rivera’s teammate and captain, Derek Jeter explained in his article on The Players Tribune why fans loved Rivera and explained how the unanimous Hall of Famer took the time to make sure everything was perfect for YOU, not him.
“Have you ever seen a Mariano Rivera autograph? Google it when you get a chance. With a lot of guys, their signatures are these quick little scribbles. But Mariano, man, if he’s signing something for you, he takes his time. He puts care into it, until he gets it just right — like with everything else he does. To me, right there … that’s Mo.”
I for one am so grateful and lucky that I was able to watch Rivera dominate during my lifetime as a baseball fan. So from me here at BIGPLAY, New York – thank you for everything Mo, and congratulations on finally being inducted into the HOF and for being the first player unanimously voted in. Well deserved.