Mariano Rivera’s election to the Hall of Fame was like so many of his 652 saves.
Rivera was a no-brain choice and swept all 425 ballots, becoming the first unanimous choice to reach Cooperstown. Nobody deserved it more.He was an almost automatic closer, armed with a killer cutter that left hitters lunging.
And yet, there was a lot more about this election that provided food for thought.
First, there is the matter of his unanimous election. By breaking through that glass ceiling, Rivera has opened the door for future unanimous choices. That means that his longtime teammate, Derek Jeter could be unanimous next January. And there will be more in the future.
It also brings into question how other players were not unanimous. How did 23 writers pass on Willie Mays, the best five-tool player in a generation? How did 20 voters pass on Ted Williams, the last .400 hitter? How did 11 voters decide Babe Ruth and his 714 home runs did not deserve election? Hank Aaron, who broke Ruth’s home run record and finished with 755, was left off nine ballots. And how did six voters snub 300-game winner Nolan Ryan and his seven no-hitters?
Voting in this election is subjective. For years, relief pitchers were ignored because they were usually broken-down starters, That changed as the game evolved and Hoyt Wilhelm broke that prejudice in 1985. Then came Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley followed by Bruce and Goose – Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage. Last year Trevor Hoffman made it and now Rivera.
But the early relievers usually went two or three innings. Hoffman and Rivera were one-inning wonders. It is a reflection on how the game has changed and how bullpens are now employed.
Joining Rivera in Cooperstown this summer will be Edgar Martinez, elected in his final year of eligibility. A .312 career hitter, he was overlooked for a long time because he was a designated hitter, another wrinkle of modern baseball. The DH doesn’t use a glove and that diminishes him in the eyes of some voters. ButDH Harold Baines is going in with Martinez and that probably make it easier for DH David Ortiz,when his name comes up.
Mike Mussina made it based on 270 career victories. But he never won a Cy Young Award, never threw a no-hitter, and did not win 20 games in a season until his last year in the majors. Others with those notches in their pitching belts have been overlooked.
Also going into the Hall next Juy is Roy Halladay, a quality pitcher who had a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter as well as 203 victories. That left Tommy John with 288 wins and Jim Kaat with 283 wondering why they’re not in Cooperstown. There is the suspicion that Halladay got some sympathy votes because he died in a airplane accident at the age of 40. But that should not diminish the accomplishments of others who remain on the outside of the hall, looking in.
This election is very subjective not very objective, unless you’re Mariano Rivera. Then, it is automatic.