Call to the Hall: Mariano makes history in 2019 Hall of Fame election

January 22, 2019 - 7:52 pm

For the first time in the storied history of Major League Baseball, we have a unanimous Hall of Famer elected to Cooperstown, New York.

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera received a vote on all 425 ballots from the Baseball Writer's Association of America on his first year on the ballot.  Rivera headlined a star-studded class of inductees, and will "Enter" the Hall alongside the late starting pitcher Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies (85.4%), Seattle Mariners designated hitter extraordinare Edgar Martinez (85.4%) and starter Mike Mussina from the Baltimore Orioles and Yankees (76.7%).

Rivera hunkered down the back end of the bullpen in the Bronx for 19 seasons.  "Mo" accumulated a Major League-record 652 career regular season saves, and added a very fitting 42 more in the postseason.  Rivera was part of a Yankees dynasty at the turn of the century, contributing to four World Series-winning teams in the city that Never Sleeps (1996, 1998-2000).  He was part of a fifth and final World Series victory in 2009, when the Yankees defeated the Phillies in six games.  Rivera also holds Major League records for career games finished (952) and ERA+ (205).

Following Rivera on the list was fellow first-year inductee Roy Halladay.  "The Good Doctor" had a tumultuous start to his career in 1998, but righted the ship in a big way by 2002.  Halladay broke onto the scene with the Blue Jays in 1998 when he took a perfect game into the ninth inning of his second career start in the Majors against the Detroit Tigers.  A Bobby Higginson solo homerun with two outs in the ninth inning ended his bid for history.  From there, it looked like Halladay's career may have ended before it began as he struggled mightily in 2000; even setting a record no one wants to hold in their career.  Halladay's 10.64 ERA in 2000 stands as the highest mark by a pitcher who threw at least 50 innings in a season.  A trip to the minor leagues put his now-Hall of Fame career back on track.

203 wins, 67 complete games, 20 shutouts, two Cy Young Awards (2003 with Toronto, 2010 with Philadelphia), a perfect game (2010 with Philadelphia vs. Florida) and a post-season no-hitter later (2010 with Philadelphia vs. Cincinnati), Halladay finds himself enshrined with baseball's best.

Sadly, Halladay's life was cut short in a tragic plane accident on November 7th, 2017 in Holiday, Florida.  He was alone on the flight when it went down off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  He was 40 years old and just over four years into his retirement from the sport.  It has yet to be announced who will speak in Cooperstown this summer on behalf of Halladay.

On the complete other side of the spectrum was the Hall of Fame career of Edgar Martinez of the Mariners.  Unlike Rivera and Halladay who were elected on their first ballots, Martinez has had to fight hard to get to this moment.  Many writers and voters spoke out against the validity and legitimacy of Martinez' candidacy for the Hall of Fame, because he spent a vast majority of his 18-year career in Seattle as a designated hitter; never seeing the field for defense.  Finally, in his 10th year on the ballot, Martinez broke the 75% threshold with 363 of 425 possible votes.

Martinez re-defined the position of being a designated hitter.  There's even an award named in his honor for the best designated hitter in the American League each season.  Give Martinez credit; that honor was rightfully earned and so was his call from Cooperstown.  Martinez ended his career with a .312 average, .418 on-base percentage, a .515 slugging-percentage, racked up 2,247 hits, 309 homeruns and had 1,261 career runs-batted-in.  Martinez was also a two-time American League batting champion (1992 - .343, 1995 - .356), and led the league in runs-batted-in, in 2000 (145).

The fourth, but far from final, inductee was starting pitcher Mike Mussina.  "Moose" eclipsed the 75% voting marker in his sixth year on the Hall of Fame ballot.  The Williamsport, Pennsylvania product totaled 270 wins in 18 seasons in the Major Leagues, all of which were spent in the powerhouse division of the American League East (10 with Orioles, eight with Yankees).

Mussina was never the best pitcher in the sport nor even the league, but was incredibly durable and was the definition of "knowing what you were getting" from a player.  Take out his rookie year in 1991 when he only won four games in limited time, and Mussina won at least 12 games over the next 17 seasons.  In those 17 seasons, he only sported a losing record once; 2000 when he went 11-15 with the Orioles.  "Moose" led the league in wins once (1995 -19) and, coincidentally, that was also the season he posted a league-high four shutouts.

Mussina ended his career with one of his best seasons in his career in 2008.  A knock on him was that despite his longevity and effectiveness, Mussina had never been a 20-game winner.  Come 2008 that all changed when he put together a 20-9 record with the Yankees, pitched over 200 innings and led the league in games started with 34, at the age of 39.

As can be seen, this class has legends of the game from top to bottom.  This, too, is just part one of a busy year ahead.  Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown is scheduled for July 19th-22nd this summer, with Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina's induction ceremonies set for Sunday, July 21st.  The quartet will be joined by fellow inductees Harold Baines and Lee Smith, who were voted into the Hall by the "Today's Game Era" Committee on December 9th of this past winter.

 

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