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

Mariano Rivera, joined by Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, becomes first unanimous Hall of Famer in voting history

Kyle Powell
January 22, 2019 - 7:52 pm

Photo: Adam Hunger - USA TODAY Sports

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

Former 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 of Fame alongside the late Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies (85.4% of the vote), Seattle Mariners designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez (85.4%) and pitcher 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 New York (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 Adjusted ERA+ (205).

Halladay follows Rivera on the list as a fellow first-year inductee into the Hall of Fame. "Doc" 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 no-hitter 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 demotion all the way down to Single-A ball to rebuild his pitching delivery was a catalyst in his growth and success, and 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 against the Florida Marlins) and a postseason no-hitter later (2010 with Philadelphia against the Cincinnati Reds), Halladay finds himself enshrined with baseball's best.

Sadly, Halladay's life was cut short in a tragic plane accident on November 7, 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.

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's 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-percent 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 home runs 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 RBIs in 2000 (145).

Mussina, the fourth and final inductee of 2019, eclipsed the 75-percent 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).

"Moose" 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, 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. Mussina led the league in wins once (19 in 1995) 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.

Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown is scheduled for July 19-22 this summer, with Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina's induction ceremonies set for Sunday, July 21.  The quartet will be joined by fellow inductees Harold Baines and Lee Smith, who were voted into the Hall of Fame by the "Today's Game Era" Committee on December 9, 2018.

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