It was bound to happen and last week, it finally did as former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He received backing from each of the 425 voters, but he should not have been the first to get 100-percent of the vote.
For the life of me, I never quite understood why nobody received 100-percent before, especially when discussing no-brainer candidates like Tom Seaver, Ken Griffey Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Cal Ripken Jr. How exactly would you rationalize not voting for them when their name appeared on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
Over the years, I have heard all the excuses. There is no perfect candidate, therefore nobody is deserving of a unanimous induction. Those guys were going to get in anyway, so I wanted to make sure somebody else remained on the ballot and I used one of my ten votes on said other candidate. All of those reasons are complete on utter nonsense. Either someone is a Hall of Famer or they are not and I know that line has been blurred a bit with the likes of Harold Baines getting in via the Veterans’ Committee, but that should be the edict of every voter each and every season.
The debate that rages each and every January when the vote is taken and the inductees is released is good for the sport of baseball. In a sport when it has become far to regionalized, this is a topic and a conversation that all baseball fans care about and partake in. Cooperstown is a hallowed place and baseball fans look to protect that very fact every given year. You want that passion and you should embrace the debate, you should not run from it.
As Boston scribe Bill Ballou wrote a column last month in the Worcester’s Telegram and Gazette that he was going to abstain with his vote this year and not cast a ballot for Rivera, he received national attention for all the wrong reasons. Even if you read his column explaining his decision, it provided no correct tangible reason for not voting for Rivera. As he reversed course a few weeks later, he said all the feedback from fans and baseball people explained that he was wrong. So after the public ridicule, Ballou decided to vote and cast his ballot for Rivera, which was the right decision.
I embrace debate and different viewpoints and opinions, as long as those positions are well thought out and based in some form of fact. Opinion for the sake of opinion is a waste of all of our time. Therefore, I don’ t believe that Rivera received all the votes because voters were fearful of a public backlash because some ballots were being made public on social media. If that was the case, then why didn’t Griffey Jr. get a unanimous induction in 2016? Like I mentioned above, give me the logical reason why you would not vote for the most logical?
Ruth, Mays, Henderson, Bench, Schmidt are just some of the immortals that played the sport of baseball that did not get elected unanimously. What a shame. I am not saying that Mariano Rivera was not deserving, he was. But, he should not have been the first. That hurdle should have been cleared decades ago.
Rivera headlines a very good class with Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and Roy Halladay. Rivera was not only beloved by Yankees fans, but he was well respected across the baseball landscape. Even Red Sox fans appreciated the brilliance of Rivera, how could you not?
He conducted himself with class on and off the field. He pitched for 18 seasons and notched a jaw-dropping 652 saves and helped the Yankees win five World Series titles. His dominance was unquestioned and the ability to remain remarkably consistent with the dominance of his trademarked cutter is ridiculous. To think that he was signed for just $2,000 out of Panama and to rise to the levels that he did is extraordinary. He left an indelible mark on this city and in baseball and it is only right that the most perfect closer the sport has ever seen goes into Cooperstown this summer perfectly.
As the gates swung open at Yankees Stadium in the Bronx and Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ blasted to the pinstripe faithful in the stands, you knew you were watching something special. He was special, he is missed, but he will never be forgotten and is quite deserving of the unanimous election because there was never anyone like him before and I don’t think I will ever see anyone better in my lifetime.
Congrats Mo, you deserved it.