MLB.com pushed out a series of polls on social media on Saturday, inviting fans to voice their opinions on Tuesday’s Cooperstown induction announcement. Who should be on the Class of 2019 list of inductees?
Then there was the Mariano Rivera question: Should he be voted in unanimously?
There’s no question about Rivera’s qualifications. As Forbes reported:
Rivera could be as much of a slam dunk closer ever eligible for the Hall. He played his entire 19-year career for the Yankees … Rivera holds the all-time records for saves – 652 for the regular-season and 42 in the postseason. His postseason ERA of 0.70 in 96 relief appearances – 0.99 in the World Series –is without parallel.
Rivera is certainly worthy of induction based on performance, regardless of some voters questions over whether closers and/or relievers “meet the criteria” of the Hall of Fame requirements. The question surrounding Rivera in the days before the announcement, isn’t about if, but by what percentage will he be elected.
The current record is held by 2016 inductee Ken Griffey Jr. (99.32%). Junior received all but three of the 440 ballots filed. That conversation is still a subject of intrigue. In fact, those who didn’t vote for Griffey Jr. have been labeled “The Griffey Three.”
If the nearly 100,000 baseball fans who answered the Twitter poll question — Does Mariano Rivera get in on the first vote? — 94% replied yes, while 6% said no. Why would anyone, especially a baseball journalist who are lifelong students of the game, not vote for Rivera?
Does Mariano Rivera get in on the first ballot?
— MLB (@MLB) January 19, 2019
One perspective is that Rivera is a victim of his role: closer. Hall of Fame voter and baseball writer Bill Ballou of the Worcester Telegram wrote:
Just because something happens at the end of a game doesn’t make it intrinsically more important that happens at the beginning … The Closer has evolved into a role created to justify a statistic … Baseball is a game of exposure. The more you play, the more accurate your numbers. The opposition figures out your weaknesses … My thought on the Hall of Fame is that it is more than numbers, that its members must have the kind of presence that would make somebody buy a ticket — not hometown fans, but general baseball fans — just to say they saw him play … With baseball becoming increasingly dependent on analytics, I think that closers will eventually evolve out of fashion, but the opposite could happen.
That’s, of course, is one man’s perspective on the voting process; but Ballou’s logic has not changed anyone’s mind. The good news is Ballou has said he will abstain from voting this year.
Rivera deserves 100% of the vote. He’s earned it. His record meets the criteria. Now those who have the privilege to vote, must recognize his contribution to the game.