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Will Mariano Rivera be a unanimous Hall of Fame selection?

Sep 30, 2013, 4:35 PM EDT

rivera getty Getty Images

It’s rather silly that there have never been any unanimous Hall of Fame inductees. But really, there were some people who actually submitted votes who didn’t vote for Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Tom Seaver, Cal Ripken and many others (actually every other) when they were first up for induction into Cooperstown.

It’s a story of brain-dead inertia, really. For whatever reasons, likely having to do with the voting system and/or misapprehending the nature of the institution and the honor, a lot of early immortals were not selected unanimously. Then, when guys like Ted Williams and others showed up, people would say “well, if Ty Cobb wasn’t unanimous, how can Ted Williams be?” And that has carried on down. It’s much the same reason why there is a big backlog of candidates now: silly precedents causing voters to tie themselves in knots.

Or possibly because a lot of Hall of Fame voters are morons who don’t get baseball, but I’m willing to give them all the benefit of the doubt. Publicly.

Anyway, against that backdrop Richard Justice of wrote over the weekend that maybe, just maybe, Mariano Rivera will be the first unanimous selection. Go give it a read.

My thinking: if Greg Maddux doesn’t get it next year no one will, but hopefully Rivera will get it. And Jeter. Frankly, a ton of guys should. I worry, though, that a lot of voters believe that relief pitchers are the work of the devil and will leave him off. Or will cite that precedent stuff I mentioned above. Or will grandstand and submit blank ballots which, if submitted, must be counted as no votes.

It doesn’t matter I guess, as Rivera will certainly get in. But I really would like to get inside the head of some of these dudes who vote.

  1. djeter220 - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    The fact is there will always be HOF voters who decline to vote for shoe-ins not because they feel the player is undeserving, but simply for the purpose of ensuring no one is unanimously selected. Why those writers are allowed to keep their votes is a mystery.

    • apkyletexas - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      You’re talking about baseball writers – many of whom are somewhere below the amoeba as life forms. Of course some of them will vote against Mariano.

      • 18thstreet - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:16 PM

        Many of the members of the BBWAA are not baseball writers. They were once baseball writers. And there’s no procedure to take their votes away.

      • paperlions - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:16 PM

        ….and many were never sports writers at all…any sports editor can become a member of the BBWAA and get a vote….even if they never covered a single baseball game….and those people also keep their votes for life. The system for determining who votes is about the worst system they could possibly have.

    • illadelphiasphinest - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:32 AM

      Any other answer then yes is an outrage.
      You can argue and banter till your blue in the face about who was the best hitter of all time; Ruth, Wagner, Williams, or Gehrig.
      Perhaps who was the greatest starting pitcher ever? Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Lefty Grove, or Greg Maddox.
      So on n so on for any other position.
      But when this question is asked. Who was the greatest Closer of all time? There is only one answer.
      Its Mariano Rivera.
      Pull all the SABR stats you want. The guy was lights out for since he became a fulltime closer in ’97.
      If you don’t vote for him your an A hole, bottom line.

      • illadelphiasphinest - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:40 AM

        Fitting that he finishes his career with 42 postseason saves. While being 4-2 in 6 World Series’.

  2. hk62 - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Ryan should have been. Mo should be – but at least two people with an HOF vote won’t think his slash line is good enough (we know he’s a pitcher – but do they?) Such a shame!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:48 PM

      Ryan, as in Nolan Ryan? The guy who walked more than 1,000 more batters than the next guy? The guy with the 112 ERA+ and .526 win %? Just in the last few years I’d take Clemens, RJ, Pedro, Maddux and Mussina over Ryan, let alone Brown and Schilling.

      • jm91rs - Sep 30, 2013 at 8:44 PM

        You mean the guy with 7 career no hitters and 800 more strikeouts than the next guy? See I can cherry pick stats too.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 30, 2013 at 11:22 PM

        It’s not cherry picking stats. If you think a guy who was 12% better than an average pitcher at preventing runs should be a unanimous HoF selection, there’s something wrong with your criteria.

      • coguybrarian - Oct 1, 2013 at 10:23 AM

        I’ve never understood Ryan haters. Maybe they’re frustrated Ricky Henderson fans. (Ryan’s 5000th victim, and on the day Ricky set the stolen base record, he had to share the limelight with Ryan’s 7th no-hitter. I’m also quite positive he was one of the last 3 outs in no hitter no 6, but I could be wrong on that one.)

        Nolan’s career ERA was 3.19. In the modern era, only Tom Seaver has 300 wins and an ERA under 3.00 at 2.86. So Nolan’s ERA is only 0.33 higher than Tom Seaver. His ERA was under 3.00 8 seasons, including at the age of 44. There were 2 more season where he was under 3.10. ERA+ is a meaningless stat that has no bearing on on-field results.

        Losses? He played on historically bad teams in Houston. In 1987, he led the majors with a 2.76 ERA, yet his W-L was 8 – 16. The Astros were shutout in half of those losses. What is a pitcher to do if his team isn’t scoring? He was third in Cy Young balloting that year despite the losing record. Had he been on a better team, he would have at least challenged for the award that year.

        Baseball is the definition of a team sport and Nolan never landed on great teams. Houston had a couple of years with Nolan and Scott, but otherwise, Nolan’s teams rarely made the playoffs once he left the Mets. One starting pitcher can only do so much on bad teams. Nolan was a good man, he played the game the right way, and all the haters in the world cannot take away the fact he was one of the greatest pitchers of the modern era.

  3. earpaniac - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    I do want to know who were the guys who voted against Ruth and Cobb. At least we know sportswriter bias isn’t a new thing.

    • deepstblu - Oct 1, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      I seem to recall reading years ago that the BBWAA’s vote counter got a phone call from an extremely embarrasssed writer who confessed that he screwed up and left Willie Mays off his ballot, and wanted to know if he could change it. Sorry, pal…

  4. beefytrout - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    beyond his absolutely stellar career, Rivera was always respectful and acommodating to the press, even going so far as encouraging members of the press to learn Spanish and younger players to learn English so that interviews would be easier for everyone. Even after the 2001 WS loss, Rivera sat in front of his locker and answered question after question.

    if there ever was a guy deserving of the first 100%, its Mo.

    • imnotyourbuddyguy - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      Sorry, the greatest RP of all time certainly doesn’t deserve to be the 1st unanimous. It doesn’t matter how good he was, he’s still just a reliever, if you’re taking Rivera over Maddux or Pedro you’re absolutely nuts.

  5. Detroit Michael - Sep 30, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    There are far more than 10 viable candidates on the BBWAA ballot, so if someone uses their 10 slots elsewhere, I have no problem with that writer not voting for an obvious candidate for whom the vote is likely to only impact by how far above 75% they can score.

    • crackersnap - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:02 PM


      Those 10 votes are precious, and one may be needed to help along a previously neglected/under-appreciated player rather than spent on the obvious. Rivera not getting a unanimous vote for THAT logic is not a crime.

  6. righthereisay - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Since Nolan Ryan wasn’t, Rivera shouldn’t. Of course, both should be unanimous, but these writers enjoy the power too much to do the right thing.

    • 18thstreet - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      I think you need to look more closely at Nolan Ryan’s career. He was not the best pitcher of all time. (Still should have gone in unanimously, as should about 20 others.)

  7. phil954 - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    He better be. If not, the voters would have to have some biased opinion. I don’t like the Yankees but respect Mariano.

    • ireportyoudecide - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      They can only vote for 10 players, Mo was a great relief pitcher. But there are currently 83 active or retired players who have a higher WAR then him. To say it would be a shame if he doesn’t get in first ballot is kind of a overstatement. Rank, Player, Seasons, WAR

      1 Barry Bonds (22) 162.5
      2 Roger Clemens (24) 140.3
      3 Greg Maddux (23) 106.8
      4 Randy Johnson (22) 102.1
      5 Chipper Jones (19) 85.2
      6 Pedro Martinez (18) 84
      7 Ken Griffey (22) 83.6
      8 Tom Glavine (22) 81.4
      9 Jeff Bagwell (15) 79.5
      10 Frank Thomas (19) 73.6
      84 Mariano Rivera (19) 57

      • 18thstreet - Sep 30, 2013 at 9:04 PM

        Using career WAR ignores what Rivera accomplished in the post-season. Why would you want to do that in evaluating anyone’s career, much less his?

        Rivera also hit fewer homers than Tom Glavine did, but it’s not the number that I’d look at in evaluating either of them.

  8. schlom - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    I’d be shocked if he’s unanimous as I’m sure there are some voters that (for understandable reasons) won’t want to vote in a reliever.

  9. jrbdmb - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    Guaranteed not to be unanimous. There is certainly a block of writers who will never elect a closer (“not a real position!” they say) on the first ballot.

    • thisdamnbox - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Same problem/argument with the DH. If it wasn’t a viable position during the “Golden Age” of baseball then it’s not a position deserving of the HoF…Need a few more generations of BBWAA members to die off before they will correct this error of opinion…

      • Old Gator - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:24 PM

        The only error of opinion was having a designated hitter at all – though of course as a radical leftist I would still support the rights of folks who can’t field or throw or run or do various other aspects of their jobs, whether through advanced age or modularized incompetence to find employment anyway. In the concessions, perhaps.

  10. billybawl - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    And for this reason, I think we have to get away from worrying about whether somebody got 98% or 93% of the vote. I may be in the minority, but other than guys who are nearing the end of their eligibility, I’m also not going to fret much over how many years it took someone to get into the HOF. The particularized voting results reflect more about what was on the mind of the pool of voters for the year in question — which is often not directly about the player in question — than that player’s merits. If the system were perfect, all deserving HOFers would get elected their first year of eligibility. Like umpiring, it could be changed dramatically with more objective measures and tools, but the powers that be have decided the “human element” is worth preserving.

  11. redsghost - Sep 30, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    I am a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. I even had a heart attack during their 2007 World series but put off telling my wife for 4 innings until the game was over. That being said- I’d very surprised if Mo wasn’t. I HATE the Yankees, but Mo isn’t just a Yankee, he is the ultimate classy baseball player. I will miss him as baseball will miss him. First time, UNANIMOUS selection!

  12. sportsfan18 - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    We should all know by now there won’t be any unanimous vote totals for the foreseeable future (unless, until changes are made in the voting process).

    Greg Maddux deserves to be that’s for sure. PED’s? He NEVER was big, huge, muscles. He never threw hard.

    He was intelligent, knew how to pitch, how to set batters up, even over the course of different at bats.

    And he had amazing control.

    He pitched against players like Bonds and all the rest who used PED’s. Just take a look at Bond’s stats the last 4 to 5 yrs of his career. They were beyond amazing.

    Yet, this is how Barry Bonds fared against Maddux in their careers:

    Greg Maddux faced Bonds MORE than any other hitter in his career.

    Bonds batted .265 against Maddux in 132 at bats.

    Bonds hit 9 HR’s.

    Bonds had 19 RBI’s against Maddux.

    Maddux is way up there on all times wins list, fewest walks, he pitched over 5,000 innings (only 12 other men have ever pitched 5,000 or more innings in their careers).

    • 2077james - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:40 PM

      Maddux has got to go in unanimously, surely?? Anyone who doesn’t vote for him should be named and shamed.

      • Kevin S. - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:59 PM

        I probably wouldn’t vote for Maddux because of the ten-vote max stated above. While I obviously feel he’s deserving, I know everybody else does, too. My votes are more important for the marginal guys. This is entirely a product of the arbitrary ten-vote limit. You should be able to vote for as many players as you feel are deserving.

    • sabatimus - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM

      Are those Bonds’ stats against Maddux supposed to be bad? 9 HR is a LOT in that number of at bats. He had 157 plate appearances vs Maddux, and averaged 573 plate appearances in his career. Extrapolated over the course of a whole season solely vs Maddux, Bonds would theoretically have hit 32 HRs. That’s was a low number for Bonds at the end of his career, but that’s a high number for Maddux.

  13. sabatimus - Sep 30, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    The only reason I can think of (except for the egomaniacal “no-unanimity” writers) is that closers generally become closers because they didn’t make it as starters.

  14. millmannj - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Maddux won’t be unanimous and neither will Rivera, Pedro, Big Unit, Jeter, etc. because there is always some voter who writes for a podunk paper in the middle of nowhere who won’t vote for them. Then they will write some stupid column with their hare-brained reasoning and get more page views in one day then they would normally get in 5 years.

  15. aceshigh11 - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    It still boggles the mind that there’s never been a unanimous pick, and that Tom Seaver is the closest there’s ever been.

    Baseball writers have been assholes for over a century…that’s almost Congressional levels of assholedom.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 30, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      Yeah, I don’t get the Seaver pick. There have been plenty of better players on the ballot, and coming up on the ballot, who won’t touch his percent.

  16. blynch67 - Sep 30, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Why are you even posing this question?

    If Mariano is not a 100% er, there should be an investigation, followed by a lynching.

  17. bigyankeemike - Sep 30, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    If I were the HOF, I wold amend the voting rules to state the following:

    If your ballot does not list the name of a player that is listed on more than 95% of all ballots, you lose your right to vote in future years.

    Assuming there are still 569 voters next year, that would mean that 29 idiots (or less) who don’t vote for Maddux lose their vote, assuming he gets 95% of the vote.

    This will end the “need to be different” when it comes to obvious cases.

    Mind you, this isn’t a play to force people to vote on way. But there has to be consequences for not voting in an obvious candidate.

  18. wpjohnson - Oct 1, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    There is no justification for electing him unanimously. Babe Ruth wasn’t elected unanimously. neither was Cobb, Wagner, Johnson, Mathewson, or many more far more deserving than Rivera. Such a vote would be a disgrace to baseball history.

  19. serbingood - Oct 1, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    To follow events in D.C., let’s just defund Cooperstown and the HoF until such time that the ‘Writers’ come to their senses about the tall dark skinny kid with a foreign name. (satire alert) Yes Mariano is a first ballot player and yes it would be nice if it were unanimous. But if there are still the baseball version of Creationist believing voters left in 5 years, then just getting him in is in itself a victory.

    A non unanimous vote would reflect the 9th inning of the 7th game of the 2001 World Series and we’ll call it even.

    Here’s looking forward to 2018 when he gets the key to the most exclusive club in town.

  20. bh0673 - Oct 1, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Let’s worry about it in 5 years.

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