The Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame two starting pitchers, a designated hitter and a closer with a history-making vote total.
For the first time in 75 years, there’s a unanimous selection on the BBWAA ballot. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera got every one of the 425 votes cast.
Who would have thought that a closer would have that honor instead of someone like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson or Henry Aaron?
Ken Griffey Jr. had the previous high, 99.3 percent in 2016?
The writers also selected DH Edgar Martínez and starters Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay.
All will go into the Hall of Fame with Lee Smith and Harold Baines on July 21 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Baines and Smith were elected by the Today’s Game Era committee.
Martínez and Halladay each received 85.4 percent of the BBWAA vote. Mussina had 76.7 percent.
Martínez, playing his entire career with the Mariners, had more than 70 percent of his at-bats as a DH. It was Martínez’s 10th and final year on the ballot.
He said Tuesday was a nervous day, so he tried to keep himself busy to make the time go.
On Martínez’s first year on the ballot in 2010, he received 36.2 percent of the vote. Voters weren’t sure how to analyze a part-time players, at least that was the debate about the DH.
Four years later, his vote total dropped to 25.2 percent.
Now Martínez will join Griffey in the Hall as representatives of Mariners baseball in the 1990s.
Halladay, who was killed in a plane he was piloting when it crashed off the coast of Florida in October 2017, was on the ballot for the first time.
His election is symbolic of how pitchers are judged in new ways and how wins are not regarded as the ultimate statistic. It’s more about quality and dominance than impressive numbers.
Halladay had 203 victories pitching for the Blue Jays and Phillies. He had a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter, 67 complete games and two Cy Youngs, one in each league.
Will we ever see a pitcher with 67 complete games? Good question.
The word that describes Mussina’s election: finally.
He was on the ballot for the sixth time, but he should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, because he was a pitcher that had a sterling postseason record, earned Cy Young votes in nine different seasons, pitched in the hitting-stacked American League East and won 270 games.
His slow climb to Cooperstown came because he was pitching in the shadows of such starters as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, all of whom made the Hall ahead of him.
Mussina retired after his first 20-win season in 2008 with the Yankees. He had a career 3.68 ERA. Mussina, who carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in four different games, could have hung around long enough to reach 300 career victories. But he decided it was time to go home to Montoursville, Pa., and coach high school golf and basketball.
Mussina played 10 seasons for the Orioles and eight for the Yankees. Mussina will decide which cap he will wear in the Hall of Fame. The player is allowed to decide, but the Hall has veto power if it doesn’t believe it is historically accurate.
Mussina and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax are the only pitchers to retire after a 20-win season.
Not every one of the Hall of Famers had an easy go of it early in their career.
Rivera, who had 652 career saves with five World Series titles and a 0.70 postseason ERA, was a failed starter. The Yankees tried to trade him to Detroit, and he was left unprotected in the 1993 expansion draft.
One day in 1997, he was playing catch with another Yankees reliever, Ramiro Mendoza, when the ball he was throwing started taking weird dips. Mendoza told Rivera to try it in a game, and he did. A star was born.
The accidently found cutter was the only pitch he threw.
“It was a pitch that always looked as if it was rising,’’ Hall of Famer Paul Molitor once told me.
Martínez had a .529 career average against Rivera. “I don’t know how I did it,’’ Martínez told MLB Network.
Rivera was the setup man for John Wetteland in 1995, and took over the role as closer in 1996, the year the Yankees won the World Series.
Rivera didn’t get his first save until he was 26.
Halladay was a first-round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 1995 and in 2000, he was pitching so badly for Toronto, the Blue Jays sent him to a low-pressure Single-A team so that he could change his windup from overhand to three-quarters.
Now, with 203 wins, Halladay has the fewest wins of an inductee since Addie Joss with 160 wins was elected in 1978.
Martínez struggled early as a hitter in the minor leagues and didn’t become a full-time player until he was 27.
The biggest snubs are shortstop Omar Vizquel (42.8 percent) and Fred McGriff (39.8 percent).
Vizquel was on the ballot for the second time, so he’ll likely get in, maybe even next year.
He should given that he had 11 Gold Gloves for defense and with 2,877 hits. Either one of those accomplishments should get him in. But, the fact that he has both says the BBWAA better elect him soon.
McGriff was the ballot for the final time, so the guy with 493 career home runs will have to be elected by the Today’s Game Era committee. He should make it.
McGriff would have had 500 career home runs. In the strike season of 1994, he had 34 home runs in 113 games when the strike ended the season.
Pitcher Roger Clemens (59.5 percent) and outfielder Barry Bonds (59.1 percent), each associated with steroids, both still have a long way to go. They each have three years left on the BBWAA ballot.
The general consensus is that if Bonds and Clemens don’t make it on the writers’ ballot, they have no chance of making in with a 16-member Today’s Game Era committee, which is made of Hall of Fame players, team executives and journalists who have covered the game.
Will there ever be another unanimous selection?
Maybe next year. That’s because Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will make his first appearance on the ballot.