It took an awful long time. The first Hall of Fame class was inducted way back in 1936. On Tuesday, the greatest closer of all-time, the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, became the first player ever to be unanimously elected in his first year on the ballot.
It’s been a remarkable journey for Rivera who grew up in a fishing town in Panama, and witnessed and experienced the difficult lifestyle many of his friends, family, and elders endured. He saw his uncle severely injured in a terrible accident on a fishing trip when he just a boy. Baseball was a way out, but it wasn’t one those who saw Rivera at the time would’ve predicted.
Slight of frame, he never threw particularly hard and was mainly a control artist. He wasn’t high on any prospect lists. But he was blessed with a burst of velocity early in his pro career, and then suddenly discovered the cutter that would make him famous in a throwing session, without any thought or plan to work on a new pitch. Rivera continues to describe that moment as a miracle. Yankees fans would agree.
Five Thirty Eight opines that Rivera’s unanimous election is a sign of changing times for Hall of Fame voters. Buster Olney pens a tribute to Rivera for ESPN in which he contrasts the humble grace of Rivera with his ferocious competitive spirit. Even the rock band Metallica weighed in with their congratulations, as Rivera famously used their “Enter Sandman” as his entrance music.
Of course, Rivera won’t enter the Hall alone. Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and the late Roy Halladay were all elected as well. The former were a long time in coming, while the last is bittersweet. Still, Rivera shattered an inexplicable barrier by getting the nod on every ballot, and Hall of Fame expert, and creator of the JAWS Hall of Fame scoring system, Jay Jaffe, had many thoughts for FanGraphs.
Spring training invitations in the mail
The Tigers announced their spring training invitees on Tuesday. After inking former major league 2B Gordon Beckham to a minor league deal, the Tigers set the rest of their invites. Our friend over at The Athletic, prospect writer Emily Waldon, has a complete list of minor league players headed to major league camp.
It’s been 14 months since Roy Halladay died in a Florida plane crash, and it’s going to be a year filled with remembrances and regret that he didn’t live to experience his own induction. Halladay’s wife Brandy, weighed in with those sentiments following Tuesday’s announcements. Sports Illustrated took a look back at Halladay’s greatest moment, his no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 NLDS. Fellow inductee Edgar Martinez also offered a nice tribute to a former foe. Finally Tony Paul remembers when both Rivera and Halladay were almost Tigers for The Detroit News.
Bonds and Clemens creep closer
Perhaps the best player and best pitcher in the game’s long history were once again denied entrance to the hallowed halls on Tuesday. Both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds checked in at 59 percent of ballots, still well shy of the 75 percent needed. Still, even players commanding a sizable chunk of the ballot only get 10 years to be elected. Bonds and Clemens have to get in by 2022, or their chances—this is a lock, by the way—will hinge on veteran’s committees. Meanwhile it’s pretty interesting which voters don’t want to publicly acknowledge their ballot. Jeff Passan of ESPN, meanwhile, is now convinced Bonds and Clemens will never be voted into the Hall.
This is staggering.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 22, 2019
Of the 232 who revealed ballots to @NotMrTibbs, 71.1 percent voted for Roger Clemens and 70.6 percent for Barry Bonds.
Of the 193 whose ballots remain private, 45.6 percent voted for Roger Clemens and 45.1 percent for Barry Bonds.