From 1995 to 2013 the scariest sound in Major League Baseball was the first minute of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Out from the outfield a 6’2 Panamanian would run from the bullpen to the pitchers mound to set batters up for the toughest experience of their hitting career. As a 16 year old he was working on a fishing boat after he dropped out of school. By age 25 he had gotten his far of lucky breaks and used his talent to climb to the mound in Yankee Stadium. Enough with the dance around it, this man was Mariano Rivera.
Rivera’s career was historic wether it was his unprecedented dominance later than the 7th inning or his insane post-season numbers which helped him and the New York Yankees win 5 World Series. Yet what really put him over the edge was his “cut fastball” or his cutter. It appeared to be a fastball but at the last second it would jump away and hitters could only spend time lunging and missing the historic pitch. The ball would move 2 inches or more in the time period when the hitter has less than tenth of a second to decide where the ball is to hit, for the entirety of his career and it helped him put up his historic numbers.
If you watch highlights from the 1997-2001, and 2009 World Series you can’t ignore Rivera’s presence in them all. In 2000 the work he did against my New York Mets made 1 year-old me cry (although I probably was already crying for baby reasons). Though he pitched for the crosstown rivals his entire career, I can’t say anything bad against Rivera. A pitchers job is to stop men from reaching base. No one did that better than Rivera did for the length of his career. The point of playing baseball is to win championships and he won 5 of them. The job of a closer is to finish a ballgame and he as an MLB-record 652 saves. Whatever he was asked to do, he did it with excellence. Plus his charitable work turns his body of work from a great pitcher into a great person.
Yesterday the Baseball Hall of Fame elected four new members of their museum in Cooperstown, New York. Chipper Jones, a Third Basemen for the Atlanta Braves, received 97.16% of the votes from the 422 votes that were cast this election cycle. In 2016 Ken Griffey Jr set the record with 99.32% of the votes from the 440 that voted that year. No one in Hall of Fame history has ever gotten 100%. In 2019 we have the best shot of hitting this record, or at least a player who may be the most deserving to reach that plateau. Is he the best player of all time? Probably not. Is he the best closer of all time? Yes. Is he the best post-season pitcher of all time? At-least Top 5. For those reasons there isn’t a single reason to vote against Rivera for the baseball hall of fame. If he doesn’t reach the 100-plateau, then it may be a sign that no player will ever reach that 100% barrier. It’s almost certain in June 2019 we will see the Sandman enter one last time to put to sleep one of the greatest careers of all time. It’s up to the Baseball Writers of America Association to decide if he truly is the most deserving of the Mr. 100 title.