On January 22nd, 2019, shortly after 6:00 PM EST, Major League Baseball history was made. Which is fitting as pitchers and catchers are set to report in less than a month.
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was inducted to the MLB Hall of Fame on Tuesday, along with 3 other baseball greats, but the historic part of it is how he got in.
425 of the most highly regarded Baseball writers voted, and 425 voted for Mariano Rivera. This makes Rivera the first unanimous inductee into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The stats and accolades speak for themselves: 3× All-Star, 5× World Series champion, World Series MVP, ALCS MVP, 5× AL Rolaids Relief Man Award, 3× Delivery Man of the Year, AL Comeback Player of the Year, 3× MLB saves leader, MLB record 652 career saves, New York Yankees No. 42 retired, and Monument Park honoree. However, all these pale in comparison to his greatest stat of all, his postseason success.
Rivera had an 8-1 career postseason record to the tune of a 0.70 Earned Run Average (ERA) in 141.0 innings pitched. He also tallied 110 postseason strikeouts along the way. Those numbers showed two things, dominance and ice cold veins.
However, it was not Rivera’s stats that solidified his 100% ballot. It was how he went about his business; nothing flashy and everyone knew what was coming, the cut fastball, better known as the cutter. What were batters going to do about it? Mariano answered that for them more often than not. Nothing.
Cutter after cutter resulted in dozens, if not hundreds, of broken bats for left-handed hitters and outs for Rivera and the Yankees for nearly two decades. Broken lumber became so synonymous with Rivera that the Minnesota Twins gifted him a broken bat rocking chair during the 2013 Yankees season which, in part, served as the Mariano Rivera retirement tour.
Switch hitters, hitters who bat from both sides of the plate, would bat RIGHT-HANDED in hopes of avoiding a broken bat via the cutter. I remember one time specifically with New York Mets infielder José Reyes some years back now.
Imagine being that dominate that you made players chose to face you with a disadvantage, as batting left-handed against right-handed pitching is almost always preferred.
Fellow Yankees great Derek Jeter wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune simply titled Mo, Rivera’s nickname, the day of his induction. In the quick three minute read, Jeter recollects on the greatness that was Mariano and the pleasure of getting to witness it from the same dugout. This jaw-dropping piece may help some understand the level of greatness we are/were dealing with here.
“According to NASA, 12 people have had the privilege of walking on the moon. According to Baseball Reference, 11 people have scored an earned run off of Playoff Mo,” said Jeter in his Players’ Tribune post.
I remember as a young kid growing up in the Bronx New York, waking up countless mornings and going to the park, backyard, playground, or any place where I could throw a baseball with my dad. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of pitches thrown as my father stood, well bent, to be on the receiving end of those pitches. Pretty sure he got tired of squatting eventually and had me throwing at a wall near our home. Most of those pitches were one, in particular; the cutter.
I remember staying up way past my bedtime, (don’t tell my mom please), to hear the beginning of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica if the Yanks were at home. The camera quickly shifts over to a tracking shot of number 42 as he made his way on the mound. I, no, we all knew the game was more than likely over.
Mariano Rivera apologizes for the pun; 100 percent exemplifies everything associated with being a Hall of Famer. From the Stats, Stories, and Likeability, he carries himself perfectly. Congratulations Mariano Rivera on your latest efforts to truly put a close (another pun) on your illustrious career. Thank you for giving that kid from the Bronx, someone to aspire to be.
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