Monday, September 23, 2013
The first unanimous Hall of Famer
By Buster Olney
MILWAUKEE -- Rachel Robinson said last year that she is so glad Mariano Rivera is the last player to wear No. 42, and the affection she has for him was apparent during Sunday’s ceremony, in the way that she held his face and looked into his eyes.
Jackie Robinson changed baseball and changed a nation, and he was at the heart of 10 years of extraordinary success for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was a great player, with a .311 batting average and .409 on-base percentage and an MVP award among four top-10 finishes, and he was a transformative figure in the game’s history. He became eligible for Hall of Fame induction in 1962, and he received 77.5 percent of the vote. In other words, he scraped by, getting the 75 percent needed for election.
Almost certainly, for some of the voters at that time, racism played a role in leaving him off the ballot. Maybe some didn’t think his playing career was worthy, in comparison to the records of others who had gained induction, like Babe Ruth. Or maybe some writers decided that no player would ever be listed on their respective ballots the first time they became eligible, a practice that has continued over the last half-century.
Ted Williams clubbed 521 homers, finished his career with an OPS of 1.116, with an OPS+ of 190 -- and when he became eligible for selection in 1966, 20 voters didn’t cast ballots for him.
Willie Mays, regarded as arguably the greatest player since World War II, hit 660 career homers, had 3,283 hits and scored 2,062 runs -- and 23 writers found a reason to not vote for him.
Hank Aaron, baseball’s home run king at the time he retired, wasn’t a unanimous selection. Nine writers left him off their ballots.
Cal Ripken set a record for consecutive games played, had 3,184 hits, 431 homers and transformed shortstop into an offensive position. Eight writers didn’t vote for him.
Maybe it’s time for this embarrassing tradition to end. Maybe it’s time for this small handful of writers who want to turn themselves into a speed bump at the gates of the Hall Fame to stop making themselves the story.
Tom Seaver received the highest vote percentage in Hall of Fame history, when he was named on 98.8 percent of the ballots. He should've been unanimous, and there's every reason that Greg Maddux should be this winter, when his name appears on the ballot for the first time, after a career of 355 victories and four Cy Young Awards. Tom Glavine, reaching the ballot for the first time, is another candidate for unanimous selection, having earned 305 victories.
And five years from now, there is no reason for any voter to not put a check mark beside Mariano Rivera’s name on a ballot, because his candidacy is pristine.
He is the greatest closer ever and will finish his career with about 50 more saves than Trevor Hoffman, and 150-plus more than the pitcher in third place in the category, Lee Smith.
Rivera is arguably the greatest postseason performer in baseball history, having thrown 141 innings -- the equivalent of two full seasons for a reliever -- with a 0.70 ERA.
Think about that. In those 141 innings, he has allowed exactly two -- count 'em, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Jay Payton, two -- home runs. Which is beyond absurd in its greatness. Rivera retires with five championship rings, and he was the closer on arguably the greatest team in history, the 1998 Yankees.
In an era when some writers are leaving some players off of their ballots because of the character clause, Rivera is finishing his career without a hint of scandal or bad blood or ugliness. He has been revered as a teammate and as an opponent, as we have seen this summer during his farewell tour.
The stories of writers invoking their personal vendettas into the MVP and Hall of Fame voting are legendary. But this needs to stop, and if the change doesn’t take place in the years to come with Maddux, Glavine or Pedro Martinez, then Rivera’s candidacy will be a good place to draw the line.
Note: My colleague Barry Stanton sent along this tidbit about the Seaver voting:
"Seaver was named on 425 of 430 ballots to post his all-time best 98.8 percent of the vote. Of the five ballots that did not name him, three were sent in completely blank to protest the exclusion of Pete Rose’s name. A fourth BBWAA member admitted he had left Seaver off unintentionally. Only one voter said he did it because Seaver was a first-time candidate."
Yankees fans said their farewells to Rivera and Andy Pettitte, writes Tyler Kepner. Joe Torre and others from the dynasty Yankees gathered to honor Rivera, as Roger Rubin writes. Mariano Rivera Sr. reflected on his son's journey.
Metallica played "Enter Sandman" live. One of my favorite stories collected for a book on the Yankees was about that song and how Rivera had no idea what it meant for years after they began playing it for him. When he was asked about an entrance song, his response -- in typical Rivera manner -- was, "Sure, whatever you guys want to do."
The Giants' coaching staff brought gifts for Rivera.
The Yankees lost, another blow to their playoff chances.
NL Central/wild card
• The Cardinals clinched a playoff spot Sunday afternoon, when Washington lost the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins, but a lot of the St. Louis players were not actually aware when it occurred. Trevor Rosenthal was talking with a reporter, and when he was asked about the playoff berth won more than an hour before, he replied that this was the first he’d heard about it.
They have bigger goals than a playoff spot.
• Late Saturday night, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny texted Chris Carpenter to tell him, again, how much it means to have him around for leadership, at a time when he’s not pitching. It’s often difficult for players to remain engaged after they suffer season-ending injuries, but Carpenter has continued to be a vocal force for the Cardinals in the dugout and clubhouse. Matheny said that he likes the edge that Carpenter provides, the competitiveness, such as when he barked at the outset of Saturday’s game, with a degree of sarcasm, that it’d be nice if the offense actually provided an early lead for the Cardinals.
• The Brewers think that Khris Davis is going to be a good hitter in the majors, and that he will be help the offense in the years to come. But because he has a weak throwing arm, he needs to play left field -- which has been inhabited by Ryan Braun. This is why the club has talked internally about shifting Braun to right field in the future.
• The Cardinals played poorly on Sunday night. Matt Holliday missed the game because of back spasms.
With Shin-Soo Choo out, Billy Hamilton got another start in center field, and he again got three hits in Cincinnati's rout of the Pirates; the Reds are two games behind the Cardinals in the standings.
• Jeff Locke was hit hard. Andrew McCutchen has had a strong finish to the season.
• The Nationals’ playoff chances took a hit in a doubleheader split.
Hunt for October
• Give the Indians credit: They are fully taking advantage of their season-ending schedule against terrible teams. They swept four games from the Astros over the weekend. Cleveland playoff tickets are going on sale this morning.
• A rookie helped the Rays in a big spot. But there was a downside, too, for Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings has an injured hamstring.
• Texas lost the final game of its series in Kansas City, a brutal loss.
Nelson Cruz feels bad about the Rangers’ collapse. As written here in July: The decision to use PEDs was rooted in self-interest, and so it was only logical for him to make the choice of self-interest and accept the suspension so it wouldn’t affect his free agency.
The Rangers can’t lose anymore, says Elvis Andrus.
• The Orioles had a terrible weekend in Tampa Bay. Baltimore hasn’t capture the winning chemistry of last year, writes Peter Schmuck.
• The Royals are probably not going to make the playoffs, but their walk-off win Sunday was a really great moment. For Justin Maxwell, this was a moment to live for.
• Oakland wrapped up the AL West. Bob Melvin has time to set up Oakland’s rotation.
The A’s are really, really dangerous.
• The Braves clinched the NL East with a couple of homers from Andrelton Simmons, who continues to show signs of someone who will have 25-homer power in the years ahead.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Phillies’ decision to hire Ryne Sandberg was a no-brainer, writes David Murphy. Ruben Amaro is counting on him.
Dings and dents
1. Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to play this week.
2. Jean Segura may play down the stretch.
3. Yonder Alonso’s season appears to be over.
• Felix Doubront made an impression in what will probably be his next-to-last appearance of the 2013 season.
• Some Blue Jays are in a world all their own.
• John McDonald is living the dream with the Red Sox.
• Austin Jackson’s bat and Miguel Cabrera’s health are the biggest questions for the Tigers. The injury will continue to hinder Cabrera in the postseason, writes Lynn Henning.
• The Twins had a terrible weekend in Oakland.
• Some young players helped the White Sox turn the page on a terrible defeat.
• The Astros’ free fall continues, and they are on the verge of having the worst record in franchise history.
• Mike Trout is an L.A. star to watch, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
• The Mariners ended their slide.
• The Mets climbed out of fourth place.
• Juan Pierre passed Joe DiMaggio in career hits.
• Meet the man who built the Pirates' analytics department.
• Zack Greinke shut down the Padres, but the Dodgers’ momentum is wobbly.
• Todd Helton had a really big day.
• Trevor Cahill is still chasing his potential.
• Andrew Cashner suffered a tough loss.
• Davey Johnson was honored before Sunday’s game.
• The story of the Reds’ batboy will be aired on "E:60" Tuesday night.
• The Tigers finished their home season with their second-best attendance ever.
• A statue is the ultimate tribute for Yaz, writes Dan Shaughnessy.
• A swarm of bees descended on the field in Anaheim. From Mike DiGiovanna's story:
The swarm settled in front of the right-center field wall, forcing players off the field and many fans in the right-field seats to evacuate -- on fan appreciation day, no less.
Lucky for the Angels, a fan with beekeeping experience in a dugout suite came to the rescue. Johnny Poto, who works for Honey Pacifica, a Long Beach company that sells honey products, took a stepladder and a box filled with honey to the outfield and lured enough bees for the game to resume.
"It was amazing," [C.J.] Wilson said. "That dude just came out of the stands and said, 'It's OK, I'm a beekeeper.' It was like a 'Seinfeld' episode."
There was another brief delay in the top of the fourth inning when Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun noticed a cluster of bees on the ground and began waving his arms and yelling to get the attention of first base umpire Jim Joyce.
"I thought they got rid of them all, but when I went out there, all the fans were yelling, 'They're on the ground!' " Calhoun said. "I'm looking around, I see them swarming, and I was out of there.
"There was a pile of bees, hundreds of them, right where they dropped some honey. They were all chomping on it. There were bees everywhere."
And today will be better than yesterday.