Mariano Rivera Shouldn’t be the First Unanimous Baseball Hall of Famerby Nick Friar January 24, 2019 0 comments
One of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s last strongholds has finally been broken down. Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer, receiving 100 percent of the vote, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat.
Most players elected to the Hall were crucial pieces in the era they played. Among those from the late 20th and early 21st century are Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, and Frank Thomas. All vital to accurately telling the story of baseball in the 1990s and early 2000s.
However, there are a select few a tier above the rest. Those who transcend Major League Baseball itself. Rivera falls into this category, thusly earning the rightful title as a “Unanimous Hall of Fame Selection.” But because the original Hall of Fame class had no unanimous selections, there has not been one in the game’s history. Until now, of course.
But Rivera should not have been the first one. There are all-time legends like Bob Gibson, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, among others, who for some reason or another did not receive a full stamp of approval.
From Rivera’s era alone there were four players who should have been unanimous selections.
Greg Maddux (Class of 2014, 97.2 percent of the vote) would have made sense as the first unanimous vote-getter. Over his 5,008 1/3 innings, Maddux posted a 3.16 career ERA and struck out 3371 batters, helping him win 355 games. There’s a case to be made for him as the best pitcher to ever walk this Earth between his numbers, second-to-none control combined with his mid to high-80s fastball.
Randy Johnson (Class of 2015, 97.3 percent) narrowly edged out Maddux, in terms of percentage, a year after the righty got in. Johnson might not have had a Hall of Fame mug shot, but that played well with his deadly arm. (Literally deadly—remember that bird?) Like Maddux, Johnson pitched in an era where the average hitter’s forearms were the size of his legs combined. Even so, he managed to strike out 4875 batters in over 4135 1/3 innings and won 303 games. Again, another candidate for the greatest pitcher ever.
Also, a member of the Class of 2015, Pedro Martinez (91.1 percent) garnered the lowest number of votes of the three. Only having 219 wins hurt, but he did spend four years with the lowly Montreal Expos, not to mention he played four fewer years in the bigs than Johnson and five less than Maddux. But Martinez had the lowest ERA of the trio (2.93) and struck out 3154 hitters over 2827 1/3 innings. He had an electric fastball, but Pedro’s movement and feel for each of his pitches were what gave hitters nightmares. Despite the gap in votes, Martinez is in the same conversation as Johnson and Maddux for G.O.A.T.
Ken Griffey Jr. (Class of 2016, 99.3 percent), however, may be the most maddening of them all. Playing in the same era as the trio of aces, Griffey was never linked to performance-enhancing drugs but still stood tallest above his contemporaries. The king of sweet-swinging lefties finished with 630 homers, a .907 OPS and 10 Gold Gloves. Not to mention his marketability, which was unparalleled within the game—and still has yet to be matched.
There are many more outside this era who fall in line these four that could not do what Rivera did. But maybe that’s due to the fact that truly no one has ever accomplished what Mo did.