Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina have all been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America, per tonight’s announcement from Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson. Notably, Rivera becomes the first player in history to be unanimously selected into baseball immortality, as his name was checked on each of this year’s 425 ballots. Both Martinez and Halladay were selected on 85.4 percent of this year’s ballots, while Mussina narrowly made his way into Cooperstown with a 76.7 percent rate of selection.
Rivera was a lock to go into Cooperstown, though most expected that he’d still fall shy of unanimous enshrinement. That won’t be the case, however, as Major League Baseball’s all-time leader in saves (652), games finished (952) and ERA+ (205) was too clear a Hall of Famer for any voter to ignore. In addition to those three staggering numbers, Rivera retired with an 82-60 record, a 2.21 ERA, and an 1173-to-286 K/BB ratio in 1283 2/3 innings of regular-season work. Rivera was named to a whopping 13 All-Star teams over the course of a career that spanned parts of 19 seasons.
Of course, much of Rivera’s legacy is tied to his postseason heroics; the game’s premier reliever ratcheted up his penchant for domination in October (and November), pitching to a ludicrous 0.70 ERA with 110 strikeouts against 21 walks in 141 postseason innings. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason contests and racked up a workload that was roughly equivalent to two full regular seasons, and he somehow managed to limit opponents to just 11 earned runs in that time. He won five World Series rings with the Yankees and was named both an ALCS MVP and a World Series MVP during his illustrious career. It’s rare that players can be described with absolutism in a game as subjective as baseball, but it’s virtually unequivocal that Rivera is the best relief pitcher the game has ever seen.
Halladay, tragically, was taken from this world far sooner than his family, friends, former teammates and legions of fans could’ve imagined. The former Blue Jays and Phillies ace, a two-time Cy Young winner and eight-time All-Star, was killed when his single-engine plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Nov. 7, 2017. Halladay’s widow, Brandy, offered the following statement on behalf of her late husband:
Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is every boy’s dream. To stand on that stage in Cooperstown and deliver your acceptance speech in front of baseball’s most enthusiastic fans is something that every baseball player aspires to achieve, and Roy was no exception. But that was not Roy’s goal. It was not his goal to have those three letters after his signature. His goal was to be successful every single day of his 16-year career. Tonight’s announcement is the end result of that effort. If only Roy were here to personally express his gratitude for this honor, what an even more amazing day this would be. I would like to extend special thanks to the baseball writers for the overwhelming percentage of votes that Roy received in his first year on the ballot. It means so much to me, Braden and Ryan.
It’d be difficult to argue that Halladay isn’t a deserving candidate. Beyond his Cy Youngs and All-Star nods, the right-hander pitched to a 203-105 record with a career 3.38 ERA, a 2117-to-592 K/BB ratio, 20 shutouts and 67 complete games. At a time when baseball was moving further and further away from allowing pitchers to throw a full nine innings, Halladay stood out as a throwback who led the league in complete-game efforts in seven of his 16 seasons — including five in a row from 2007-11. Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs both valued his brilliant career at 65 wins above replacement. And while Halladay doesn’t have the lengthy postseason track record of Rivera — he logged a 2.37 ERA in 38 playoff frames — I’d be remiss not to mention the masterful no-hitter he pitched against the Reds in his postseason debut back in 2010. Halladay issued just one walk in an otherwise perfect showing, putting on a masterful display and further establishing himself as a big-game pitcher on a national stage.
The 56-year-old Martinez will be a controversial addition for some onlookers, given that he spent the vast majority of his career as a designated hitter. There’s little denying, however, that the Mariners franchise icon is one of the best pure hitters Major League Baseball has ever seen. Martinez won two American League batting titles, thrice led the league in on-base percentage and hit better than .300 in 10 separate seasons.
In all, Martinez retired as a .312/.418/.515 hitter with 309 home runs, 514 doubles, 15 triples, 2247 hits, 1219 runs scored and 1261 runs batted in. While his counting stats fall shy of what some consider to be Hall of Fame benchmarks (e.g. 500 home runs, 3000 hits), Martinez was consistently elite on a rate basis right up until the final season of his career. The seven-time All-Star was 47 percent better than a league-average hitter in the estimation of park- and league-adjusted stats like OPS+ and wRC+ (147 in each). Beyond that, he was the pinnacle of consistency, tallying an OPS+ of 140 or better in all but three seasons from 1990-2003 (with those three seasons including an injury-shortened ’93 campaign, the strike-shortened ’94 campaign and a 2002 season in which he posted a 139 OPS+).
Like Martinez, the 50-year-old Mussina perhaps falls shy of some long-considered “standard” Hall of Fame benchmarks, but he was a consistently excellent pitcher during the game’s all-time offensive peak. “Moose” retired with a 270-153 record, a 3.68 ERA and a 2813-to-785 K/BB ratio in 3562 2/3 innings of regular-season ball. A five-time All-Star who won seven Gold Glove Awards and had six top-five Cy Young finishes, Mussina was a true workhorse for the Orioles and Yankees over an 18-year career that included a decade-long peak during which he posted a cumulative 129 ERA+. Mussina topped 200 innings in nine straight seasons from 1995-2003, and he padded his Hall of Fame resume with another 139 2/3 innings of 3.42 ERA ball in the postseason.
Some may be surprised to be reminded that Mussina never won a World Series, as he joined the Yankees for the first time in the season immediately following their 1998-2000 threepeat and retired a year before their ’09 return to the top of the mountain. Nevertheless, Mussina was a consistent rotation stalwart who thrived in the midst of the steroid era while spending the entirety of his career pitching in the game’s toughest division.