In 2019, Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And well deserved. He was one of the most dominant players in MLB history, and a 5-time World Series winner to boot. If anyone was going to be the first unanimous selection, he deserved the distinction.
Up until last year, 16 players had gotten over 95% of the vote, with Ken Griffey, Jr. being the highest at 99.32% (2016). But nobody had gotten 100%. I don’t recall anyone being real upset or shocked when someone didn’t get in unanimously. It was widely accepted that it was just something that didn’t happen. And everyone seemed somewhat ok with that.
Then Mariano Rivera was inducted unanimously. That seems to have changed the way we think about this, and more specifically, may have changed our expectations.
Earlier this week, Derek Jeter was left off ONE ballot, meaning he was on 99.74% of the ballots. This was the 2nd highest percentage in history (behind Rivera of course). The funny thing is, a lot of people are pissed about this. They think he is deserving of the honor. Deserving of getting in on his first ballot? For sure. But unanimous? I am not so sure. I personally am indifferent about it. I don’t think he deserves to be 1 of only 2 players in history to be unanimous, but with his resume I would have been fine with it.
So back to the Rivera Effect. Had his vote not been unanimous last year, would many people be upset about Jeter not receiving 100% of the votes this year? I am going to assume no. Just because Rivera did it, does not mean this should be the new normal for top-level players. It didn’t happen in the first 83 years of Hall of Fame voting…why should we expect it to be the new normal?
Jeter had an incredible career, no doubt about it. But was he more deserving than some of the others who didn’t receive a unanimous vote? Meaning, every other player in the Hall of Fame, sans Rivera? Absolutely not. If players like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Greg Maddux, etc. didn’t get in unanimously, I don’t think we can EVER get mad about any other players being left off a ballot or two. Can we?
I think we all need to level-set our expectations and get back to accepting the fact that this will only happen on very, very rare occasions. This is not a participation award, this distinction needs to be reserved for the absolute best of the best. Agreed?
On a related note, how the eff did Larry Walker get into the Hall of Fame?!?! It’s not as egregious as Harold Baines getting in, but come on. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the greats, not the very-goods! Oh, and Curt Schilling is still not in? That is pathetic.
Now, tell me what you think!!!