If ever there was a case for Major League Baseball breaking a rule, then this is it. I am referring to the rule that requires a player to wait five years after retiring to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot. For New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera , I would love to see Major League Baseball waive that rule and allow the voters to induct him into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
During a March 9 press conference in Tampa, Florida, Mariano Rivera announced his plans to retire after the 2013 season ends. MLB.com’s Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch covered Rivera’s press conference. Speaking to a group of reporters and in front of his team and family, Rivera gave the following statement regarding his decision: “It’s not so easy when you come to a decision like this. But I would love to say that it has been a privilege and honor to wear the pinstriped uniform that I have proudly worn for so many years in good times, great times. It has been wonderful.” It has also been a privilege and an honor just watching Rivera pitch so well for so long for my favorite American League team.
Mariano Rivera’s career
Mariano Rivera is already the all-time saves leader with 608 heading into 2013. He has a career record of 76-58 with a 2.21 ERA in 18 seasons, all with the Yankees. Even more amazingly, the 12-time All Star has a career WAR of 52.7. Considering his full seasons of 1996-2011, Rivera has an average WAR of 3.26. He has accounted for more than three wins per season over what a replacement closer would have given his team for an average of 64 games played per year over that span.
Rivera is also the all-time saves leader in the postseason with 42, 11 in the World Series. He accomplished this feat while pitching against only the best teams and holding them to a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings. Some could argue that Rivera got to pitch so much in the postseason only because of the team and era in which he played, but I argue that the Yankees do no play so many postseason games and win five World Series without him.
As a Yankee fan and baseball fan in general, I would find it the highest honor that Major League Baseball could bestow on a player of Mariano Rivera’s stature. In addition to his superstar performance on the field, Rivera shows true class off the field as well. In this day of non-stop mass media coverage of star athletes, we have never heard of anything negative reported on or even suggested about Rivera, not even the most minor of offenses. His name has not come up in any of the recent PED controversies.
Previous waiver of rule
This would not be the first time that Major League Baseball would have waived the five-year waiting period. Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, less than a year after his tragic death. Granted, Rivera’s pending retirement does not compare to the ultimate sacrifice that Clemente gave in effort to help his countrymen, but very few players deserve mention in the same Hall-of-Fame context as Clemente. Mariano Rivera is one of those very few.
Certain first-ballot induction in 2019
As much I wish it would happen, I know that Major League Baseball will not waive the five-year waiting period for Mariano Rivera, and I would not expect them to. Doing so would open far too many arguments about other players such as teammate Derek Jeter. My points are hypothetical. The rule exists, and Rivera needs to follow it. I take solace, though, in knowing that the best closer the game has ever seen will undoubtedly go into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2019. I am very happy to see Mariano Rivera come back after such a horrific injury and have a chance to end his career on his own terms. I wish him and the Yankees a great season, and I hope he gets one last shot at winning another World Series in pinstripes.
Bryan Hoch, Mariano Announces ’13 Will Be His Final Season, yankees.mlb.com, March 9, 2013.