It’s unanimous: Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer.
The retired Yankees legend, considered by many the greatest closer of all time, became the first player to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously when voting was announced Tuesday.
The all-time leader in saves — both during the regular season and playoffs — headlined a class that also includes another ex-Yankee, Mike Mussina, plus Edgar Martinez and Roy Halladay. They will join Harold Baines and Lee Smith, who were voted in by the Today’s Game Era committee last month.
Rivera received all 425 votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Ken Griffey Jr. held the previous mark for top percentage at 99.32 when he was on 437 of 440 ballots two years ago.
The 49-year-old Rivera spent his entire 19-year MLB career with the Yankees after signing with the organization for $2,500 out of his native Panama in 1990.
From those humble beginnings, Rivera worked his way up the Yankees system, starting off by giving up just one earned run in 52 innings for the Gulf Coast League Yankees in his first professional season.
His major league career didn’t start off quite as smoothly when he was called up on May 16, 1995 as a fill-in starter for the injured Jimmy Key. Rivera allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-0 loss. He struggled as a starter before being moved to the bullpen that September, when he began showing glimpses of what was to come.
Rivera went on to save 652 games in the regular season and 42 more in the postseason in a career that was as dominant as it was consistent.
He helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and was named World Series MVP in 1999, when the Yankees swept Atlanta and Rivera closed out three of the victories.
One of the only batters to have any success off Rivera and his cutter was Edgar Martinez, whose career 1.705 OPS versus Rivera is by far the best of any hitter who faced him more than six times.
Rivera was named an All-Star 13 times, including his final season in 2013, when he returned from the freak knee injury that cost him most of 2012 and finished his career in superb fashion.
Now, he’ll join the ranks in Cooperstown when he’s inducted at the ceremony in July, the first of the Core Four to be enshrined, with Derek Jeter certainly on deck next year.
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