Unanimous. This word has come up a bit the past few days, often with the “Mo” emphasized. UNANIMOUS. It just looks right. Way better than those awful “IMMORTAL” shirts that were sold back in 2013, but even those had a certain charm for some reason. Actually, I know the reason: Mariano Rivera aka “Mo.”
On Tuesday, the greatest relief pitcher ever also became the first person ever to be elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame. You already knew that though. And most of us here would probably agree that if there was anyone worthy of getting that honor, Mariano’s as good a choice as anyone will ever find.
Rivera probably shouldn’t have been the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame. What I mean by that, is that it shouldn’t have taken this long for someone to be unanimously voted in. Just three votes shy, Ken Griffey Jr. came the closest but ultimately even he fell short along with so many others that were deserving. Honestly, it could’ve happened with Rivera too.
Mo was a lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer at least 10 years ago. The only question was how many votes he would get. No one had reached that level of baseball immortality yet, so why him? Jake Devin did a good job putting his greatness into context, but still a reliever being the first unanimous selection seemed anything but a sure thing.
Forget that Mo was the greatest at his position ever and nobody even comes close. Forget that meme that even Derek Jeter referenced, that more people have walked on the moon than have earned a run off Rivera in the postseason. Forget all of his achievements, there was definitely going to be at least one person who left him off the ballot.
It could’ve been a salty Boston beat writer, or simply someone who believes that because others haven’t gotten unanimously, Rivera shouldn’t either. I’ve seen some people argue that he shouldn’t have been unanimous because he was “just” a relief pitcher. Let me tell you, those reasons and any other similar reasons are simply dumb. People have a right to their opinion, but I have the right to judge and ridicule opinions as ridiculous as those.
The only “acceptable” reason to leave Rivera off the ballot is because of the flawed system. This is where a writer would take away a vote from someone who’s a lock, like Rivera, and give it to someone else that they want to help stay on the ballot. They need to do this because writers can only vote for a maximum of 10 players each year. The voting system is also simply dumb.
That Mariano’s unanimity was even in question, that Griffey Jr. and others before him weren’t unanimous are all indications of a larger problem. The Hall of Fame voting system is broken. Rivera’s unanimous selection is a step in the right direction, but it should never have even been in question.
I don’t know what the perfect system would be, but I’d start by taking away the number of people writers could vote for. I’d also try and figure out if there’s a better voting group than just media members who could use their own bias to skew the vote. This piece isn’t about that though.
Even the salty Boston writer who was going to abstain from voting because he didn’t want to vote for Rivera decided to cast his vote. And he voted for Mo. While that was more about wanting to vote for David Ortiz, it still reflects on Mo’s ability to win almost anyone over.
We often hear the expression “and an even better person” but it might be the most applicable here. I’ve never met Rivera (unless you count me shouting “I love you!” at him during the 2009 World Series parade), but my favorite stories about him have almost nothing to do with his pitching.
While retirement tours can seem to drag, Rivera’s was something special.
A few years ago, with retirement approaching, he asked Jason Zillo, the Yankees’ director of communications, how he could do something thoughtful and memorable in his final season.
Rivera ultimately decided he wanted to express appreciation for the many people in baseball who were not highly paid players, and to learn more about their lives and work.
“I just want to say thank you,” Rivera said in an interview last week. “I’ve been so blessed to be able to play this game, but we wouldn’t be able to do it without the help and support of all these people behind the scenes. They make baseball work as much as we do.”
It took me so long to find the right passage to highlight from that article, because it as all so good and so Mo. Please go and read the whole thing. Then there are just these small little tidbits, but they all just go into the person he is:
This is who Mariano Rivera is. On the day he set the All Time Saves record he stopped his press conference to congratulate me for becoming a father. https://t.co/F7BoVsCMs3— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) January 22, 2019
One of the things I enjoyed about Rivera was that he would gladly show his cutter grip to just about anyone who asked — reporters, teammates, opponents, whoever. It didn’t matter, no one else else could ever replicate what he did with it.— Emma Span (@emmaspan) January 23, 2019
Even something as minute as signing something for fans, Mo goes so far above and beyond that even Derek Jeter noticed:
Have you ever seen a Mariano Rivera autograph? Google it when you get a chance. With a lot of guys, their signatures are these quick little scribbles. But Mariano, man, if he’s signing something for you, he takes his time. He puts care into it, until he gets it just right — like with everything else he does. To me, right there … that’s Mo.
There’s a reason that he refers to him as a “Hall of Fame person” and that’s because he is.
Having a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee was long overdue, but if the voters are going to trend in the right direction, Mariano Rivera’s a good place to start. It’s not just about how great of a person he was or how great of a player he was. It’s about how great of a person and player he was. He was simply the best. The Greatest Of All Time.
Congratulations, Mo. Nobody deserves it more than you. UNANIMOUS.