Dan's Dugout: Pitchers to Pace Hall's Next Class • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Pitchers to Pace Hall’s Next Class

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CHARLOTTE, NC — Pitchers are poised to dominate the next Hall of Fame election.

Career saves leader Mariano Rivera is set for Cooperstown in 2019
Credit: Bill Menzel

In fact, the Class of 2019 could even have three from one team: Mariano Rivera, the lifetime leader in saves, might be accompanied by Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, two of the starters he helped during his 19-year career with the New York Yankees.

Also expected to reach or pass the 75 per cent plateau required for admission are Curt Schilling, a postseason star with three different teams, and the late Roy Halladay, one of a handful of hurlers to win Cy Young Awards in both leagues.

Mussina, a righthander who began his 270-win career with the Baltimore Orioles won 20 games only once – in his final season – while Pettitte prospered in the postseason, winning a record 19 times in October action.

Schilling and Rivera were also exceptional in the playoffs, winning several postseason MVP awards while piling up World Series rings. The former had an 11-2 mark when the pressure was greatest and no closer could match Mariano’s 0.70 earned run mark during that time.

Mariano Rivera relied on a single pitch to rack up records in relief

Both Schilling and Halladay helped the Philadelphia Phillies succeed where others failed, though Schilling was better known for his work with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox.

He and Randy Johnson, already in Cooperstown, formed a formidable 1-2 punch that deprived Rivera and the Yankees of a world championship in 2001.

Four players were chosen this year, with a fifth falling a few votes short. Edgar Martinez, who topped 70 per cent, is likely to crack the varsity at Cooperstown next time around, giving the Hall its first full-time designated hitter. But pitchers should still dominate.

There’s even been talk that Rivera, a soft-spoken, religious man who was universally respected, could become the first unanimous selection. Ken Griffey, Jr. got 99.32 per cent of the vote in 2016 but was omitted from three ballots.

Controversy continues to accompany the voting like a shadow. Hank Aaron was left off nine ballots in 1982 and Willie Mays was omitted from 23 – that’s right, 23 – in 1979.

Next year, some writers will submit a blank ballot as a protest of the Pete Rose exclusion, ignore Rivera because of a prejudice against closers, or assume that he’s such a lock that the 10-member ballot is better served with other names. It’s always something!

Edgar Martinez will be the first DH in Cooperstown

Beyond Edgar Martinez, the long-time Seattle Mariners star, the 2019 vote could also elevate former Braves Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield, and Andruw Jones, sluggers who missed election this year but have a loud chorus of supporters. Jones won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, one fewer than shortstop Omar Vizquel, during a much shorter career.

Vizquel could follow the footsteps of Luis Aparicio, Ozzie Smith, Nellie Fox, Red Schoendienst, and Bill Mazeroski as infielders enshrined primarily because of their defense.

This year’s Cooperstown class will be inducted on July 29 at the Clark Sports Center, about a mile from the Hall of Fame. The six inductees are Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Veterans Committee choices Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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