By Max Druckman
Every summer, for one memorable weekend in July, baseball enthusiasts from around the globe gather in the sleepy town of Cooperstown, New York to see their favorite players inducted into baseballs iconic Hall of Fame. The 2019 class of inductees did not disappoint. This elite group of athletes were stellar over their Major League careers, dazzling on the mound, in the field, and at the plate.
Mariano Rivera: Rivera, a right-handed relief pitcher, dominated over 19 years in the MLB from 1995-2013 and was voted in his first time on the bal- lot. His entire career was spent in pinstripes with the New York Yankees predominantly as their “closer”. Rivera holds a unique distinction among Hall of Famers. He was the first player inducted in unanimously with 100% of the votes. Additionally, he is only the second Panamanian Hall of Famer, after Rod Carew. Over the course of his illustrious career, “Mo” won 5 World Series titles and appeared in 13 All-Star Games. Rivera was at the core of the Yankees’ dynasty and rarely let runners on base in postseason games. Proving his postseason dominance, he won a World Series MVP and an American League Championship Series MVP. His “cutter” baffled hitters and was virtually unhittable. Rivera is currently the all time leader in saves, with 652. Moreover, he won 5 Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards. He is undeniably the best closer of all time and joins a legacy of Yankee greats in the Hall.
Edgar Martinez: Martinez spent 18 years with the Seattle Mariners, from 1987-2004. After years of teetering on the edge, Martinez was finally elected in on his tenth and final year of eligibility with 85.4% of the vote. A fan favorite in the Emerald City, Martinez was a 7-time All-Star and won 5 Silver Slugger Awards for being the best hitter at his position in the American League. Edgar started off as a third baseman but shifted to designated hitter as his career moved on. Martinez was a part of the golden era of Mariners’ baseball, in which they had the winningest regular season in MLB history and made a plethora of playoff appearances. Martinez had brilliant career numbers with a lifetime .312 batting average, 309 home runs, 2,247 hits, and 1,261 runs batted in. Additionally, he won two batting titles. Martinez was the first true superstar designated hitter and revolutionized how the position was viewed. Baseball’s best team should be thrilled that it is adding a slugger like Martinez.
Mike Mussina: A dominant force in one of baseball’s toughest divisions, the American League East, for 18 years, “Moose” played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1991-2000 and the New York Yankees from 2001-2008. A 5-time All-Star, Mussina also won 7 Gold Glove Awards, for the best defensive player, as a starting pitcher. Moose won a total of 270 games, good for 33rd all time. Furthermore, the righty had a 3.68 career earned run average (ERA). Mussina is also twentieth all-time in career strikeouts, with 2,813. Mussina’s last season was one of his best. It was his only 20 game-winning season and he had a 3.37 ERA, going out on top. Mussina was elected on his sixth ballot, with 76.7% of the vote. Moose was so successful with both of his teams that he opted to not have either Baltimore or New York’s logo on his Hall of Fame plaque cap.
Roy Halladay: Halladay’s story is a tragic one, as the beloved hurler was killed in a plane crash on November 7, 2017, at the young age of 40. The righty was known as “Doc” throughout his career. Halladay played 16 seasons in the MLB, spending 12 with the Toronto Blue Jays and 4 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Halladay’s family requested that the Hall not put a team logo on his plaque. An 8-time All-Star, Doc also garnered 2 Cy Young Awards, for the best pitcher in his league. Halladay is one of only 6 pitchers to win the award in both the National and American Leagues. Doc led the league in wins twice, amassing a total of 203 “w”s. Doc also had a 3.38 lifetime ERA. A true workhorse, Halladay led the league in complete games a whopping 7 times and in total innings pitched 4 times. Moreover, Halladay threw a perfect game on May 29, 2010, against the Florida Marlins. This means that he pitched the entire game and did not allow a single hitter to reach base. Later that year, on October 6, in his first ever playoff start, Halladay no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in game 1 of the National League Divisional Series. Even though he was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation and had outstanding statistics, Doc will be most remembered as a great family man. He will be truly missed.
Lee Smith: A towering presence on the mound, “Big Lee” Smith was 6 foot 5 inches and 220 pounds. He played 18 seasons in the bigs, from 1980-1997, turning out for 8 different clubs. Playing mostly for the Chicago Cubs, Smith also pitched for the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds, and the Montreal Expos. A 7-time All-Star and 3-time recipient of the Rolaids Relief pitcher of the year Award, Smith revolutionized the closing position. He finished with 478 saves, good for third of all time, and proved that closing pitchers an integral part of Major League rosters. Furthermore, Smith had an exceptional 3.03 ERA. The call to the Hall eluded Smith for 22 years, as he spent all of the then maximum 15 years on the BBWAA ballot. He was finally elected two years later by the veterans committee. Big Lee will honor his first Major League home and enter the Hall with a Cubs’ hat. The hall will be glad to have Smith finishing their games.
Harold Baines: A left-handed slugger, Harold Baines played for 22 years in the bigs. Spending most of his time with the Chicago White Sox, Baines also laced up his cleats for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, and Cleveland Indians. A 6-time All-Star, Baines also won the Silver Slugger Award for the best hitter at his position 1 time. In addition, Baines had stellar statistics, including 384 home runs, 2,866 hits, 1,628 runs batted in, and a .289 batting average. Early in his career, Baines played as a right-fielder. However, as his career progressed, Baines became a designated hitter. He won the designated hitter of the year award in 1987 and 1988. He was one of the first premier designated hitters in the MLB. A legend with the Windy City’s south siders, Baines was so loved by the White Sox that his jersey number 3 was retired prior to his formal retirement from professional baseball.
The Future: For the 2020 ballot, I predict that two world series champions will enter the hall; star pitcher Curt Schilling and former New York Yankees superstar shortstop Derek Jeter. In the meantime, there is lots to look forward to this MLB season. Stars such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper playing for new teams, revamped rosters such as the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, and fierce title races between powerful teams such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are sure to provide excitement for baseball fans throughout the season. Spring is in the air….”play ball!”