Joe Torre has his room reserved.
He knows he will be going to Cooperstown next July. The former Yankees manager wants to make sure he is there and he is hoping for a little history. No player has ever been elected to the Hall of Fame unanimously before, but Torre thinks that former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera should be this summer.
Monday, Rivera took the first step towards being immortalized. His name appeared on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019, which was released Monday. It is the first year Rivera is eligible for Hall of Fame voting.
“Two years in a row we’ve got a chance,” Torre said Thursday before his 16th annual Safe At Home gala, held amidst a snow storm at Cipriani’s. “With Mo and Derek Jeter. Those are two guys who could (get a unanimous vote.)
“I am a little biased, but that’s OK.”
Torre may be biased for the two players who contributed to that spectacular era of 90s Yankee dominance, but Rivera is a no-brainer to get the 75% of votes from eligible Baseball Writers Association of America members to get into the Hall on his first try.
The all-time saves leader at 652, Mariano is also considered one of the greatest postseason performers in baseball history. His resume certainly stands out on the ballot, but he is not the only Yankee making his first appearance for consideration.
Joining him on the ballot for the first time this year is Andy Pettitte, another Yankee whose legacy was forged in the fall in the Bronx. Torre hopes the lefty’s unbelievable success in the postseason will be recognized.
Pettitte was 256-153 with a 3.85 ERA in his 18-year career. He was 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 44 postseason starts, winning five World Series rings.
“I don’t think Andy’s going to get as much attention as he deserves, but what he did in the postseason, to me, carries,” Torre said. “It’s probably because I didn’t go to the postseason as a player and it took me a long time to get there as a manager, that I put more emphasis on what happens at that time of year.”
Pettitte’s admission that he used PEDs in 2002, however, muddies his place in the game and on the ballot.
Also on the ballot for the first time is two-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay — who died in a plane crash a year ago — Rockies’ slugger Todd Helton and Lance Berkman of the Astros.
Halladay is probably the only other player on the ballot with a chance to go in on the first try. He only won 203 games, however, which could lower his vote total.
There is no doubt that Rivera will be making a speech in Cooperstown in July; it’s just a matter of how high a percentage of the vote he can get. Ken Griffey, Jr. came the closest to a unanimous vote in 2016. He received 99.32 percent.
Not only does Rivera have the most saves in baseball history, but he won five World Series with the Yankees. Rivera had a 0.70 ERA in the postseason — in 141 innings pitched in the playoffs, he allowed just 11 earned runs.
Looking back, Torre laughed as he remembered how, at first, he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre had to push Rivera. Despite Rivera’s initial struggles as a closer, they told him that they were going to keep sending him out there until he figured it out.
And he did, because of his humble nature and hard work, Torre believes.
“You can’t create somebody’s character,” Torre said. “He is what he is and he was able to use that.”
Still, even after Rivera began to dominate, nobody realized how great he would end up being.
“Longevity is so suspect in that type of job,” Torre said, “because not only the physical part of it, but the emotional part of being in that situation all the time and being able to turn the page if it doesn’t work.”
Torre is convinced that there will never be another closer like Rivera.
“I don’t think so. I think it’s really tough to do what he did, especially as many postseason opportunities as he had,” Torre said “I don’t think anybody will get as many postseason opportunities.”