WITHIN THIS YEAR'S HALLOWED CIRCLE OF HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES, ONE ALL-TIME GREAT IS AT THE CENTER
WHEN ALL 425 ballots submitted had check marks next to his name, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection to Cooperstown. It doesn't mean that he's the single greatest player, but it does mean that Rivera is the single player whose greatness could overcome the quirky loyalties and persnickety logic of baseball writers. (And, really, that's its own form of greatness.) When he's inducted in July, Rivera will stand alone in making history—and yet he won't be alone at all, with a career deeply linked to the other members of his induction class. One shared a team with him. One got a grip from him. And one should probably buy him dinner.
Starts by Mussina as a Yankee that were closed by Rivera
Mussina had 123 regular-season wins in his eight years as a Yankee. Many ended the same way—closed out by Rivera, who pitched in more games started by Mussina than any other teammate except Andy Pettitte. The two were a successful pair through Mussina's final season, 2008, when Rivera finished fifth and Mussina sixth in Cy Young voting.
Halladay's cutter percentage in 2009, up from 41.7 in 2008, after relearning the pitch from Rivera
Rivera's cutter was a gift from God, he said. But Halladay's cutter? A gift from Rivera. At the 2008 All-Star Game, Halladay—already plenty successful—asked the closer for some advice on his grip. Rivera obliged, and Halladay's cutter got a makeover. With his new weapon, Halladay took his game to a new level.
Martínez's OPS against Rivera, highest of all players (minimum 10 plate appearances)
Rivera faced 1,014 different batters in his career. Exactly 500 failed to record a hit. Then you have Martínez, who was 11 for 19 against Rivera, with two homers. Which is why, at the Hall of Fame press conference, Rivera quipped, "Edgar has to take me to dinner."