Murti: Mariano Rivera Was Perfection, But Mike Mussina Also Deserving Of Hall Of Fame

Sweeny Murti
January 23, 2019 - 8:19 am

There was nothing as close to perfection as watching Mariano Rivera close out baseball games for the Yankees. So it was never more fitting to have Rivera become the first player ever unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. 

Who could find any argument against voting for the best closer ever? There really wasn’t even a close second. Mariano had the brilliance, the dominance, the longevity and the championship rings that separate him from all others.

The dignity and grace we’ve all witnessed and spoken about was all true, and with barely a kernel of exaggeration with it. His devotion to his craft and his desire to win made him popular inside his clubhouse. His demeanor and workmanlike mentality made him respected throughout every other clubhouse. And with fans and media, his kindness, humility and accessibility won everyone over.

Mariano knew he wasn’t perfect, but in his competitive soul he always strove for it.  Tuesday night he found it, and there is no arguing his worthiness. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor a player can receive, but I feel like the Hall received a higher honor by opening its doors to Mariano.

First impressions have never been Mike Mussina’s strong suit. So, it’s kind of fitting that it took six tries on the ballot for Mussina to crack the 75% threshold needed to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

When first meeting Mussina, I know several teammates and reporters, including me, who didn’t quite get who he was or how to talk to him. We figured it out. And once you did figure it out, you knew that Mussina had a lot to offer.

MORE: 5 Greatest Mo-ments In Mariano Rivera's Hall Of Fame Career

When you looked at Mussina’s career, the first impression of many is “Not Hall Worthy.”  But take a closer look and you see how he was consistently excellent, even if he was never staggeringly brilliant.

I have believed Mussina’s career sum was better than its parts since he retired after the 2008 season with 270 wins. I also knew that once the deck was cleared of his award-winning contemporaries (like Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and all) that his career would come under sharper focus. And when it did, when you take into account the era and ballparks in which he pitched and how massively efficient he was over a long period of time, it was going to add up to a ticket to Cooperstown.

Mussina’s candidacy was good. It became better by looking at what’s become of the starting pitcher in today’s game. The value he provided year after year is what finally stood out, long after that first impression.