The 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced Jan. 22 and this year's BBWAA ballot includes only one slam dunk, no doubt about it surefire Hall of Famer: longtime Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera is the greatest reliever in baseball history and, as of this writing, he's received 100 percent of the vote on 87 known ballots according to Ryan Thibodaux's tracker.
Rivera will not receive a vote from every Hall of Fame voter, however. Bill Ballou of the Telegram & Gazette explained he will not vote for Rivera because saves are overrated. Ballou starts his piece by saying "Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history," then adds:
Rivera was 82-60 with a 2.21 ERA and 652 saves, all but 10 of his 1,115 games a reliever. For most of those games, though, he was presented with "clean innings," tools designed to make it as easy as possible for the closer. He didn't have to face batters a third, or even a second, time around. He rarely came in with men on base. He didn't have to conserve energy and pitches to stay in the game for as long as possible to allow the closer to get a save.
He was great in the ninth inning, agreed, but if he was that great why not bring him with the bases loaded and nobody out in the seventh or eighth? Why not use him as a starter?
Saves are indeed overrated — why is protecting a three-run lead in the ninth considered equal to protecting a one-run lead in the ninth? — but Rivera's greatness transcends his MLB record 652 saves. His career 205 ERA+ — that is a ballpark adjusted metric in which 100 is league average — is far and away the best among pitchers with 1,000 big league innings. Clayton Kershaw is a distant second with a 159 ERA+.