Well, for at least another year, the only way Omar Vizquel is getting into the Hall of Fame is by buying a ticket.
Results were announced Tuesday of the annual voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In the second of theoretically 10 years on the ballot, Vizquel got 42.8 percent of the vote, still well short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but it was an increase over the 37 percent he got in his first year. Former Indian Manny Ramirez also saw his vote total increase year-over-year, from 22 percent to 22.8 percent. Travis Hafner’s stay on the hall ballot was a brief one. In his first year of eligibility, he received no votes, and will drop off the ballot.
Vizquel’s vote total will likely increase again next year. A cursory look at players being added to the ballot indicates a relatively weak class. Derek Jeter will probably be a first-ballot hall of famer, but the class doesn’t have any clear-cut favorites beyond that. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are just as divisive now as they were before, and they’ll be in their eighth year on the ballot. All in all, it bodes well for Vizquel’s chances.
The writers saw fit to induct four players this year, two in their first year on the ballot – Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay – and one in his last year of consideration by the writers, Edgar Martinez.
After more than 80 years of voting, the Hall finally has its first unanimous inductee. Yankees closer Rivera was named on all of the 425 ballots returned. His skill as a closer was unparalleled – someone noted on Twitter that more men have walked on the moon than scored a run off him in the postseason (and one of the latter category was Sandy Alomar in the 1997 American League Division Series) – but his unanimous induction leads to a serious question: Of all the players voted in by the writers, why was he the first unanimous inductee? Why not Ken Griffey Jr.? Or Tom Seaver? Or any of the litany of players that came before him that were probably just as deserving? (I asked the same question in 2016 when Steph Curry was the first unanimous NBA MVP. Fortunately, events that June rendered that conversation in need of no further thought, at least by me, anyway.)
Rivera will be inducted this summer with former teammate Mike Mussina. The two will always be joined in my mind because of an Indians-Yankees game at Jacobs Field one Sunday in July 2002. Mussina was throwing BBs, and the Indians looked ridiculous. Jim Thome homered off Mussina in the sixth, but Mussina left the game in line for the win after that inning. Rivera came on in the bottom of the ninth to nail down the save and promptly gave up back-to-back singles to John McDonald and Eddie Perez. Chris Magruder grounded out, but McDonald scored. Vizquel singled to advance the runner, and Ellis Burks hit an RBI double. All of a sudden, the Indians had the tying run at third in the person of Vizquel and just one out, with Thome coming to the plate. Rivera walked Thome to load the bases and Travis Fryman struck out, bringing up journeyman Bill Selby, with two outs and a one-run lead. Selby hit a grand slam that lives on in Indians lore.