Mariano Rivera has just become the first player to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by every single voter. No one voted against him. There was no question that Mariano was a hall of famer, we just weren’t sure that he would get all the votes. Well, he did and he certainly deserves the honor.
After a win, Rivera acted like he had expected to win all along and the only possible outcome was in fact to win. After a loss, he showed no frustration but simply acknowledged that the other team played better on that particular day.
In this way, Rivera never let his emotions get the best of him. He was a very level-headed pitcher and this certainly helped him in the many pressure situations he was called into.
Fans remember Rivera as a gracious and respectful competitor. He was not a gloater or a show-boater. But was this really all there was to the great pitcher?
The Real Rivera
Mariano had a tougher side. He had to. His numbers speak to an unbelievable confidence in his abilities. He pitched an incredible 141 innings in the postseason and only allowed two home runs the whole time.
The first home run he allowed was against Sandy Alomar Jr., the catcher for the Indians. The Yankees went on to lose that game, the home run being a big reason why. There was talk after that, that Rivera might lose his confidence after a blunder like this. Over the next season, reporters repeatedly asked him about this. They always got the same measured responses.
In a more intimate locker room interview Rivera finally said what he really thought. He wasn’t worried about the home run because in his view, it was he who really made it happen. He threw a mid 90s fastball over the outside corner of the plate and Alomar Jr. merely stuck his bat out there and made contact. In fact, the ball barely went over the right field fence. Paul O’Neal almost caught it before it fell into the first row.
So no, Rivera was no worried.
Rivera’s Mental Capability
Any pitcher can tell you that pitching is very much a mental game. Sure, you have to have the right stuff and be able to put the ball where you want it. But keeping your composure on the mound is the most important thing. The game revolves around the pitcher. Every play begins with him. If he lets his mistakes get in his head, he is lost and so is the team.
Rivera was the master of not letting anything get to him. He was so good at this that he convinced himself that Alomar Jr.’s homerun was actually his own accomplishment. He really gave his opponents no credit. While Rivera may not have been totally correct in his assumptions, his way of thinking produced a supreme confidence that helped him win games and propelled him to be the best playoff pitcher of all time.
Rivera has done something really special by entering the Hall Of Fame as he has done, not a single voter voting against him. It may be a long time before we see someone as good again. The kind of dominance that Rivera had only comes around once in a while.