Mariano Rivera was baseball’s first unanimously-selected Hall of Famer. The wait for No. 2 may not take long, and it may be the man who wore No. 2 who pulls it off.
Cooperstown’s Class of 2020 will undoubtedly be led by Derek Jeter, the universally respected and highly accomplished shortstop throughout the duration of teammate Rivera’s career with the New York Yankees. With Rivera and his worthy peers just enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame over the weekend, attention turns to the next set of ballplayers who can receive the sport’s highest honor.
Voting among the Baseball Writers Association of America for next year’s prospective group won’t come until after the current season ends, with the results expected to be announced in the traditional late-January window.
Now that Rivera has broken the unanimity barrier, thanks to his status as an incredible relief pitcher, a respected teammate and revered human being, the door is open to more greats of the game whose names obviously belong alongside the greats.
Enter Jeter, a player who hit traditional Hall of Fame benchmarks with the pedigree of being the longtime captain of the greatest baseball dynasty of the past 60 years. He won five World Series rings alongside Rivera and was the face of the Yankees, the sport’s premier franchise, for nearly two decades. His 3,465 hits are more than all but five men in history. Many of those hits, and those that came in the postseason, were of the clutch variety. His defensive highlight reel includes some of the most iconic moments of the past 25 years.
Jeter’s potential for a voters consensus will be the talk of the winter, but it’s not the only story line in play. Among his fellow first-timers are former teammates Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu, neither of whom appears likely to reach Cooperstown, but could garner enough support to stay on the ballot past year 1. The same goes for Cliff Lee, the former AL Cy Young winner whose brilliant career ended prematurely due to injury.
Next year is the last opportunity for the writers to elect Larry Walker in his 10th and final year of eligibility. The former NL MVP put up monster numbers in the thin air of Denver for the Colorado Rockies in the 1990s, but his career was hampered by injuries. His support spiked from 34.1 percent to 54.6 percent of the vote from 2018 to 2019, putting him within striking distance of the necessary 75 percent to merit induction.
Holdovers with New York ties include Roger Clemens (Yankees), Jeff Kent (Mets), Gary Sheffield (Yankees and Mets), Billy Wagner (Mets), Andruw Jones (Yankees) and Andy Pettitte (Yankees).