There’s one thing we know for sure about 2019. Mariano Rivera will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
And while the Yankee reliever will get about 99-point-something percent of the vote at least one voter — a Boston Red Sox beat writer, of course — has said he will not vote for Rivera, denying him the honor of being the first unanimous inductee.
Either way, the Hall of Fame inductions some are calling the “Yankee years” will begin in 2019, based on an analysis of early voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s members. With just days left for the BBWAA voters to postmark their ballots, early returns indicate Rivera is virtually guaranteed to win election to the Hall in his first year on the ballot, a year before his former teammate, Derek Jeter, is expected to join him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Rivera likely won’t be the only player getting selected by the baseball writers. Designated hitter Edgar Martinez, in his 10th and final year on the ballot, and late pitcher Roy “Doc” Halladay, another first-ballot player, are also trending toward induction.
Those predictions come from the relentless statistical analysis done by Ryan Thibodaux and his website/spreadsheet, BBHOF tracker. Thibodaux, known on Twitter as @NotMrTibbs, annually tallies every public vote announced by BBWAA voters. He also gets anonymous ballots sent to him.
For 2019, Thibodaux predicts there will be 412 ballots submitted, and he keeps a tally for every eligible player, enabling baseball fans to see who is above and below the 75 percent threshold needed for induction. As of Dec. 26, he had compiled 95 ballots, or about 23 percent of the expected vote.
The trend lines seem clear for a Hall of Fame threesome, with an outside chance of pitcher Mike Mussina making it a foursome.
Rivera has been named on 100 percent of the ballots turned in so far, but one writer has told Thibodaux he intends to leave Rivera off his ballot. A second Boston writer, Bill Ballou, said he wouldn’t vote, rather than vote for Rivera.
Halladay (93.7 percent) and Martinez (91.6 percent) have gotten enough votes to make them seem likely for induction, too.
Mussina (84.2 percent) is also still above the line. Curt Schilling (73.7 percent), Roger Clemens (73.7 percent) and Barry Bonds (72.6 percent) were also doing well in early voting.
Fred McGriff (36.8 percent) has gained the most votes from returning voters this year, 17, in his final year on the BBWAA ballot, but is still short of the votes he need for induction, leaving his fate to the committee system.
With some exceptions, late announcing voters tend to lower final percentages across the board, and in greater amounts for controversial or borderline candidates. So Rivera could lose a few late votes to knock his percentage down, and some players who seem close to induction early will fade out for another year, at least.
Rivera is the all-time save leader in Major League Baseball with 652. He went 82-60 in his 19-year MLB career, with an ERA of 2.21 and 1,173 strikeouts. He spent his career with the Yankees, winning five World Series titles, and was the 1999 World Series MVP. He was also a 13-time All-Star. Rivera would be the second player from Panama to be selected to the Hall; Rod Carew was inducted in 1991.
Halladay, who died in a 2017 plane crash, pitched in the majors for 16 seasons, playing for Toronto and Philadelphia. He had a record of 203-105, with an ERA of 3.38 and 2,117 strikeouts. He was an eight-time All-Star and won the 2003 American League Cy Young Award and 2010 National League Cy Young Award. Only six pitchers have won the Cy Young, given to the top pitcher, in both the American and National leagues.
Martinez is considered by many to be the best designated hitter in the history of baseball; MLB now calls its annual award for the best DH in the American League the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. He played 18 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, hitting .312 with 2,247 hits, 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs. If he is not selected in his 10th year of eligibility, he will be dropped from the BBWAA ballot. He got 70.4 percent of the vote in 2018.
Mussina, who was a Yankee teammate of Rivera’s, played 18 seasons in MLB, first with Baltimore and later with New York. He went 270-153, with an ERA of 3.68 and 2,813 strikeouts. He won American League championships with the Yankees in 2001 and 2003, losing in the World Series to Arizona and Florida, respectively. He is in his sixth year on the BBWAA ballot. He got 63.5 percent of the vote in 2018.
The players picked by the BBWAA will be joined on the induction stage by designated hitter Harold Baines and relief pitcher Lee Smith, who were selected for the Hall by the Today’s Game Committee, in a vote announced Dec. 10.
Hall of Fame Weekend is July 19 to 22 with the induction taking place at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 21 at the Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield.
The deadline for voting is Dec. 31. The class of 2019 announcement will take place on Jan. 22 and can be seen on the MLB Network and MLB.com.