The National Baseball Hall of Fame is set to announce its Class of 2019 on Tuesday, Jan. 22. In the days leading up to the announcement, theScore's MLB editors will preview players who look to be a lock to head into Cooperstown.
Player: Mariano Rivera
Team: New York Yankees
Current age: 49
Year on ballot: 1st
Percentage of vote: 100% (Calculated by Ryan Thibodaux)
MLB seasons: 19
World Series: 5
World Series MVP: 1
AL top reliever: 5
MLB saves leader: 3 (1999, 2001, 2004)
Career saves: 652 (1st all time)
When Rivera's plaque is unveiled, his 652 saves will be front and center - figuratively, as his bronzed likeness will literally be the center - but it was No. 602 that permanently etched his name into the MLB record books. In the waning days of the 2011 season, Mo officially surpassed Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman for first on the all-time saves leaderboard. It's truly remarkable that, in any era, a reliever is capable of sustaining excellence as one team's closer for nearly two decades. It's even more remarkable that Rivera did it by throwing essentially one pitch. While the number of innings pitched pale in comparison to that of a starter, it's one of the most difficult jobs to keep from year to year, and Rivera locked it down as the Yankees' primary closer from 1997 to 2013.
Rivera's World Series-clinching save in 2000 was notable for many reasons. First, it sealed the club's third straight championship, marking the final ring that particular dynasty would win. Second, it was Mo's seventh career save in the Fall Classic, surpassing Rollie Fingers for the most in MLB history. In total, Rivera recorded 42 career postseason saves (11 in the World Series) by the time he retired. Coincidentally, he was the last player to ever wear No. 42 on his jersey due to a grandfather clause after MLB retired the number leaguewide in Jackie Robinson's honor. The record books won't show it but Rivera recorded 694 total saves across regular-season and playoff play.
All class, then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter out to relieve Rivera in what would be the final appearance of his career. Mo notched more saves after starts from Pettitte - who is also in his first season of Hall of Fame eligibility this winter - than any other starter. Sept. 27, 2013 marked the final time "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, which accompanied Rivera for every single one of his career relief appearances at Yankee Stadium, would signal a pitching change in the Bronx. Aside from saves, Rivera finished his career as the all-time leader in games finished and ERA+.