When it comes the time to cast a ballot for Mariano Rivera, he’s sure to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But with only five relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame, and three voted in the last several years, where is the bar? Is it 300 saves? 400? 500?
The Padres’ Trevor Hoffman is the only closer with over 500 saves (554 to be exact). Rivera is close, and will probably break 500 this year. He has 482 saves.
Both Rivera and Hoffman are first-ballot Hall of Famers and both should be measured as the ultimate plateau — similar to a 600 home-run player. There are other players, such as Lee Smith, with his 478 saves, deserves to be in the Hall. His highest voting tally was 45% in 2006.
Now begins the debate whether players like Billy Wagner should be in the Hall as well. Dennis Eckersley is one of the relievers in the Hall, and is worthy of the honor. Wagner has 385 saves, 5 behind Eckersley’s total. What about Eric Gagne? Nah, just because he converted 84 straight saves doesn’t mean he immediately gets enshrined. Same for K-Rod. His 62 single season saves set the new “modern” bar, and got him a new contract with the Yankee’s crosstown rivals, but one season supremacy doesn’t signify Hall-worthiness.
This is a debate that BBWAA will have to have in the years to come.