The Yankees got a pair of former players inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday in Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera — Three with Lee Smith’s eight-game stint. Here are my thoughts from the ceremony.
1. Mussina’s speech was fantastic
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Mussina’s speech. I thought he had the right blend of good stories, heartfelt thank yous and humor sprinkled throughout, all while not going on for half an hour.
Starting out, he had a few zingers with “I want to thank everyone for putting together the best videos that they had of me” and poking fun at Joe Torre’s introduction video quip about his monotone nature.
I also loved the following: “I’m standing up here with the best who ever played the game. Some are my former teammates, some are my former opponents and some I grew up watching on television. So the obvious questions are: What am I doing up here and how in the world did this happen?”
I don’t really know how to judge speech mechanics, but that seemed to set the stage well for the rest of his words. It was a thrill to see him get the honor he deserved and which wasn’t a foregone conclusion he’d receive.
2. Mussina Day would be cool if he wants it
My memory may be failing me, but I can’t remember the Yankees having a day to honor Mussina in recent years. AP Images would lead me to believe his last appearance at Yankee Stadium was 2011 Opening Day to throw out the first pitch. A larger honor for the Hall of Famer seems overdue to me.
Though he never won a title in the Bronx, he was the backbone of the Bombers’ rotation for the better part of a decade and pitched on seven playoff teams. Moose deserved the Cy Young award in 2001 and pitched his heart out in the 2001 and 2003 postseasons to get the Yankees to the cusp of a championship.
Considering Mussina has been fine hanging back home and coaching his children in retirement, it very well may be the pitcher himself who has eschewed the chance of a Yankee ceremony.
Still, even if it’s just a first pitch before a Yankees-O’s game in the Bronx, it’d be nice to have the New York faithful give him another standing ovation (and Moooooooooooose chant).
3. Mo and Edgar’s journeys
Edgar Martinez and Rivera were signed for $4,000 and $2,000, respectively, on the international market. That’s wild. Two Hall of Famers for that little (even at the time) compared to the hundred thousands or millions some prospects can demand now.
Neither player had a smooth path from home to the Majors, and Rivera mentioned crying in the Minor Leagues as he was unable to communicate with teammates. It’s a common experience for Latin American players, one that teams take steps to avoid now with language lessons for MiLB players, but it’s tough to avoid anyway.
I can never wrap my head around going to a new country when I’m between 16 and 20 and playing for below minimum wage while not knowing the language. Just overcoming those barriers is beyond impressive. That these two men became Hall of Famers is next level.
4. Mo and Jeter crying at Bennigan’s
Mo told a story in his Hall of Fame speech that I’d never heard (though apparently it’s been told before) about when he was sent down for the first time after debuting in 1995. It turns out that on the same day in June that year, Derek Jeter was optioned alongside him and both players shared their frustrations over a meal.
As Rivera remembers it, they were “almost literally crying in Bennigan’s in New Jersey.”
How can you not love that story in retrospect? Hopefully, they have a plaque at the Bennigan’s.
5. Remembering Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay was the last pitcher you wanted to see on the probable pitchers list in the 2000s. When he was on the Blue Jays, Toronto was dreadful and never in contention, yet he was a one-man wrecking crew. If you had a three- or four-game series and avoided him, you counted yourself lucky. And if you had a two-game set and he was on tap, ugh.
I only got to see him live once — Funny enough, against Moose — and even though he often beat down the Yankees, I still wish I’d gotten to see him compete more.
The Yankees, of course, tried to acquire him around 2009 and 2010, though the Jays rightfully demanded an extra ransom for a Yankees offer. Considering how most prospects from that era panned out, they should have ponied up, but hindsight is 20/20.
Anyway, not having Halladay get to make his speech yesterday is crushing. Your heart goes out to Brandy Halladay for having to make her speech yesterday and fight through the emotions of an honor and loss all at once.
6. Jeter next Yankee in, then who?
We know that, barring something insane, on July 26, 2020 Derek Jeter will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That might be unanimous, it might not be, but he should be there all the same.
There aren’t many others close to induction, so there’s the chance it’ll be just him and a committee-elected player or two. Curt Schilling is nearing the line for induction, though he might take another couple years.
After Jeter, who is the next Yankee in? Roger Clemens, who’d go in as a Red Sox, probably falls short due to PEDs. Andy Pettitte may as well, plus he only got 9.9 percent on his first ballot. It appears that CC Sabathia is the next Yankee inducted.
7. For whom would you go to Cooperstown on the current team?
When will CC get into the Hall? If he makes it first ballot, it’d be with Ichiro. I think he might take a couple votes despite his credentials, so that’d put him around 2027/2028.
Provided global warming hasn’t turned upstate New York into a burning hellscape, that’d be a nice trip to make. Sabathia has been one of the most enjoyable Yankees in recent memory, both for his standout performances and his personality. His ability to overcome a downturn in abilities and off-the-field issues shows strength in character.
On the current squad, Giancarlo Stanton with a clean-ish bill of health has a clear path to Cooperstown with the 500-homer milestone and the chance to win titles in reach. Not saying he’ll make it, yet he has a good opportunity. Gleyber Torres is so early in his career, but he’s made two All-Star Games at an up-the-middle position before he turns 23, all with the Yankees. He’s got so far to go, but it’s a nice start.
Beyond them, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Aroldis Chapman have the most compelling starts to their respective Hall cases, though each has plenty of work to do. My brother is all-in for Gleyber in 2045 or whenever, while I’m leaning more for a Judge entry if he racks up the accomplishments to make it.