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He Really Ballou It: Leaving Mariano Off Hall Of Fame Ballot A Disgrace

Here’s a quick primer for those who read, watch and react to journalists, but do not make their living gathering or reporting the news.

If you work in the media, there is an unofficial First Commandment regarding the First Amendment to the United States constitution, which protects the freedom of the press (along with religion and free speech).

Mariano Rivera

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If you are a reporter, “Thou shalt not become the focus of the story.”

What this means is, a member of the news media is expected not to do or say anything stupid that makes the rest of us scurry to their doorstep for answers and reaction.

This is very bad professional behavior, note-in-the-personnel-file bad.

Two quick examples: ESPN’s Jemele Hill and CNN’s Jim Acosta thrusting themselves into the center of political storms with their Tweets and Trumps.

And now, we have our own interloper in the world of sports.

Bill Ballou, a veteran columnist for the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and longtime voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame, wrote a column last week explaining why he wasn’t voting for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera – or anyone, at all — this year.

All ballots for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 had to be received by Monday. Ballou did not submit one. You may call him a conscientious objector. We prefer obtuse.

Not only is this an example of a media member “thrusting themselves in the center of a storm,” it’s an illustration of one voluntarily telling the world how freaking stupid they can be.

You’d think even a Red Sox beat writer would understand Rivera was to closers what pineapples are to Hawaii. You think of one, you are reminded of the other.

You’d think certainly a guy like Ballou, who has covered countless Yankees-Red Sox games during his career, could perceive how vastly superior Rivera was to current Hall of Famers who did the same job – Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Rich Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith.

You’d think if there ever was a player destined to become the first unanimously voted to the Hall, it would be Rivera, the epitome of class, the personification of efficiency, the game’s all-time saves leader.

As it relates to Ballou, you would have struck out on three straight pitches. Still, there’s reason to feel confident about Mo’s chances to be the first 100 percenter – Ballou’s abstention will not count as a no-vote. That’s good because he’s too incompent to stand trial.

“Let’s start with a legal term and stipulate that Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in baseball history,” wrote Ballou. “Even so, I am not voting for him for the Hall of Fame.”

Right away, he makes his first point, one the majority of those who have written or talked about him the last four days understand is unassailable. The guy is an idiot.

Ballou begs us to regard the save as “the lowest-hanging fruit of the game’s statistical tress.”

If that’s the case – and we could go on forever about this – how do you explain the short-term successes of guys like Fernando Rodney, Joe Nathan, Jim Johnson, Bobby Thigpen, Mark Melancon, Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriquez, Wade Davis, Eric Gagne and Chad Cordero?

Low-hanging, my apple core!

Ballou discredits Rivera’s numbers by saying he rarely pitched more than one inning and rarely came in with guys on base.  He said Rivera didn’t win an ERA title because he never pitched more than the minimum innings required in a season.

Truth is, the game Rivera played in was quite different than the one Elroy Face, Mike Marshall, Dan Quisenberry, Gossage and Eckersley played in. The position hadn’t been micro-managed into specific set-up roles. Rivera became a regular closer in 1997 and he rarely pitched more than one inning because he wasn’t asked or required to.

To criticize him for that is like saying Raquel Welch wasn’t beautiful because she appeared in “Lady In Cement” in 1968. Hey, they can’t all be “The Three Musketeers.”

Look, we know Rivera had his tough moments:

1997 ALDS: The Yankees were leading the Indians 2-1 heading to Game 4. The Yanks were leading 2-1 heading the bottom of the eighth. With two out, Sandy Alomar, Jr., tied the game with a homer and Ramiro Mendoza blew it in the ninth. The Yanks lost the series in five.

2004 ALCS (Game 4): The Yanks held a 3-0 series lead over the Red Sox heading to Game 4. Rivera came in the eighth with a one-run lead and all was cool until the ninth. Kevin Millar walked and Dave Roberts pitch-ran and stole second on Rivera’s first pitch to Bill Mueller. Mueller then singled to tie the game and Boston won it on David Ortiz’ two-run homer in the 12th.

2004 ALCS (Game 5): Rivera enters again with a one-run lead in the eighth after Tom Gordon allowed a leadoff homer to Ortiz, a single to Millar and a single to Trot Nixon, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Mo gives up a sacrifice fly to Jason Varitek to tie game and Ortiz wins it in the 14th. The Sox win Games 6 and 7 in New York on their way to the first World Series title in franchise history since 1918.

2001 World Series (Game 7): Mo comes into the game in eighth, the Yanks leading 2-1, and strikes out the side. In the ninth, Mark Grace singled and moved to second when Rivera misplayed a bunt. One out later, runners still on first and second, Tony Womack, doubled to score the tying run. Rivera then hit Craig Counsell to load the bases for Luis Gonzalez, who dumped the Series-winning hit to center.

But in his 19 seasons, he led the AL in saves three times, with at least 15 seasons with 30 or more. He had at least 40 saves in nine seasons and is one of only three closers to have more than one 50-save seasons.

He was 82-60 with a 2.21 ERA, 1,173 strikeouts in 1,283 2/3 innings. He finished with an ERA lower than 2.00 in 11 seasons. He had 42 saves in 96 postseason games and was 8-1 with an 0.70 ERA and 110 punchouts in 141 innings.

Rivera was also a 13-time All-Star, played on five World Series championship teams, was the MVP of the 1999 World Series, the 2003 ALCS and the 2013 All-Star Game.

To claim Mariano Rivera does not deserve to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer puts Ballou among the group of stupefying dopes who felt the same way about the icons among the 228 enshrined players, stiffs like Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, DiMaggio, Mays and Aaron.

Like Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Nice job, Bill, you dummy.

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