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Durable reliever Mike Stanton debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 20, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Mike Stanton (NBHOF Library)

Mike Stanton brought a football mentality to big league bullpens for 19 seasons.

The result was 1,178 games pitched – the second-best total of all-time – and a place on this year’s Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.

Stanton is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Stanton is making his debut on the ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born June 2, 1967, in Houston, Texas, Stanton grew up in the western part of the state and was committed to play college football for Arkansas before a knee injury derailed his career as a defensive back. Stanton switched his focus to baseball and signed on with NAIA school Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

The Braves drafted Stanton in the 13th round in 1987, and after converting to a relief role in 1989 he was fast-tracked to the majors – debuting in the big leagues in August of that same year. By 1991, Stanton was a setup man on a Braves team embarking on a decade of dominance and finished eighth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting after going 5-5 with a 2.88 earned-run average in 74 games.

In 1993, Stanton moved into the closer’s role, saving 27 games for an Atlanta club that won 104 games in the regular season before losing to the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.

“I come right after hitters and I don’t want to give up a hit to anybody,” Stanton said. “But with age and experience, I’ve learned to be a little more patient with myself.

“Relief pitching is about 95 percent mental.”

Stanton moved back into a setup role in 1994, then was dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 1995. Stanton pitched for the Red Sox and the Rangers in 1996 before signing a free agent deal with the Yankees prior to the 1997 season. Over the next six seasons, Stanton averaged better than 71 appearances per year, serving as Mariano Rivera’s setup man and occasional closer when Rivera was injured. He was named to the All-Star team in 2001 when he went 9-4 with a 2.58 ERA for the AL champion Yankees.

He was part of each of the Yankees’ three World Series champions from 1998-2000.

“He (was) everything that we hoped he would be,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during Stanton’s days with the Bronx Bombers.

Stanton spent the final five seasons of his career with six different teams, including another stint with the Yankees. His final record was 68-63, with a 3.92 ERA and 84 saves. Of his 1,178 career appearances, only one came as a starting pitcher.

Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum