Closing it down

Armando Benitez debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 03, 2013
2014 Hall of Fame candidate Armando Benitez. (Brad Mangin/NBHOF Library)

Armando Benitez lived the life of a closer, with the pressure of the ninth inning never far away.

Benitez handled the pressure more often than not, recording 289 career saves. Today, Benitez’s ability to close games has landed him on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.

Benitez, whose save total ranks 26th all-time, debuts on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot this fall, one of 36 players on the 2014 BBWAA ballot for the Class of 2014.

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. 8. 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 2014. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 27 in Cooperstown.

Born Nov. 3, 1972 in San Pedro de Macoris of the Dominican Republic, Benitez signed with the Baltimore Orioles as an amateur free agent in 1990, then made his big league debut in 1994 after establishing himself as one of the best relievers in the minors.

After spending part of the 1995 season with the Orioles and enduring injury issues for much of 1996, Benitez became Baltimore’s main set-up man in 1997, appearing in 71 games with a 4-5 record and a 2.45 earned-run average. The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 106 batters in 73.1 innings, setting the stage for his future as a closer.

Benitez saved 22 games for the Orioles in 1998, then was traded to the Mets prior to the 1999 season for four-time Gold Glove Award-winning catcher Charles Johnson. From 1999 through 2002, Benitez averaged 72 games and almost 35 saves a season, closing for a Mets team that advanced as far as the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. From 2001-02, Benitez failed on only seven save attempts in 83 chances.

“Every time I come into the game, it’s noisy. It’s really hard,” Benitez said. “This moment, when you lose or win, you forget it because you have to do it (again) tomorrow.”

Benitez was traded twice during 2003 – first to the Yankees and then to the Mariners. He signed a one-year deal with the Marlins for the 2004 season – and saved a National League-best 47 games that year to go with a 1.29 ERA – earning his second All-Star Game selection and also a 23rd-place finish in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting.

Benitez spent most of the next three seasons with the Giants before heading back to the Marlins in 2007. He finished his career in 2008 with the Blue Jays.

“You talk about guys who want to be out there with the game on the line – (Benitez) does,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “And he wants to win.”

In addition to his 289 saves, Benitez posted a 40-47 career record with a 3.13 ERA in 762 games – all relief appearances. He averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
1994 21 BAL 0 0 0.90 3 0 1 0 0 0 10.0 8 1 1 0 4 14
1995 22 BAL 1 5 .167 5.66 44 0 18 0 0 2 47.2 37 33 30 8 37 56
1996 23 BAL 1 0 1.000 3.77 18 0 8 0 0 4 14.1 7 6 6 2 6 20
1997 24 BAL 4 5 .444 2.45 71 0 26 0 0 9 73.1 49 22 20 7 43 106
1998 25 BAL 5 6 .455 3.82 71 0 54 0 0 22 68.1 48 29 29 10 39 87
1999 26 NYM 4 3 .571 1.85 77 0 42 0 0 22 78.0 40 17 16 4 41 128
2000 27 NYM 4 4 .500 2.61 76 0 68 0 0 41 76.0 39 24 22 10 38 106
2001 28 NYM 6 4 .600 3.77 73 0 64 0 0 43 76.1 59 32 32 12 40 93
2002 29 NYM 1 0 1.000 2.27 62 0 52 0 0 33 67.1 46 20 17 8 25 79
2003 30 TOT 4 4 .500 2.96 69 0 49 0 0 21 73.0 59 27 24 6 41 75
2003 30 TOT 1 1 .500 2.66 24 0 9 0 0 0 23.2 18 9 7 1 17 25
2003 30 NYM 3 3 .500 3.10 45 0 40 0 0 21 49.1 41 18 17 5 24 50
2003 30 NYY 1 1 .500 1.93 9 0 2 0 0 0 9.1 8 4 2 0 6 10
2003 30 SEA 0 0 3.14 15 0 7 0 0 0 14.1 10 5 5 1 11 15
2004 31 FLA 2 2 .500 1.29 64 0 59 0 0 47 69.2 36 11 10 6 21 62
2005 32 SFG 2 3 .400 4.50 30 0 27 0 0 19 30.0 25 17 15 5 16 23
2006 33 SFG 4 2 .667 3.52 41 0 33 0 0 17 38.1 39 15 15 6 21 31
2007 34 TOT 2 8 .200 5.36 55 0 24 0 0 9 50.1 49 37 30 8 29 57
2007 34 SFG 0 3 .000 4.67 19 0 17 0 0 9 17.1 17 9 9 3 9 18
2007 34 FLA 2 5 .286 5.73 36 0 7 0 0 0 33.0 32 28 21 5 20 39
2008 35 TOR 0 1 .000 5.68 8 0 2 0 0 0 6.1 4 5 4 3 2 9
15 Yrs 40 47 .460 3.13 762 0 527 0 0 289 779.0 545 296 271 95 403 946

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