Jan 4, 2011

Circle me, Bert

Like clockwork, this time of the year means one thing for baseball fans.  The annual Hall of Fame debates.   And for the past 15 years or so, the debate has been strongest (on both sides) for Bert Blyleven.  Good ole Bert was a damned fine pitcher in his 22 years in the majors.  He won 287 games, pitched 4,970 innings and struck out 3,701 batters.  Among the tops all-time in each category (wins - 27th, innings - 14th, strikeouts - 5th!!!).  Pretty much all the guys ahead of him on those lists are already in the Hall or will be when they become eligible.  Or they are named Roger Clemens.  Ahem.

But there are many voters who refuse to vote for him using the "you had to be there" argument.  Meaning that they don't believe that Blyleven was ever dominant enough in his time to be rewarded with inclusion to the Hall.  Many of those same voters, however, will vote for Jack Morris.  A fine pitcher with less illustrious career stats than Blyleven.  But boy oh boy...he was a big game pitcher.  He single-handedly won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, right?  I guess "you had to be there".  Ahem.

And you know what?  I'm fine with that.  I happen to believe Blyleven deserves the honor of induction.  Certain voters do not.  Whatever.  As long as they have a good argument.  And Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated wrote an entire article on why he was not voting for Blyleven, even in the face of some newer statistical work that suggests that Blyleven may be one of the all-time greats.  Bravo, Mr. Heyman.  He even made some good points.  Not a lot of points that I agree with, and they all boil down to the "you had to be there" argument.  But at least he tried.

Then he goes and ruins it on the second page by including his own criteria for voting in Jack Morris, which is as follows:

Morris. He finished with 254 wins and 175 complete games while leading the league at various times in wins (twice), starts (twice), complete games, shutouts and innings pitched.
That's very nice.  Except if you use the same criteria for Blyleven, you would have the following:

Blyleven. He finished with 287 wins and 242 complete games while leading the league at various times in starts, complete games, shutouts (3 times), innings pitched (twice) and strikeouts.
So it seems his real argument against Blyleven is that he never led the league in wins in any particular year.  Because the rest of the numbers he himself uses are at least the equal of Morris' numbers, and in some cases much better.

By the way, one of the years in which Morris led his league in wins was the strike-shortened 1981 season.  He finished with 14 wins that year, tying three other AL pitchers. The other year was 1992 when he led the AL with 21 wins (tied with Kevin Brown), but also posted a 4.04 ERA.  Which was around league average that year. 

But to truly see his greatness?  Well...I guess "you had to be there".

PS - If you want to read a much more intelligent argument for Bert Blyleven (and some other fine players), well...there's always Poz.  I, personally, probably wouldn't vote for Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire or Alan Trammell like Poz did.  But I don't really have a problem with anyone voting for them either.  Well...maybe McGwire a little bit.  Gonna have to figure this whole "steroid era" out one of these years, eh?


RW said...

They're always and forever talking about Ron Santo here in Chicago. I don't know. Wrong side of town. Now that he croaked they'll probably bring his name up again. I'm not sure what I think about the HoF. Either make it way exclusive or let anybody in. I don't know. If they let steroid guys in, what about Pete Rose then? Sometimes I wonder.

Verdant Earl said...

RW - Well, I personally think the steroids stuff is much different than what Rose did. Players have been trying to get an edge forever. Stealing signs, doctoring balls, greenies...steroids is just another way that they did that. It's all about trying to be a better player. I still don't know how I feel about guys like McGwire, whose career might have been over due to injuries had steroids not helped him recover. He wasn't a HoFer before his resurgence, but he put up HoF numbers after he started taking them. Barry Bonds was a first-ballot HoFer BEFORE he started taking steroids in 1999 (by all accounts/evidence). Same with Clemens. But what Rose did is much worse. Even if he was only betting on his team to win, he could have been making decisions as a manager that would have negatively affected his team and his players. Leaving this pitcher in too long. Or that player with an injury in the field because he wanted his bat in the lineup. So for me...steroids is meh. Gambling is evil.

Slyde said...

if you insist on writing these posts that i cant add anything to, then you are gonna have to be prepared to listen to me call you a loser again and again.

sybil law said...

This is obviously not my area of expertise, but if you go by numbers, then clearly, the Blyleven guy wins. Period. Wait- can only one freaking player be voted in each year?! I think I should know this. Huh.
Anyway, I like Barry Larkin, too.

Verdant Earl said...

Slyde - Sorry, I'll talk about Dancing with the Stars tomorrow. Just for you.

Sybil - There can be more than one player voted in each year. A player just needs to be on 75% of the ballots to get inducted. And I like Barry Larkin too. I just don't think his career peak was long enough to merit a spot in the Hall. He's close though, and I may change my mind when looking at his career in a year or so.