This week, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce their class of 2010, and in advance, we just wanted to share a quick story related to one long-time candidate.
The 2008 and 2009 Hall of Fame classes featured honorees (Goose Gossage and Jim Rice) who had previously signed autographs at a BlueClaws game. So we decided to invite the four candidates who were closest to election by the baseball writers last year, to a 2009 BlueClaws game, as a way to enhance their candidacy (and improve their luck).
Those four: Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, and Lee Smith.
We sent out letters, not really expecting a response from anyone, but sure enough we got one. From Bert Blyleven.
Hey Greg, I received your letter and I am sorry but I can not attend your event for a signing. I broadcast for the Twins and it’s a full season of televised games. Thank you for thinking of me and I wish you and the BlueClaws success this summer. Good luck. Bert Blyleven.
Thought that was absolutely a class act and we hope he finally gets in.
As for the post title, that’s a quote by Bert’s wife, Gayle. The knock on Blyleven is that he’s never won a Cy Young Award, a claim that Gayle dismisses with artful ease.
One of the problems with Hall of Fame voting is that writers base some of their votes on how many MVP and Cy Young awards a player received during his career. Those honors, however, were awarded on vote totals by writers who might have overlooked that player in the first place. So the writers initially punish a player by not voting him an award he deserves, then punish him again by withholding their Hall of Fame votes because they didn’t vote him the earlier award. As Lederer says, “One mistake leads to another.” Lederer points out this is particularly true with Blyleven. In 1973, he led the league in WHIP, led the league in adjusted ERA, was a close second in ERA, led the league in shutouts, was fourth in innings pitched, a very distant second in strikeouts (Nolan Ryan set the record that year) and won 20 games. Those sorts of numbers would have resulted in very strong Cy Young support today, but back then, only one voter put Blyleven on his ballot — and he put him third. That’s all Blyleven got, a single third-place vote, and he finished seventh. Writers who base their decisions on such vote totals without placing them in proper context are punishing players with standards we no longer consider valid.
Baseball-reference.com, maybe the best website of all for a baseball junkie, rates players with the black scale/gray scale (for times leading the league in something and times in the top ten). Blyleven, on their scale, ranks low on black ink (16, HOF avg is 40) and high on gray (240, HOF avg is 185). But on their player comparison generator, Blyleven’s top matches are Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, and Fergie Jenkins, all Hall of Famers.