Apparently Jon Heyman makes it an annual tradition to post his Hall of Fame Rankings and people whom he admits. I must admit he is quite consistent in his maddeningly enigmatic methods for voting regardless of what the sabermetric community thinks and since it is his vote, he can use it (or not) on whomever he wants. This year and for the rest of eternity, the story revolves around an older Dutch man. His name is Rik Aalbert Blyleven ot Zeist, Netherlands, and no, he's not a soccer player but he was a damn good baseball player most notable for the Minnesota Twin Citizens of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
I hate doing this to Heyman because I actually do dig his scoops, but fuck it, he's set in his statistical ways and so am I. Time for some hodgepodge!
Thank you Johnny Hodges. Now on to you, silly Jon Heyman.
Why I didn't cast a Hall of Fame vote for Bert Blyleven, again
>> Ah, let me guess: the words 'impact', 'Jack Morris', and 'Internet campaign will be employed throughout.
Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame case continues to be the most controversial and interesting one ever, certainly among those not tainted by the steroid issue. His candidacy has stirred more debate and arguments than any other player's, and it isn't even close.
>> Well most of those debates come from your silly rationalizations as to why you want my Dutch boy Rik Aalbert not in the Hall of Fame. Gotta keep the Hall pure, man. Don't want any of these dirty Euros tainting our beloved Cooperstown!
This was the 14th straight year that I did not vote for Blyleven, and as a "no'' voter, I feel compelled to explain my decision, which has been met with criticism from a small but stout and increasingly effective Internet campaign. My guess is that campaign will finally prevail this year, as Blyleven finished only four votes shy of election last year, a total that isn't very hard to make up from one year to the next so my assumption is that Blyleven will make it this year.
>> I love how Heyman makes it sounds like it is an actual group of computers conspiring against him to make Mr. Blyleven a Hall of Famer. Hooray for Bert!
So Heyman the Grouch is finally defeated, I guess. Or won't go down without clanging his lid a couple of times.
Let me make one thing clear: If he goes into the Hall, I will not be the least bit upset. He had a terrific career and his case is very close, and he would not be the worst pitcher in the Hall of Fame.
All right! Actually, I don't think it's close at all since the three men whose career numbers are most similar to Blyleven are Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, and Ferguson Jenkins. All of them have smiling plaques in Cooperstown. Gaylord's is coated in spit, vaseline, and sandpaper though -- all donated from the Mike Scott Museum.
While I don't think Blyleven merits inclusion in a museum that honors the top one percent of players alltime, I think he is at worst in the top two percent, one of many borderline cases who just happens to fall on the wrong side of the border. But I do understand that it's all arguable. If someone thinks that Blyleven is a Hall of Famer, that's OK with me. At the very least, he has a solid case based on his career numbers, which include 287 wins, 242 complete games, 60 shutouts and 3,701 strikeouts.
See, this is a good argument. I can respect that. However, you take the train to Crazyland once Jack Morris becomes involved in the scenario and you defend his inclusion so vigorously.
The way I view this year's ballot, though, is that it has one candidate who is an obvious Hall of Famer, many borderline cases and an almost equal number that fall below the high standard that comprises the cusp. My full ballot is on the next page, but to me, the one obvious, slam-dunk Hall of Famer this year is Roberto Alomar, who was maybe the best defensive second baseman ever and for a time in the early 1990s in the running as baseball's top player. After Alomar, there are about a dozen players who are borderline Hall of Famers, and another dozen or so who ranged from average in one case to really good for most, but for whom no solid Cooperstown case can be made.
Wow, you're making decent sense! Why am I writing this? Roberto Alomar is a Hall of Famer and you said that last year!
Wait, you said he was the only obvious, slam dunk this year? You do know Jeff Bagwell and Alan Trammell are on the ballot, right? Right? Oh dear.
Blyleven's most vocal Cooperstown supporters don't see him as borderline. They sometimes call his case "indisputable'' or "undeniable.'' I appreciate their enthusiasm, but the reality is that over 14 years of elections, he has received slightly less than half the votes. His supporters may think it is indisputable, but the voters seem to have been torn for 13 years.
You stated a fact, but it has no relevance to your argument. As I talked about before, the people whom you pick are usually so far down in votes you can add about 3 or 4 of them together (Mattingly, Dave Parker, Jack Morris) and you would equal the number of votes that Blyleven receives. I don't comprehend why hold Bert to such high standards including an arbitrary mention of the percentage of votes he's received over the years when some of the players you induct have been in the teens for the past 4-5 years including one dipping into single digits (Mattingly).
I think you just enjoy pissing off the stat crowd.
One Blyleven Internet supporter is such a zealot that he has guessed as to the motives for the non-support, and even on occasion taken to outing non-supporters or ridiculing them, perhaps in an attempt at persuasion. Let me just say that I have nothing against Blyleven, and have been consistent in my non-support of him. My "no'' vote has nothing to do with the Internet campaign, which has only become apparent in Blyleven's final few years on the ballot, and appears to be effective, as Blyleven's totals have risen precipitously.
Those darn Internet banditos! They're fucking with Bert!
It is interesting, though, that I have gone from being in the vast majority in my non-support of Blyleven (he received only 17 percent of the vote his first year and actually dipped to 14 in his second) to the vast minority (only 25.8 percent voted against him last year). I agree that there is room for a re-evaluation of a player's worth, but I still think Blyleven comes up a bit short.
It's like copy-and-paste. This. Argument. Makes. No. Sense. He's been on a steady upswing since getting only 14.1% of the vote. Don Mattingly's vote share last year (his 10th on the ballot) was 12.1% percent less than what he received on the first ballot. You have gone from being in the vast minority of supporting him to an even vaster minority when it comes to supporting him. Were you one of the 9.9 percent who supported his candidacy in 2007?
There is nothing mystifying about my failure to vote for him. I simply think he was a terrific pitcher who falls just short of Hall of Fame standards. In filling out my ballot, I go more by impact than career numbers. Part of that is that I am old enough to have been around as long as every single player on the ballot by this point. And part of that is that I don't think numbers define a player's career. Some players, such as Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Ozzie Smith, exceeded their numbers in my opinion. Others didn't quite measure up to them. Edgar Martinez, in my view, is one such player, and not just because he was a designated hitter for much of his career.
What in God's name is 'impact'? Are you a wrestling fan?
I would like to see The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin duke it out in a Cooperstown cage mach.
Listen, you give people crap for bending stats for their advantage, but they don't just make up shit out of mid-air. I'm voting for Al Leiter because he had an impact on me actually being able to shit-talk Yankee fans for a little bit during 1998-2000. Emphasis on a little bit. Is there a threshold for impact? Is it purely subjective? Does it have no basis in reality? Yeah, I'll assume so.
Bobby Abreu is another who fits into that category. I love Abreu, who is a great player but not a Hall of Famer. I've already seen hints from the numbers guys that they believe Abreu could have a strong Hall of Fame case based on his statistics, which currently include a .296 lifetime average, eight seasons of 100 RBIs and eight of 100 runs scored. I can imagine him becoming the next Blyleven, a very good player whose career numbers lead to an Internet campaign on his behalf. To me, both were excellent players who were consistent, durable and compiled impressive numbers. But they're not Hall of Famers.
Fun fact: Bobby Abreu's actual given name is Bob. Can't make that up
Hall of Famers with whom Bobby Abreu shares a career OPS: Rod Carew and Jackie Robinson.
More career WAR than Andre Dawson, Willie Stargell and about a win and a half less than Dave Winfield. Oh God, don't make me start to actually think Abreu could fit in the Hall of Fame.
If you put Blyleven's lifetime numbers through a computer, the computer would probably determine that he (and Abreu, for that matter) is a Hall of Famer. But the game is about human beings, not just numbers. It's about impact. The Hall of Fame is about fame, and Blyleven's greatest fame came not while he was pitching well for five teams over 22 seasons but instead through his extended candidacy and the controversy surrounding it after he had retired.
Yes, he is famous. Most people who have excellent major league baseball stats are. Impact BODYSLAM!
I still have no goddamn idea what he means by impact. You can find a myriad of people who will say he made an impact in that he was a really good pitcher on terrible offensive teams.
In attempting to explain why I didn't vote for Blyleven I will provide the reasons, and this shouldn't be construed in any way as a negative campaign. If he gets in, I will congratulate him and understand he is probably as deserving as a few pitchers already in the Hall. I just want to explain my vote. And as I've said, I don't begrudge anyone's "yes'' vote on Blyleven or ascribe motives to a majority of the electorate switching from "no'' to "yes.'' I myself have switch from a "no'' to a "yes'' vote in about a half-dozen other cases due to a re-evaluation of a player's borderline career.
He did switch from a no to yes on Rock Raines so there is hope. No there isn't. Rock showed him his impact membership card and Heyman was converted.
First the case for Blyleven. He has terrific career totals, as stated above, which certainly make him a very worthy candidate for consideration. A re-evaluation of his career upward, after the fact, has helped him grow in stature. The scarcity of complete games in recent years has also shined a light on some his lifetime achievements.
Great career totals! That's the epitome of a Hall of Famer!
I, however, would argue that he was very good but not quite great. He assuredly dominated batters and games but he never dominated even one season or certainly a series of seasons. He never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting and only four times finished in the top 10, meaning he was never considered among the two best pitchers in his league during his time.
Oh yeah, I forgot Heyman still thinks people usually make rational decisions when it comes to Cy Young and MVP. Especially back in the 70s and 80s when sabermetrics were nothing but Bill James' wet dream and still reviled by the majority.
He was among the top 10 in WAR 7 times. When scaled to only pitchers that number jumps to 13.
While his supporters may try to claim the voting was wrong, this is how he was judged while he played, and it's hard to cite obvious cases of him being overlooked. Simply put, there were pitchers who had better seasons, from Jim Palmer in 1973 to Bret Saberhagen in 1985 and 1989, two pitchers who won Cy Young awards in in years Blyleven finished in the top 10 of the balloting.
How did Jim Palmer have a better season? According to WAR, Blyleven was the most valuable pitcher in 1973 and 1981. He finished 7th and go fuck yourself in Cy Young voting respectively.
Blyleven was never considered to be in the category of the game's best pitchers during his career. He simply outlasted almost everyone else and kept pitching effectively into his 40s. He never led the league in wins or ERA, though he did lead the league in home runs allowed twice and earned runs allowed once. He also led in innings twice, complete games, strikeouts and WHIP once apiece, which enhances his case but not quite enough in my estimation.
Yet your entire argument for Jack Morris consists of league-leading stats too. This is such subjective crap I want to cry all over again.
He only made two All-Star teams, which may be explained in part by the fact that he was a slightly better second-half pitcher, but two is an awfully low number for someone who pitched 22 seasons. In other words, he was an All-Star less than one of out of 10 seasons, or about average if players were picked randomly.
Yet again: John Stearns made 4 (yes, 4) All-Star Games.
He only received MVP votes twice, finishing 26th in 1973 and 13th in 1989. According to baseball-reference.com, he ranks 936th alltime in MVP shares at 0.09.
Heyman, look up some more stuff on Baseball-reference for me please:
WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT (it is a row below MVP shares)
WALKS AND HITS ALLOWED PER INNING
STRIKEOUT TO WALK RATIO (you gotta dig a little deep for that one)
ADJUSTED PITCHING WINS (he's 19th all-time)
His supporters will maintain that sportswriters shafted Blyleven. It is possible that the work of sabermetricians placing a greater emphasis on innings and strikeouts might be helping to give more weight to Blyleven's accomplishments. But it's hard to go back and look at his individual seasons and see a case where he should have ranked in the top 10 in MVP voting in any of his 22 years. He never dominated in any one season and was never among the very best.
I'm so glad you're not bringing Jack Morris into this. You're saving me from an aneurysm.
His closest career comp over his last several years is Don Sutton who is in the Hall of Fame. Sutton, who was elected to Cooperstown in his fifth year on the ballot, wasn't all that dissimilar from Blyleven, but Sutton did win 37 more games. Blyleven's total of 287 wins is still impressive, but his career winning percentage of .536 isn't spectacular, and while he was hampered by often playing for non-contenders, the teams he pitched for were close to .500 overall, which isn't terrible.
And most of them had offensive OPS+es in the low 90s. It would be like pitching with last year's Mets lineup for like, your whole career.
Some of Blyleven's supporters will say that wins don't define a pitcher and aren't always a fair measure of a pitcher's worth, as they are dependent in large part on a pitcher's run support or lack thereof. I did promote Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young, but I still see winning as the ultimate goal in each game, and Blyleven didn't win all that many more games than he lost.
I see not playing like shit and getting batters out as the ultimate goal for pitcher. Also, I endorse not walking or giving up too many hits to batters. That helps too.
Blyleven's backers sometimes will also act astounded or even apoplectic over the fact that some, including myself, support Jack Morris over Blyleven. Morris' career totals generally aren't as good as Blyleven's. But with Morris, to some degree, you had to be there. And I don't mean just Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, which was indeed one of the more remarkable and important performances in baseball history, when Morris pitched all 10 innings to win 1-0 and deliver his hometown Twins a championship.
You had to be there man. Game of his decade, maaaaaaan! We got so sauced before headin' over to the Homerdome, man. I nearly puked into my Homer Hanky. But you wouldn't know man, you weren't there to see Gene Larkin bloop a hit into left field. I had my North Stars jersey on and my Golden Gopher Starter hat. But you wouldn't know, you only saw it TV, bro.
Morris was arguably the best pitcher in the 1980s. He was the ace of three World Series-winning franchises, and while Blyleven also pitched very well in the postseason, he was never the ace. So it wasn't just sportswriters, it was his own managers who didn't appear to see him as one of the greats of the game.
Morris sure as Hell didn't pitch like an ace on any of those teams (cough, 3rd best starter ERA+ on all three of those teams, cough). But hey, he was shitty and won games! Good for him! Lady Luck smiled upon him.
Oh yeah, he was on a 4th World Series Champ in '93, but was so God-awful during the season that the Blue Jays would rather risk Joe Carter blowing his arm out throwing curve balls to Frank Thomas than have to have Pitcher of the 80s on the mound.
If you wanted to win a big game in that era, you wanted to give the ball to Morris. He received Cy Young votes seven times, MVP votes five times and made five All-Star teams. His impact was deemed greater than Blyleven's at the time, and those judgments I believe were correct or close enough to correct. Morris' percentage of "yes' votes has risen from 22 percent to 52 percent, but he doesn't have the Internet campaign going because his career stats don't tell his story.
Morris has a high lifetime ERA, 3.90. But some of that is due to the 6.19 and 5.60 marks he put up in his final two seasons. And part of it is due to him pitching to the scoreboard, which the very best pitchers could do.
Take away those two seasons, and his ERA is still 0.40 higher than Blyleven's.
In the end, the best are not defined by being consistently good and sticking around long enough to post totals beyond their actual impact. That's what Blyleven did.
Aaaaand what Jack Morris did. He was running on fumes when he got to Toronto. He got 5.56 runs of supports per game in 1992, which explains why he won 20 games with an ERA over 4.
My breakdown of the ballot is on the next page.