Here’s the latest article from regular contributor Joe Guzzardi. One thing I like about Joe is that he is unafraid to take on unpopular ideas. We’re kind of kindred spirits in that regard. Here’s an idea that may have been accepted truth 10 years ago but places Joe in a distinct minority now.
Bert Blyleven just finished first on this Web site’s list of the 50 Best Players Not in the Hall of Fame. The 287-game winner is the favorite among baseball writers to be enshrined in 2011. Blyleven is even his own personal choice. A few years ago, he established a Web site to sell autographs but, more importantly, to lay out his case for Cooperstown.
Blyleven has steadily gained support in his 13 years on the Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, starting out at less than 20 percent of the vote his first three years, then improving almost annually, rising to a peak of 74.2 percent last year.
But if I were a BBWAA member, I wouldn’t vote for Blyleven. Here’s why. In his 22-year career, Blyleven finished with an under .500 record five times; .500 twice and one game over .500 three times. Sorry, spending roughly half a career without a winning record doesn’t cut it for me.
Another thing: Blyleven never finished higher than third on the Cy Young Award ballot and in 18 of his 22 seasons never ended among the top candidates. How can a pitcher who at no time in his nearly quarter of a century long career was never deemed to be the best pitcher in baseball for a single year be included among the best of all-time? My answer: He can’t.
The Hall of Fame simply cannot have pitchers as disparate in their talent as Tom Seaver and Blyleven as part of the same institution. I compare it to establishing a Millionaire’s Club, then giving membership to someone who only has $500,000.
I can hear the excuses now. Blyleven pitched on lousy teams, had terrible run support, and was injured, blah, blah, blah. Or Blyleven’s strike outs (3,701) and shutouts (60) rank fifth and ninth all-time. That’s impressive—just not impressive enough when included in his total body of work.
The other argument that always comes up in defense of marginal candidates: If so and so is in, then this guy has to be in, too.
Again, I’m apologizing. I evaluate each candidate against my own standards. If ESPN’s Buster Olney chooses to elect Blyleven or, frighteningly, Barry Bonds as he has promised to do that’s his business. You wouldn’t catch me doing it, though.
Would I want Blyleven in my starting rotation? Yes, I would. Is Blyleven a good guy? Yes, he is. His Web site also promotes finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease and he’s an affable Minnesota Twins’ announcer. Is Blyleven Hall material? No, he’s not.
When it comes to the Hall of Fame, I’m an avowed, unapologetic restrictionist. In July, I proposed on this site that Cooperstown should permanently cap membership at 300 players, removing lesser enshrined players each year as new, better ones become eligible. Click here to see my presentation of this idea to the Forbes Field Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org