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Thursday, January 06, 2005 

The Case for Bert

Interesting argument made by Jim Caple on ESPN.com about Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame candidacy. A lot of people in the know, including my boy Rob Neyer (whose article I would link to if they didn't make it an "Insider" exclusive--corporate weasels) have supported the election of the righty who won 285 games over his 22 season career and is 5th on the all-time strikeout list. It's the classic peak vs. career debate.

Another thought-provoking HoF question from rec.sport.baseball:

Can someone explain why Sandberg gets in and Whitaker gets
snubbed (not even enough votes to stay on the ballot)?

Whitaker: .276  .363  .426       117 career OPS+, 19 years
Sandberg: .285  .344  .452       114 career OPS+, 16 years

Yes, Sandberg had a higher peak, and was base stealer.
On the other hand, he was productive for a much shorter time.
Whitaker had 17 seasons with an OPS+ > 100 (vs. Sandberg's 9).
Sandberg has that one MVP, but Whitaker has the ring and played
on a great team.

I can see why Sandberg gets more votes--six outstanding years always
beats 12 very good years, but one of them is overrated, or one is
underrated, or both, it seems to me.

*FYI, OPS+ is a player's OPS divided by the adjusted league OPS, and multiplied by 100. The league average OPS is assumed to be 100, so if a player has a 110 OPS+ for the season, he is 10% better than an average player.

close but no cigar for Bert. he was good for a very long time, but never great. two all-star teams in 22 years shows that. and as Bill Simmons would say, noboby went out to the ballpark to go see Bert Blyleven pitch. as for Caple's argument, i take Koufax every time. i'd rather have 6 to 10 years of a once in a generation, dominant pitcher who can be the difference in winning a Series than 20 years of a decent pitcher. it's a lot easier to find a 15-win, Blyleven-type guy than a lights-out Koufax level pitcher.

I must respectfully disagree with you Mr. Klong...i agree about the part of rather having koufax but the argument that "you never go to the ballpark to see him" is not a good enough one because there are only a few players that fall into that category...i think the problem we're facing here as time goes on and more and more people are getting into the hall, is that we're not sure what we want the hall to be...is it for the "immortals" such as ruth and koufax or is it for the players who deserve to be recognized for their careers like yount and blyleven...can it be both? maybe, but people have a hard time accepting that it can...even i'm not sure what i want it to be...

Paul hit it--the problem is that there are no definitive, objective measures for election. People say 3000 hits or 500 HR are magic numbers, but would Fred McGriff have earned a free pass if he hit a few more homers? Too often, tradition becomes a drug impairing judgement. I'm really torn about Bert.

Then there's Jim Rice. He might sum up the confusion even better. I heard an interview with Gossage and he said Rice was the most feared hitter of his time. Goose said his knees weakened when Rice got in the box. That's pretty high praise from probably the most intimidating pitcher ever. A lot of players regarded Rice this way. For whatever reason, players from the 70s and 80s are incredibly underrated. Maybe the great steroid backlash will put their numbers in better perspective. Look how long it took Sandberg to get in--the guy was the best 2B in baseball for a decade. Is it fair to compare him to Jeff Kent? Who knows?

re: the klong said "nobody went out to the ballpark to go see Bert Blyleven pitch. Well, Mr. Klonger, I did... when the Indians were losing 90+ games every year in the mid-80's and drawing (a very generous) 'official attendance' of 6,000 - 8,000 fans per game), Blyleven's games were some of the only Indians' games I'd go watch. Either win #199 or win #200 for Bert was even rained out 2 nights in a row, so I had to keep going back to old Municipal Stadium, and sit in the rain night after night to watch I believed to be a sure Hall of Famer. Blyleven was the definition of dominant in his career: 60 Shutouts and 3,700 strikeouts and a curveball many HOFers call the best ever. I was just hoping the Indians could score one (or maybe even two!) runs so Bert could notch another win on his record, because you knew he was going to pitch 8 or 9 innings every outing. And please, the number of All-Star teams made is a subjective measure - a measure more directly related to Home attendance than of a players' greatness. (do you really believe that writers,coaches or fans vote for the most deserving pitcher / National Champion / MVP / Heisman / AllStar every year?).

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