Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Circle me, Cooperstown: Blyleven is finally in

Bert Blyleven in the 1987 World Series. His postseason
record—5-1, 2.47 — came in three seasons, well spaced:
1970, 1979 and 1987.
The news this afternoon that Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers is no real surprise; they each fell just a handful of votes shy last winter, and their ascension into baseball immortality this time around was expected.

Blyleven's case is particularly noteworthy because when he first hit the ballot 14 years ago, there appeared to be no way that the writers were ever going to elect him -- no matter the win totals, no matter the strikeout totals, no matter the postseason record, no matter the legendary curveball.

And now Blyleven's in. He's in because of the sabermetric crowd. He's in because the more people like Bill James and Rich Lederer and Rob Neyer (and others) dug into the numbers, the more they put Blyleven's career into context, the more he stood out. These nonvoters' research informed such writers as Joe Posnanski, Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark, who took up the cause as well.

Lederer in particular beat the Blyleven drum, with no fewer than 29 entries in his "Bert Blyleven series" at the Baseball Analysts web site. Some tout Blyleven's qualifications; others tear down the arguments of those who vote against him.

There's some irony here, since Blyleven himself last season used some of the same arguments used against him by the Flat Earth Society portion of the electorate to argue against giving the Cy Young award to Felix Hernandez.

Blyleven belongs. The only problem with his selection is that it took 14 years.


I assume that now the Twins will retire Blyleven's No. 28 (with Jesse Crain's departure, the number is vacant). I doubt, however, that they'll blow a hole in the wall of Target Field to get a Gate 28 in his honor.

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