A Peek Into the Mind of a Hall of Fame Voter
Jeff Peek is a columnist for the Traverse City (Michigan) Record-Eagle. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a journalism degree in 1986 -- "about 10 years after realizing the only way I was going to make the major leagues was as a writer."
Peek is a member of the Detroit chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America. He was bestowed with Hall of Fame voting privileges for the first time last year. Jeff placed
Bert Blyleven? Near miss? I sent Jeff an email with a link to Only The Lonely: The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven in the hope that he would read it and reconsider his stance on the only eligible pitcher in the top 14 in both career strikeouts and shutouts not to have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Peek not only read my article but he was humble enough to send the following email back to me:
Hi, Richard: Thanks for the e-mail. I read your piece on Blyleven with great interest. Your research is outstanding, and your column is must-reading for every voting member of the BBWAA. Let's face it, I blew it on Blyleven. He'll get my vote next year.
Well, a year has passed so I thought it would be worthwhile to check back with Mr. Peek. He recently unveiled his Hall of Fame selections for 2005 in an article entitled "Boggs belongs on first ballot." In addition to
I dropped Blyleven from my ballot about 10 minutes before I mailed it last year. Two days later, his Hall of Fame worthiness became clear after a series of e-mails from baseball historian and All-Baseball.com columnist Rich Lederer. So I'm fixing my mistake.
Although Peek isn't classified as a beat writer, he admits to "watching, reading, and breathing as much of this game as possible." Jeff believes his four-hour drive between Traverse City and Comerica Park is a longer commute than any other member of the BBWAA. "Baseball is my passion -- always has been, always will be. There is not a day when I step into a major league ballpark that I don't say a prayer of thanks for being fortunate enough to do this job."
Jeff agreed to discuss his Hall of Fame ballot with me in a series of email exchanges over the past ten days. I am confident that you will find his comments thoughtful and refreshing.
RL: I see from reading your article that you are voting for Wade Boggs this year.
JP: I think Boggs is an absolute no brainer. But you can bet the house that he won't get 100 percent of the vote.
RL: I put the over/under at 88% in an article I wrote in support of Boggs but, based on some of the early polls, it doesn't look like he is likely to reach that mark.
JP: I'm getting a little tired of people who refuse to vote for certain players because they don't feel they're worthy of "first ballot Hall of Famer" status. I find it amusing how some Hall voters feel they're the "keepers of the gate" and believe it is their duty to keep out the riff-raff -- or at least not let certain players in until they've waited the "proper" number of years. If Boggs is a Hall of Famer next year, he's certainly a Hall of Famer this year.
RL: Are you voting for any of the relief pitchers?
JP: Yes, Goose Gossage. Bruce Sutter and Lee Smith are popular choices, but what sets Gossage apart from them -- much like Hall of Famer
RL: I agree with you. I would rank Gossage over Sutter and Smith as well.
JP: I haven't voted for Sutter or Smith. In the case of Sutter, I know he revolutionzed the split-fingered fastball -- but his career numbers closely parallel those of the late
RL: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to highlight from your ballot?
JP: Trammell's lack of voter support bugs me more than any of the others -- much like Blyleven's lack of support stings you -- because I grew up watching him play.
RL: I'm obviously not as passionate about Trammell as I am Blyleven, but I believe that he is a deserving candidate, too.
JP: I think he compares favorably with
RL: Speaking of Blyleven, I applaud the fact that you are making the switch this year.
JP: As I said last year, I found your research fascinating and very persuasive. To pass it off as nothing more than the work of a "cybergeek" was not only insulting to you and your fellow researchers but irresponsible, in my opinion.
RL: Well, it seems to me that you are more open-minded on this subject than many of the other voters.
JP: Why not use every tool possible when determining who deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame? The argument that "I know a Hall of Famer when I see one" -- then closing the book forever -- is like a juror voting "guilty" when three witnesses have yet to be heard. Our courts didn't always hold DNA evidence in high regard, but it sure has proven to be invaluable over the years. I think we should keep that in mind when weighing baseball evidence, as well.
RL: You're voting for Blyleven this time around but 65% of the voters didn't cast a ballot on his behalf last year. Do you have any idea why your fellow writers don't support his candidacy?
JP: It's the same old argument. If you vote for Blyleven you might as well vote for Tommy John and
RL: It sounds like you now can distinguish Blyleven from John and Kaat.
JP: Close inspection of their numbers allows that. Blyleven is better across the board. John and Kaat were both great pitchers and are oh-so-close to being Hall of Famers. Blyleven deserves to be in.
JP: What I remember most about Blyleven was his curveball. I grew up during Blyleven's prime, and that's all I ever heard: Bert Blyleven has the best curveball in baseball. I had an opportunity to spend an hour chatting with former major league pitcher
RL: Other than Bert's hook, what is the one image that comes to your mind when you think of him?
JP: I know Blyleven had many great years with the Twins, but whenever I picture him, he's with the Pirates -- scruffy beard and wearing one of those late 1970s caps with the horizontal stripes.
RL: Which Blyleven stat impresses you the most?
JP: The strikeouts. It's the only out that a pitcher is solely responsible for, and Blyleven got a lot of them.
RL: What would your response be to those who say, "Blyleven didn't win a Cy Young Award or finish in the top ten often enough."
RL: Which pitcher do you think Blyleven is most comparable to?
RL: It would be one thing if Blyleven didn't have the traditional stats to support the more esoteric metrics us "cybergeeks" like to quote. But he does!
JP: I'd like to close by saying, "You know, Rich, I think you've made a good case for Blyleven -- 5th in career strikeouts, 9th in shutouts, 24th in wins. That's one heckuva record. He's got my vote this year." Just like you wrote it!
RL: I appreciate that, Jeff.
JP: Continued good luck on your campaign to get Blyleven into the Hall of Fame. As you've already found, however, there are a lot of closed minds out there.
JP: Well, keep swinging.
RL: Thanks for your words of encouragement.
[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]