Baseball BeatDecember 10, 2004
It's That Time of the Year (Again)
By Rich Lederer

After I wrote Only The Lonely: The Hall of Fame Trials and Tribulations of Bert Blyleven last December, I sent emails with the link to my article to two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America with Hall of Fame voting privileges. One of the recipients of my email was a well-known veteran writer and the other a lesser-known member casting his first ballot.

As it turned out, the rookie sportswriter (Jeff Peek of the Traverse City Record-Eagle) wrote back and told me that he made a mistake not voting for Blyleven.

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.

That email made my day. OK, it made my year! I was thrilled that a voting member of the Hall of Fame took the time to read my article, re-evaluate Blyleven's qualifications, and agree to support his candidacy the following year.

In a follow-up email, Jeff wrote the following:

I don't have a problem admitting I'm wrong. I'm more interested in getting it right- even if it's the second time around.

On the other hand, the more experienced writer (Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News) told me that he didn't vote for Blyleven but left open the possibility that the best pitcher eligible for the Hall of Fame could make it in some day.

I think (Blyleven) will get in in an off year the way Carter did last year. It's really tough when an Eck and Molitor come along because a lot of us - including me - tend to vote for fewer guys rather than clutter the ballot with names you know have no shot that particular year. That's what happens when guys stay eligible 15 years.

Well, with that in mind, I figured that Conlin might see fit to vote for Blyleven this time around. The ballot includes just 27 names this year--one of the smallest ever--with only one newly eligible player likely to get 75% of the votes. As a result, I decided to check in with Bill to see if he had changed his mind about Blyleven.

I don't plan to vote for Blyleven. He was not a dominant pitcher of his era, merely a very good one. Take away the final 7 hanging-around years of Jim Kaat and you have a record very close to Blyleven's and I have never voted for Kaat.

Upon receipt of his email, I thought to myself, "Hmmm. Not a 'dominant pitcher,' ehh? All right, let me see if this approach will resonate with him."

Out of curiosity, did you vote for Don Sutton when he was on the ballot? If so, do you believe Sutton was a better pitcher than Blyleven? You had mentioned to me last year that you thought Blyleven might make it in on a down year, which both 2005 and 2006 have the potential of being. Do you still believe that?

Ten minutes later, I heard the familiar "You've Got Mail."

No, he hasn't had enough support. . .I voted for Sutton every year he was eligible. He won the same number of games as Ryan in three fewer seasons and had 36 fewer losses. That was the crux of my NOT voting for Ryan his first year of eligibilty. If Sutton didn't even come close his first year with the same number of wins in less time and significantly fewer losses, why should Ryan be rewarded with first ballot election. The answer, of course, was the no-hitters he threw after age 40 that obscured a string of every (sic) ordinary seasons. If he had mastered the art of pitching the way Clemens has, he would have won 400 games.

Man oh man. There is a lot of stuff wrapped up in that one, short response. I mean, that's a beaut. That damn Ryan. Why couldn't he throw 100-mph with one of the best curve balls in the game and "master the art of pitching" like Clemens? What a waste of talent! 324 wins (13th on the all-time list), 61 shutouts (7th), a record 7 no-hitters, 5714 Ks (including 11 strikeout titles and a single-season high of 383 in 1973), 8 top ten Cy Young Award finishes, 2 ERA titles, and a lifetime ERA of 3.19. That ain't a bad resume in my book.

I sent Bill an email that I knew wouldn't qualify for the "third time's a charm" award.

Re, you were the guy, ehh? 98.79% of the voters saw fit to write his name on their ballots and only about five saw fit not to...That puts you in some pretty unique company, I must say.

Bill shot back:

7 and that's an old story which I addressed in two widely distributed columns and I'm not going to re-open it with the likes of you. . .

I don't mean to split hairs here but the actual number is six. Even Bill pointed that out in an article in December 1999, defending his decision not to vote for Ryan. But whether there were five, six, or seven stubborn voters back then isn't really the point here. I was more interested in talking about Blyleven, but I don't think he wants to take up that subject "with the likes of me."

Last year, our email exchange ended with Bill telling me that he didn't do "cybergeek stuff." This year, it came to a halt because of who I am or who I'm not. However, I'm not deterred in the least and am hopeful that one day it will conclude with, "You know, Rich, I think you've made a good case for Blyleven. 5th in career strikeouts, 9th in shutouts, 24th in wins, and 19th in ERA vs. the league average. That's one heckuva record. He's got my vote this year."

A man can dream, can't he?


"A man can dream, cant he?"

Not the likes of you, Rich.

Who are you to talk down to Bill Conlin! He's been on SPORTS REPORTERS.

He would always wave his hand over his coffee cup when he pontificated, like he was casting a spell over a witch's brew or something.

Man, that Bill Conlin line -- "the likes of you" -- got me steamed. The guy's a hack, always has been. Maybe by "the likes of you" he thought he couldn't talk up to someone who's informed and objective and knows what they're talking about. Maybe? No? Oh well, I tried...

Dear Rich,
I really admire you for your persistence in communicating with Conlin. I don't know how close you follow Philly sports, but Conlin is extremely old school and closely associated with the Dallas Green cabal that runs the Phillies. Anyway his insulting e-mails to innocent Phillie fans have become legendary on a couple of Phillie message boards. I am surprised he hasn't been fired for treating the "customers" so poorly.

Good work, Rich.

Hack indeed! It was obvious in the 70s when Conlin's NL Beat paled in comparison to Peter Gammons' AL Beat and it has only become more obvious since Conlin couldn't get past being one of the woeful Sports Reporters and Gammons has become one of the most recognizable and respected authorities in baseball reporting.

Personally, I think he's just a bit sensitive about being BEAT by the likes of Rich's Weekend Baseball Beat.

I had a back n' forth with Conlin all this week over Blyleven...his final wording left me confuded.

So I went and made Fluffernutter sandwiches for my kids.