Baseball BeatDecember 28, 2006
A Larger Step for Blyleven
By Rich Lederer

E-mails. There are some that are more enjoyable to get than others. Take this one for instance. About a week before Christmas, I received an unsolicited email from veteran baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby. The message stated, "I voted for Blyleven this year. You won me over."

Not knowing if Tracy was planning on going public with that pronouncement in a future column, I sent him a return email, asking if it would be permissable to write an entry at Baseball Analysts regarding his change of heart. He wrote back:

Between the information you provided and the constant conversations I have had with Blyleven's contemporaries, I became convinced that I had slighted him in the past. He is the first guy I can remember that I have ever failed to vote for on the first time and then added later. I'm a believer, in general, that a player is either worthy or isn't, and put little credence in the first ballot issue. That's a dead issue, in my opinion. It stems from the days when the Hall was in its infancy and there were just so many qualified players that all of them couldn't be voted in at the same time.

Like many other converts, I give Tracy credit for being open minded and man enough to admit his mistake in not voting for Blyleven the first nine years. Like an umpire, the important thing is getting the call right - even if it means reversing your original stance.

Ringolsby is an influential baseball writer. As the 2005 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, Tracy was inducted into the writers wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame last July. He has covered the game since 1976, including the last 15 years for the Rocky Mountain News. A co-founder of Baseball America and former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Tracy has been a member of the Society for American Baseball Research for 27 years.

I first got to know Tracy when he covered the California Angels for the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram from 1977-1980. I was born and raised in Long Beach and remember reading his articles every day. My Dad's career as Director of Public Relations and Promotions for the Angels also overlapped the first couple of years of Tracy's stint as a beat writer for the Press-Telegram.

Tracy and I met up at the Winter Meetings in Anaheim in December 2004, and he agreed to a hard-hitting interview, mostly about his Hall of Fame selections that year. Although we disagreed on a couple of exclusions (Blyleven and Wade Boggs) and inclusions (Dave Concepcion and Jack Morris), Ringolsby concluded the chat by noting, "It's always nice to exchange ideas with people who realize you can disagree with dignity and respect."

Absolutely, but it's even nicer when you can agree with dignity and respect.


First of all, great website. Can't believe it took me this long to stumble on it.
Secondly, I figured I was by far the biggest baseball fan named Lederer, and now I'm not sure....
Lastly, I'm still anti-Blyleven for HOF, but I'll keep reading...

Welcome aboard, Pete. Check out Blyleven's career stats, and I think you'll agree he's worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. George Brett sure thinks Bert belongs.

Rich...In my book, Ringolsby STILL hasn't voted for Bert Blyleven...:")

"Burt Bylevyn:",1299,DRMN_83_5243766,00.html

Pete, have a look on the sidebar through the "Bert Blyleven Series", starting at the bottom, and I think that only a completely unobjective person would have any difficulty believing Blyleven doesn't belong. Rich has put together an extremely compelling case, so much so that you wonder how on earth he has to convince people in the first place.

The often-deluded Jon Heyman over at Sports
Illustrated just revealed his ballot. He voted for nine people and, needless to say, Blyleven wasn't one of them. What makes his slight even worse is that he ranked the rest of the candidates and placed Bert 15th! He also placed Albert Belle 28th, behind such legends as Dante Bichette and Tony Fernandez.

In regard to Blyleven, Heyman writes: "Stat freaks love this guy. It's true that his 3,701 strikeouts (fifth all-time) and 287 career victories are numbers that are generally good enough for enshrinement, but unlike a lot of those stathounds, I saw the entirety of his career and he was rarely one of the best. Had only one 20-win season at a time they weren't so rare and only four years with Cy Young votes."

I'm not clear whether he's voting against Blyleven or "stathounds," but either way, it's another vote of ignorance in the face of the truth.
Hopefully he's in the minority.

Well, Heyman also lists Scott Brosius and Bobby Witt ahead of Mark McGwire... I think he can safely be crossed of the short list of intelligent voters.

The fact that Heyman "saw the entirety of his career" is a pompous statement, as if he is more in the know than others. I must be one of the few "stathounds" who saw the entirety of Blyleven's career but have never made that an issue. Besides, did one have to *see* Cobb or Ruth or Hornsby or DiMaggio or Williams to know they were Hall of Famers?

I always get a kick out of those who put "stat freaks" down, then go ahead and use stats to make their cases for or against candidates.

Blyleven's record speaks for itself. He was consistently "one of the best." The fact that the writers only voted for him for the Cy Young Award four times speaks more about them (and the voting process - first, second, and third place) than it does about the quality of his career.

Heyman calls Jack Morris "was one of the best ever." That is such a ridiculous statement that it doesn't even warrant further comment.

Another thing I think is important when the arguement of Cy Young votes is used against Blyleven is how superficial stats were viewed back then. In 1973, Blyleven was 2nd in strikeouts, 2nd in ERA, 2nd in WHIP and 1st in shutouts, yet was 7th in Cy Young Voting. Catfish Hunter who finished 3rd in the voting that year had an ERA .82 higher and less than half the amount of strikeouts (124 to Blyleven's 258). The winner of the Cy Young in 1973, Jim Palmer, had a higher WHIP, exactly 100 less strikeouts and 3 fewer shutouts than Blyleven. Palmer did have an ERA .12 lower than Blyleven though. In a year when Blyleven was probably the most dominant pitcher in the league the fact that he finished 7th is absurd.

I wrote an email to Heyman which aimed to show the flaws in his reasoning for voting in Jack Morris, but not Blyleven. I argued that praising Morris for his postseason performances, but not taking into account Blyleven's postseason success was illogical. I also argued against his stance that Blyleven didn't have enough Cy Young votes over his career.

He responded to me saying "i don't think stats should determine who gets in and who doesn't, and certainly not whip. that's just a made up thing by people who love stats. he didn't get cy young votes those years because he wasn't one of the best pitchers of those years...sorry to disagree, jh"

Hmm. Guys like Heyman are putting way too much emphasis on things like MVP/Cy Young votes. This circular reasoning reminds me of something I might have read here on Baseball Analysts (but it also may be somewhere else).

Baseball writers are punishing Blyleven for not getting enough votes for the CYA, when it was the baseball writers that didn't vote for him in the first place. That's kind of like double jeopardy...

In 1973, Blyleven played on the 81-81, 3rd place, small-market Minnesota Twins. Hunter played for the A's, Palmer played for the Orioles, and Nolan Ryan had his record 383 strikeouts. Was it that he wasn't among the best? Or people just didn't know he existed?

I think, along with most real baseball fans, Bert Blyleven is long over due for his seat in the Hall of Fame. I shouldn't have to remind everyone about his stats, because everyone by now has looked them over, and over, and has compared them to others career stats. He was always in the top third of alot of catagories, in different times one time or another. Have it be strikeouts one year, or innings pitched the next, or even sad to say homeruns allowed. Besides, it's much more than statistics. It's heart.

I bet if played for bigger market teams, like the Yankees, Braves, or the Red Sox, he would have been voted in years ago. But beacause he played for the smaller market teams like the Rangers, Angels, Pirates, and of course my Minnesota Twins, with the exception of a couple of seasons he went to the World Series with Pittsburgh and Minnesta, they were less than "great" ball clubs. All those bad teams he pitched for, and he STILL put up better then average numbers proves that he worked that much harder,and should be in the hall of fame. (and how much he loves the magnificent game of Baseball)
Another thing to keep in mind is not only what he did on the field, is what he did off the field. He wasn't one of those "Gang Banger" players who couldn't stay out of trouble, off drugs, or was on steroids, or other "legal or illegal" enhancers to gain a few more miles per hour on his fastball, or a drop a couple more inches on his masterful curveball. Like how alot of todays players are. SHAMEFUL

It's funny, how when in a coversation between a group of guys, sitting around having a beer and talking ball, one asks who threw the best curveball? Bert Blyleven is always in the first 4 0r 5 mentioned. Not the first, but the first 4 or 5. I think that's pretty good. And i also love the Game of Baseball.

Jason Wilson
New Richmond, Wisconsin