Recapping a Joyous Week
Last Wednesday was a big day for Bert Blyleven and me. Blyleven was named on 74.2% of the 539 ballots cast, a gain of 62 votes and 11.5 percentage points. Within 0.8% of the 75% threshold, Rik Aalbert is now on the cusp of being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The day was made all the more memorable for me when Bert and Peter Gammons mentioned my name on the MLB Network. I was watching the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 live with my son Joe when Blyleven thanked me for my efforts shortly after the results were announced. It was also a nice surprise when Gammons, who had cited my work in his MLB.com article that morning, gave me a shout out later in the segment.
As much fun as it was for me personally, I think Blyleven's surge in the Hall of Fame voting and likelihood of getting elected next year is an even bigger day for the sabermetric movement. You might say, "That's one small step for a sabermetrician, one giant leap for sabermetrics."
While I took up the cause over six years ago to drum up support for a player whose candidacy had been grossly overlooked to that point, I was also motivated to move the discussion for awards and honors from the basic hitting/pitching stats and the "I saw him play and I know a Hall of Famer when I see one" to a more comprehensive and objective approach. With the help of others, I am confident that we are well on our way. We're not finished by any means, but there's no looking back either.
Bill James is the conductor of the sabermetric train, one that has been growing in numbers and gaining influence since he started to self-publish the Baseball Abstracts in 1977. Rob Neyer, who began his career working for James, joined ESPNet SportsZone in 1996 and was perhaps the first baseball writer to post sabermetric-oriented articles on a near-daily basis. The creation of Baseball Prospectus, Baseball-Reference.com, The Baseball Think Factory, The Hardball Times, Baseball Analysts, Fangraphs, Beyond the Box Score, Inside the Book, and other sites has made stats (both basic and advanced) more accessible than ever and generated an onslaught of sabermetric research, studies, and analysis that most of us now take for granted.
If not for the Internet, where would we be? I know the Internet has allowed me to have a voice that wouldn't be possible otherwise. It gave me the opportunity to form the predecessor to Baseball Analysts in 2003, review the Baseball Abstracts in 2004, interview Bert later that year, and meet in person and become friends with Bill and Rob (and countless other writers, analysts, and front office executives, many of whom I now correspond with on a regular basis).
In the spirit of sharing the "fame," I would like to link to the MLB Network video when Blyleven responded to a question posed by Gammons:
Peter Gammons: Bert, do you think the work of some of the guys that have been for you the past five years has really helped your case and helped players around the game that are now active understand exactly what you did as a pitcher?
While I don't have a link to the closing comments when Gammons mentioned me as part of his summation of the day's events, I was able to transcribe his words:
I thought Bert Blyleven's comments were terrific. He thoroughly understands the process now and I think the light that has been shone on him now has actually made people appreciate how good he was even more, and he knows he's going in. I think the next couple of years will do the same for Alomar and Larkin. I think the fact that people care so much about this now...Rich Lederer has campaigned for Blyleven we've understood. I think we'll see the same thing for Alomar and the same thing for Larkin. I just wonder if sabermetrics had been great 10-15 years ago when Ted Simmons didn't even get 4% of the vote and was only on the ballot one time whether Ted Simmons wouldn't now be a Hall of Famer?
Amen to that, Peter.
In Seven Earn Gammons' Hall Vote, Peter wrote the following with respect to Blyleven:
After the results were announced, Rob Neyer put up a "Hall adds one ... but not the one we thought" post on his Sweet Spot blog, which included this excerpt:
Also falling just short -- just five votes short -- was Bert Blyleven, in his 13th try. Consider the progress that he's made, though. In his first three tries, he couldn't clear 20 percent. Five years ago, he cleared 50 percent for the first time. And now he's at 74.2 percent, and will almost certainly join Alomar on the podium next year. And when he's up there, I suspect that Blyleven will have a word of thanks for Rich Lederer.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times called Wednesday afternoon and interviewed me for an article that was in the newspaper's print edition the next day.
Bert Blyleven gets closer to the Hall of Fame with an assist
Several other writers, including MLB.com's Kelly Thesier, SI.com's Joe Lemire, and a certain pitcher-turned-writer over at NBC Sports, highlighted my efforts in raising the awareness of Blyleven's Hall of Fame credentials. Former guest columnists Chad Finn and Jonah Keri reached out as well. And even the SunSentinel's Dave Hyde mentioned me in conjunction with Tim Raines.
Blyleven (and Alomar next), then Larkin, Raines, Alan Trammell, and maybe, just maybe Peter Gammons and I will get our wish on Ted Simmons, and many of us on Ron Santo, Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker, and ...
The Battle Cry of the Sabermetric Revolution marches on.