December 30, 2010, 7::07 p.m. Oh, I'll tell you why. Here's why. Because of arguments like Why I didn't cast a Hall of Fame vote for Bert Blyleven, again, is why. Exactly why.
I'd absolutely exhausted myself singing the praises of Jim Rice in this space for years, watching as the Base Ball Writer's Association of America (BBWAA) passed him by time after time, before finally getting it right in 2009.
Rice was and is a Hall of Famer in every way imaginable, and the idea that it took the alleged experts 15 years to send him to Cooperstown is sacrilege squared.
Last year, after Bert Blyleven missed enshrinement for the 13th straight year, I decided to do something about it, creating the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, which you can read about here.
Not to elect Blyleven (although our members did give him the 287 game-winner the required 75% the first go-round, and needless to say, I only get one vote), but to stand up as equally qualified writers – we Internet baseball scribes – to organize and promote, and to serve as a much-needed alternative to the BBWAA. A very much needed alternative to the old guard (emphasis on the old) BBWAA.
This is why. Exactly why. Because of writers like SI.com's Jon Heyman. And because of guys, nay, clowns like Jay Marrioti, who turned in a blank ballot last year just to show how obnoxious he could possibly be, only to blow that concept out of the water by following up with a domestic violence arrest a few months later.
It doesn't matter how much experience the typical BBWAA member might have, or what his education is, or how prominent a figure he may be. For seemingly every logical argument and turned-in ballot from one BBWAA individual, there's an inverse and equally-absurd set of votes by another.
The IBWAA is not immune to such folly, of course. We're human too, after all, and the votes for Carlos Baerga prove that. We'll see next week, however, but I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts right now the BBWAA gives Baerga a higher percentage of votes than does the IBWAA.
But look, does Tracy Ringolsby know more about our beloved baseball than, say, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, who's an IBWAA member? Is Jay Mariotti of a baseball mind superior to IBWAA member Kevin Baxter, of the Los Angeles Times?
Does FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal exhibit more baseball savvy than our Ben Maller, of the same FoxSports.com, or member Tony Jackson, of ESPN.com?
Does Jon Heyman have more of a clue than I? I'd say I rest my case, but I'm just getting started, and by the way, the point is not to pile on Jon Heyman.
Let me make one thing clear. If Heyman ever makes it the writer's wing of the Hall, I will not be all that upset. He's had a terrific career and would not be the worst writer in the Hall of Fame. I might even vote for him myself, if I'm so lucky as to have the chance.
Also to be clear, I do not have a horse in the current race. As with Jim Rice, who didn’t play for my hometown team, I was never a fan of any of the five organizations Bert Blyleven pitched for. I just appreciate his accomplishments and deem them Hall-worthy. Thoroughly so.
Rather than parse the nearly 2000 words Heyman devoted to his why-not-Blyleven case, let me just note that the man spent 72 words on a why-Don-Mattingly-IS-a-Hall-of-Famer argument. I could conclude triumphant with that little nugget, but sorry. No such luck, sports fans.
Here's the line that really got me going: "It is possible that the work of sabermetricians placing a greater emphasis on innings and strikeouts might be helping to give more weight to Blyleven's accomplishments."
Sabermetricians? Hello?! I'm about as far away from being a Sabermetrician as can possibly be (and by the way, if you're going to use the term as a pejorative, you ought to at least capitalize it as a proper noun, which it is).
More importantly, much more importantly, innings and strikeouts are age-old statistics, meaningful almost as far back as the Lincoln Administration. Ignore them at your own peril.
Let's look at innings pitched for a minute. Blyelven threw 4970 frames. 4970, OK? That's a bleepload, almost a Hall barometer right there, and 14th all-time. Of the 13 men ahead of him on the career list, 12 are in Cooperstown already. Greg Maddux is the other.
Of the next 15 guys behind Blyleven in this one category, 10 are enshrined, and you could certainly make an argument for two others – Roger Clemens and Tommy John.
Now let's talk strikeouts. 3701 for Mr. Blyleven. That's fifth all-time, and another category that pretty much gets you in all by its lonesome. It's 500 homers, is what is. 600, actually.
Consider for a minute that Blyleven is the only Hall-eligible man in the strikeouts top ten not to be allowed in, never mind having the doors flung wide for his arrival, with trumpets blaring and a red carpet. 3701 strikeouts, people. 3701.
For perspective, names. Ahead of Blyleven in the K's department are Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Clemens and Steve Carlton. Immediately behind are Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, Johnson, Maddux, Phil Niekro, Pedro Martinez and Bob Gibson. Luminaries all. With the soon-to-be-rectified exceptions of Maddux and Martinez, Hall of Famers all.
This stuff blows my mind. You can't leave a man – any man – on this list out because of some misplaced argument about longevity (a bad thing in recent years, but not historically) from men like Jon Heyman. You just can't.
Then there's the little matter of Blyleven's 60 shutouts, ninth best in baseball history. Just that little thing. Just 60 shutouts, is all. I mean, oy, Holy horsehide, Batman! Sixty shutouts!!
Of the top 20 shutout hurlers, Blyleven is the only man excluded. Repeat: That's eight in front of him and 11 behind. Each a Hall of Famer, each and every, except Blyleven.
Again, that's 500 homers, and an absolute automatic in. And again, for perspective. Don Drysdale and Early Wynn each tossed 49 shutouts. Bob Feller threw 44, Catfish Hunter 42, Carl Hubbell 36, Bob Lemon 31, and Dizzy Dean 26.
Roy Halladay is the active shutouts leader, with 19, good for a 19-way tie for 270th place. Babe Ruth had 17.
But enough on Blyleven. The IBWAA has voted for the man. The BBWAA, in its infinite wisdom, has not. We'll rip them a new one when the 2011 vote is announced next week, if necessary.
Now, let's discuss what I call the “if so-and-so’s in the Hall, then what’s-his-face has to be in too” thing. Literally every last one of us is guilty of employing the strategy in detailing our Hall arguments, and I've done so myself here. I'm not knocking the concept per se. You kind of have to.
It's just that because there are so many examples of under-qualified Hall members already, the if-so-and-so rationale gets easier with each passing year. That's why it's so important to get the vote right to begin with. That's why – it's one reason – the HOF needs the IBWAA ASAP.
Just last year, for a significant example, the latest incarnation of the Veterans Committee, of which Whitey Herzog is now a lifetime member, elected Whitey Herzog. He's not worthy, really he's not, and now he gets a say in who is.
Setting aside for a minute that electing Herzog, with this one whole championship, opens the door for a good 50 gentlemen who've accomplished as much, forgive me while I go the "if-what's-his-face" route once more.
In his 18 years, Herzog managed four teams while being fired twice, had a record of 1281-1185, a winning percentage of .532, along with the one World Series winning St. Louis Cardinals of 1982.
Danny Murtaugh managed one club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, for 15 seasons over 19 years, left on his own accord with a lifetime mark of 1115-950, a winning percentage of .540, while earning World Series wins in 1960 and 1971.
Thanks to the quick-with-a-thought Vets group, Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall, as much as anything for winning the 1960 World Series with one swing of the bat, and his manager, who led that team, plus another 11 years later into the history books for time and memoriam, isn't. You wanna explain that one to me please? Anyone?
Perhaps Herzog's being a character had something to do with his election, or the fact that he was alive, and could politic for himself. I don't know, maybe it was the hair. There's a precedent for you. Whitey Herzog, a Hall of Famer. Elected by a hair. Landmark hair…
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