Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Dutch Hall of Fame

"You look at those (career statistical) categories and say---I'm going to be honest with you---why the hell am I not in the Hall of Fame? I'm not going to kiss the asses of the writers. I put up numbers that are Hall of Fame numbers. Until they recognize that, you can only look at January sixth, and say, "It's another year."

----Rik Aalbert "Bert" Blyleven

Yeah. That pretty much says it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the cold cut warriors who vote baseball players into the Hall of Fame once again didn't find Blyleven worthy of the call. I'm trying to figure out why that keeps happening. From 1970 to 1992, the guy was 287-250 with a career era of 3.31, while pitching with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. He's 17th on the total wins list. He logged 3,701 strikeouts, which puts him 5th on the all-time list after Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton. He's immediately ahead of Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry and Walter Johnson. He also had 242 complete games and 60 shutouts (8th all time). Only 8 guys in the history of the major leagues have finished in the top 20 in Wins, Strikeouts and Shutouts. In addition to Blyleven, they are Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Walter Johnson, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan. When you compare him statistically to the guys in the Hall, Blyleven looks like all of them.

Most hitters who faced him would say that he had the best curveball they ever saw. He gripped the ball like two of his idols---Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller. When the ball broke, it had that beautiful 12-6 motion, straight down. It just disappeared from the strike zone. All other righthanded curveballs are compared to his.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Blyleven was known for the hot foot. For some reason, old-time baseball guys loved to set someone's foot on fire. No one did it as often as Blyleven. His teammates loved it. Some of the reporters he got weren't as amused.

There is a strong belief amongst other players of his time that Bert was too rough on the writers when he was a young guy. Funny. I didn't realize that that was one of the criteria for admission. I know it's cliche, but if the Hall went by personality, it would have Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and about a couple dozen other guys.

The great Bambino once said about his greatest rival, "Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit." Can't that wisdom be applied to the Dutchman?


Anonymous said...

Part of Bert's problem is not only that he was a pain in the ass to the media early in his career, but that he's become a self-promoter whose attempts to plead his case to HOF voters get lumped in with those of guys like Dave Kingman.

Anonymous said...

Kingman's a joke, but he could really hit 'em.