Results tagged ‘ Bert Blyleven ’
This week’s Hall of Fame election has left us with several unanswered questions, some inconsistencies, and some flat-out perplexing voting patterns. Let’s take a look at some of the peculiarities.
*A total of 28 voters did not deem Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, worthy of the Hall of Fame. To my knowledge, only one (a writer named Corky Simpson) has explained his no-vote for Henderson, saying that Rickey wasn’t “his kind of player.” Let’s hope that a few other writers are brave enough to tell us why Henderson didn’t merit their votes. If they did it as a protest against Henderson’s occasional malingering, a problem during Rickey’s stays with both the Mets and Yankees, I can somewhat understand the reasoning. But if they did it for some other reason, such as the antiquated belief that no one deserves a unanimous vote, they deserve the public ridicule.
*Of the 28 voters who left Henderson off the ballot, two actually submitted entirely blank ballots. Of the 23 players listed, they deemed absolutely no one worthy of the Hall. No Henderson, no Jim Rice, no Bert Blyleven, no Andre Dawson. Methinks their standards are a bit too high. The Hall of Fame has never been about honoring only the game’s immortals–the Babe Ruths, the Ty Cobbs, the Ted Williams, the Willie Mays. There has always been room for other tiers of players, players who don’t quite reach the godlike quality of Ruth and Mays. I understand the argument about a “small Hall,” but when a superstar like Rickey Henderson doesn’t merit inclusion, the standards for election have become a bit too lofty.
*The voters once again completely missed the boat on Tim “Rock” Raines, who was basically the equal of Tony Gwynn. (If you don’t believe me, consider that Raines reached base as much as Gwynn did during his unquestioned Hall of Fame career.) Not only did Raines finish well down on the ballot, his level of support actually dropped to 22 per cent. That’s shameful support for the National League’s best leadoff man of the eighties, a legitimate four-tool player who did everything well but throw.
*Mark McGwire’s voting support fell off by four per cent, dropping from 25 per cent, the level it had been during his first two years on the ballot, to 21 per cent. Why the falloff? Some writers have theorized that a few voters took their votes away from Big Mac and gave them to Rice, who happened to enjoy a four per cent increase. Without seeing individual ballots, the theory will be hard to prove, but it’s an interesting theory nonetheless.
*Two voters decided that Jay Bell–yes, that Jay Bell!–was somehow deserving of the Hall of Fame. I’d be curious as to whether those same voters put Alan Trammell’s name on their ballots. If Jay Bell merits the Hall of Fame, then Cooperstown will need to open its doors to Dave Concepcion, Bert “Campy” Campaneris, Leo “Chico” Cardenas, Mark Belanger, Eddie Brinkman, Shawon Dunston, Greg Gagne, and a few other shortstops of yesteryear. Jay Bell? He must have been a good to interview–or something.
*Finally, one voter deemed Jesse Orosco worthy of a vote. I suppose these token votes are harmless, but what if over 400 other voters had come up with the same idea, deciding to reward old Jesse just for kicks? The folks in Cooperstown would have to come up with some interesting explanations every time a child asked his or her father why Orosco’s image was featured on a plaque in the Hall of Fame Gallery.
Monday’s Hall of Fame election will surely bring glee to the city of Boston while stirring outrage from many of the Sabermetric types who write and post on the Internet. The candidacy of Jim Rice, which has been hotly debated for years by Sabermetricians and mainstream writers, finally concluded on Monday afternoon with the announcement that Rice will join Rickey Henderson on the Cooperstown dais this July.
Stepping aside from the controversy for a moment, my predictions about a Hall of Fame election–for once–actually came true. (Perhaps that makes up for my hunch that Ron Santo and Gil Hodges were going to win election last month.) I felt Rice would barely squeeze by, and that’s exactly what he did, gaining 76.4 per cent of the vote. I’ll have to do some checking, but that may be the smallest margin by which anybody has won election to the Hall through the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The election of Rice not only means a victory for Rice, the city of Boston, and Red Sox Nation, but a victory for those mainstream writers who have supported his candidacy for years, based on the belief that his high RBI totals, high batting average, and peak period of performance meant more than his lack of walks, his tendency to ground into double plays, and his lack of longevity. It’s an argument I support; I’ve felt that it’s fair to regard Rice as a borderline candidate, but I’ve also considered him worthy because of his sheer dominance as a professional power hitter during the late seventies and early eighties.
In regards to Henderson, there was never any doubt that he would win election in his first year of elegibility. The only question involved the final percentage of the vote that he would receive. Henderson checked in at 94.8 per cent, about where I thought he’d be, and just a bit short of the Tom Seaver-Cal Ripken stratospere of voting percentage. Somewhat remarkably, 32 writers felt Henderson, the greatest leadoff man the game has ever seen and arguably one of the top five left fielders of all time, was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. I’m guessing that some of those no-votes decided to penalize Henderson for his occasional lack of hustle, his repeated late entries to spring training, and some of the general nuisance he caused most of his managers (at least not those named Billy Martin, who absolutely loved Rickey). If there are any other reasons for leaving Henderson off the ballot, I’d love to hear them. Hopefully, it’s not the inane first-ballot nonsense that we sometimes hear, or some contrived argument that Henderson somehow was not a Hall of Fame performer. Anybody offering those lame arguments will have some serious explaining to do.
Then there is the case of Andre Dawson. I felt he’d come in at about 70 per cent, but I overestimated his total, as “The Hawk” finished at 67 per cent. That doesn’t bode well for Dawson next year, even in a year when there are overwhelming first-year candidates and no holdovers that appear close to Hall of Fame inspection. It’s probably too much to expect an eight per cent jump for Dawson in 2010, which could result in a very empty Hall of Fame class for the Baseball Writers one year from now.
Finally, the injustice of Bert Blyleven needs to be addressed. Blyleven has been the subject of some wonderful Sabermetric articles on the Internet, pieces that make a compelling case for ”The Dutchman.” Given the number of shutouts and complete games that he posted, given the lack of run support he received in all those 1-0 and 2-1 losses, and given his superior performance in World Series play (for both the Pirates and the Twins), Blyleven deserves the call to the Hall. Yet, his vote total actually remained virtually the same, going from 61.8 to 62 per cent of the vote. Unfortunately, too many of the mainstream writers just don’t get it when it comes to Blyleven’s dominance in both the regular season and the postseason. Even with average luck and average run support, Blyleven would have won more than 300 games, a total that becomes even more impressive considering how mediocre-to-bad the Twins were during his early major league career.
So, with the good news comes some bad news. Rice makes it, which brings the added bonus of larger crowds that will travel from Boston to Cooperstown this summer. Blyleven doesn’t, with his candidacy seemingly hitting a plateau and perhaps even taking steps backward.
I guess it’s one battle at a time when it comes to the Hall of Fame election–and how the writers evaluate what is truly greatness.
The baseball world continues to lose good people. First there was Buck O’Neil. Then came word of the unexpected passing of Joe Niekro. Then we lost Johnny Sain. And then last Wednesday, former major league right-hander Pat Dobson died just one day after being diagnosed with leukemia.
I never met Dobson, but I always enjoyed reading articles that quoted him. He was a legendary storyteller, an incredibly funny free spirit, and an incisively honest assessor of major league talent, both good and bad. He also happened to be a very good pitcher, a legitimate No. 3 starter for some excellent postseason teams of the 1970s. In today’s game, the younger Dobson would have merited a four-year contract worth $40 million, maybe more, on the open market. He was that good.
*Dobson is best remembered for being one of four 20-game winners on the 1971 Orioles, but he was previously an important part of a World Championship bullpen. He pitched in long relief for the 1968 Tigers, succeeding the likes of Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich on those rare occasions when those workhorses didn’t last through the eighth or ninth innings. Although the Tigers’ starters accumulated a ton of innings in 1968, Dobson did pitch effectively when called upon. He posted a 2.66 ERA in 125 innings, finished second on the team with seven saves, and even started 10 games as a spot starter. Dobson filled a role that is rarely seen in baseball today: that of the utility pitcher who can close, pitch middle relief, or start from time to time. Few guys do that anymore in this age of specialization.
*After struggling to find a niche with the Tigers and the Padres in the late 1960s, Dobson blossomed under the tutelage of manager Earl Weaver and pitching coach George Bamberger with the Orioles. At the time that Dobson joined the Orioles, he featured five pitches that he threw from several different angles and windups. Weaver simplified his approach, encouraging Dobson to adopt a single windup and concentrate on using his two or three best pitches. The approach worked; Dobson not only won 20 games in 1971, but also remained an effective starter in 1972 before the Orioles foolishly traded him to the Braves as part of the ill-fated Earl Williams deal. After the Braves gave up on him midway through the 1973 season (as if they had too much pitching to spare), he had effective seasons with both the Indians and the Yankees.
*Dobson featured a phenomenal overhand curve ball, which he couldn’t throw for strikes in Detroit but began to refine with more precision in Baltimore. It wasn’t as good as that of contemporaries like Bert Blyleven, but it was probably only a notch below. (Think Neil Allen or Rod Scurry from the 1980s in terms of similarly effective curve balls.) If Dobson had ever developed another pitch with remotely the same effectiveness as his curve ball, he would have likely been a 200-game winner and a borderline Hall of Fame candidate.
*After his playing days, Dobson remained highly successful. He became a respected pitching coach for several teams–he could diagnose a flawed pitching delivery almost immediately–and then a trusted scout and front office advisor for the Giants. Here’s what I really liked about Dobson: as a scout, he was very outspoken and colorful. He gave very honest opinions to the media, sometimes so honest that he got himself into trouble. I can remember a few years ago, he was heavily quoted in a USA Today Baseball Weekly article with some brutally honest assessments of various players. The Giants, his employers, were none too pleased and reprimanded him. I think they came close to firing him. Thankfully, they didn’t. It’s too bad that he never became a color analyst on radio or TV. He would have made a good one.
Either way, I’ll miss the likeable guy known as Dobber.