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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Bert Blyleven


Three thousand seven hundred one. When Bert Blyleven retired, he ranked third on the all-time strikeouts list, behind Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. Despite his penchant for punchouts, it took fourteen voting cycles for the writers to select him for the Hall of Fame…and even then, he only received 79.7%. At least he’s in, where he belongs.

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Cards #19-27

In 1986 Topps teamed up with Quaker to issue a 33-card set full of superstars, including a nice handful of future Hall of Famers. This week, we’re looking at the cards in the set; today we have cards 19-27…

1986 Quaker Chewy Granola Bars 19-27

Another fine group of players, featuring six Hall of Famers, including 2011 inductee Bert Blyleven and two of the greatest third basemen to ever play, Wade Boggs and George Brett.

This page features 1985 AL Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen and Rookie of the Year Ozzie Guillen. Neither are in the Hall of Fame, nor should they be. The only other non-Hall of Famer in the group is Darrell Evans, one of the few pre-steroids era players not in Cooperstown with more than 400 home runs. The knock against Evans was his batting average; he finished his career with a .248 mark and never reached the .300 mark in a full season. Should he be in the Hall of Fame? I would not vote for him, but I don’t think Cooperstown would be harmed by his admittance.

What makes a Hall of Famer?

Fortunately, not Reggie Jackson‘s opinion. I’m not talking about players involved with the steroid scandal, but guys who are already enshrined in Cooperstown. Jackson said the following to a Sports Illustrated reporter:

I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.

So you have a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Puckett, a catcher who is considered by many to be among the best ever in Carter, and two pitchers who reached the 300 win and 3000 strikeout plateaus in Sutton and Niekro, and none of them are Hall of Famers? This isn’t a discussion of who isn’t in that should be (Don Mattingly says hello), but of who is in that shouldn’t be, according to Mr. October himself. And that even includes the pitcher who is in fifth place on the all-time strikeouts list, Bert Blyleven. Reggie says, “No. No, no, no, no. Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.” Alright, I’ll agree that Morris belongs, but his omission should not distract from Blyleven’s accomplishments.

While the voting process isn’t perfect, requiring a 75% consensus is a pretty lofty standard and one that is hard to achieve. For the most part, the BBWAA has done a pretty good job on their end of keeping the riff raff out of the Hall. The Veterans Committee hasn’t done so splendidly, but most of their choices can at least be rationalized to some extent. If the BBWAA has failed at all, it has failed by its omissions (see also: Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso). Reggie is simply wrong on this point.

2012 FPC: Texas Rangers

The first baseball team to respond to the 2012 Fan Pack Challenge was the Texas Rangers. Some pretty cool goodies in this envelope, including two versions of the 2012 schedule…

Rangers pocket schedules

But they didn’t stop there. This wasn’t the greatest fan pack I have ever received, but it’s a pretty nice one.

Here’s their score:
The inclusion of pocket schedule(s) = 2 points (five schedules total)
Stickers = 12 (11 temporary tattoos, 1 small bumper sticker)
Trading cards = 0
High-quality promotional items = 4 (Neftali Feliz 5×7, Bert Blyleven Hall of Fame 5×7, 2010 and 2011 8.5×11 team photos)
Other stuff = 1 (ad for Jr. Rangers club)
Timeliness = 10 points

Temporary Tattoos

MLB Network bumper sticker

Neftali Feliz

Bert Blyleven

Hall of Fame

American League Champions

AL Champs

Rangers kids club

Not a bad little package. If you write them a nice letter, they might send you one too!

Retired Numbers: #27 & #28

Talk about a killer rotation…how would you like these Hall of Fame pitchers on your staff, being caught by this Hall of Fame catcher?

Juan Marichal, San Francisco Giants

Marichal had an impressive streak of eight consecutive All-Star seasons from 1962-1969, winning 20+ games in all but two of those years. When he retired in 1975, he had compiled 243 wins with a 2.89 ERA and 2303 strikeouts. Marichal had to wait until his third year on the ballot for the Hall of Fame, going from 58.1% to 73.5% to 83.7% in 1983. His son-in-law, Jose Rijo, never had the personal success that Marichal enjoyed, but he did do something Juan couldn’t do during his career: win a World Series.

Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox

Catfish Hunter, Oakland A’s

Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins

Fun Cards: 1962 Topps Football Bert Blyleven

The 1962 Topps football style is an easily manipulated design. I decided to use it for “fun cards” of Bert Blyleven and his Hall of Fame induction-mate Roberto Alomar (which you will see tomorrow).

How magical are “magic numbers”? (part 1)

Hall of Fame elections are tricky. In the past, if a player had reached certain milestones, or “magic numbers,” he was assured a spot in Cooperstown. With the recent revelation of steroids in the game and the tainting of our precious statistics, those “magic numbers” are now marred with allegations and accusations. Players like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Rafael Palmeiro are no longer guaranteed admittance into the sacred company.

But I got to thinking, how magic are those magic numbers? For hitters, the magic numbers are 3000 hits and 500 home runs. For pitchers, 3000 strikeouts and 300 wins. How easy is it for a player to get in with those numbers? Let’s take a look, starting with pitchers…

300 wins

  • Cy Young (511 wins) – Selected to HOF in 1937 by BBWAA (2nd year receiving votes)
  • Walter Johnson (417) – Selected to HOF in 1936 by BBWAA (1st)
  • Pete Alexander (373) – Selected to HOF in 1938 by BBWAA (3rd)
  • Christy Mathewson (373) – Selected to HOF in 1936 by BBWAA (1st)
  • Pud Galvin (365) – Selected to HOF in 1965 by Veteran’s Committee
  • Warren Spahn (363) – Selected to HOF in 1973 by BBWAA (1st year on ballot under current rules)
  • Kid Nichols (361) – Selected to HOF in 1949 by Old Timers Committee (4 years on BBWAA ballot, never received more than 2.6%)
  • Greg Maddux (355) – Not yet eligible
  • Roger Clemens (354) – Not yet eligible, plus the steroids taint
  • Tim Keefe (342) – Selected to HOF in 1964 by Veteran’s Committee
  • Steve Carlton (329) – Selected to HOF in 1994 by BBWAA (1st)
  • John Clarkson (328) – Selected to HOF in 1963 by Veteran’s Committee
  • Eddie Plank (326) – Selected to HOF in 1946 by Old Timers Committee (spent 5 years on BBWAA ballot, high support was 27%)
  • Nolan Ryan (324) – Selected to HOF in 1999 by BBWAA (1st)
  • Don Sutton (324) – Selected to HOF in 1998 by BBWAA (5th)
  • Phil Niekro (318) – Selected to HOF in 1997 by BBWAA (5th)
  • Gaylord Perry (314) – Selected to HOF in 1991 by BBWAA (3rd)
  • Tom Seaver (311) – Selected to HOF in 1992 by BBWAA (1st)
  • Old Hoss Radbourn (309) – Selected to HOF in 1939 by Old Timers Committee
  • Mickey Welch (307) – Selected to HOF in 1973 by Veteran’s Committee
  • Tom Glavine (305) – Not yet eligible
  • Randy Johnson (303) – Not yet eligible
  • Lefty Grove (300) – Selected to HOF in 1947 by BBWAA (3rd)
  • Early Wynn (300) – Selected to HOF in 1972 by BBWAA (4th)

Twenty-four pitchers in the history of baseball have won 300 ballgames. Seven of those guys were inducted by the Veterean’s Committee or the Old Timers Committee, while another four are not yet eligible. The top four were in the very early days of the Hall of Fame, and there was a tremendous backlog of players on the ballot at that time. It’s amazing that Cy Young did not get enough support that first year, despite being the only pitcher in history with more than 500 victories, but at the same time we’re not going to hold it against the voters because they did get it right eventually.

If we eliminate those fifteen names, we have nine guys to look at, mostly in the modern era, with 300 wins: Spahn, Carlton, Ryan, Sutton, Niekro, Perry, Seaver, Grove, and Wynn. Spahn, Carlton, Ryan, and Seaver were first ballot guys (we’re ignoring the vote cast for Spahn while he was still active in 1958, which would not be allowed under current rules). Why were the others forced to wait three, four, even five years, despite 300 wins?

Personally, I look at the career of a player rather than the peak. Sutton, Niekro, and Perry reached the 300-win plateau as well as 3000 strikeouts. Shouldn’t that end the conversation? Alright, I understand the hesitation on Perry…

But for Sutton and Niekro, there should have been no debate. Sutton only had one 20-win season; Niekro had three. Sutton had a nice 5-year peak in the 1970s with several top-five finishes in Cy Young voting and All-Star appearances. Niekro spread out his success more, with Cy Young support and All-Star honors in three decades. In the end, I suppose both were seen more as compilers than dominant forces, but credit has to be given for longevity, doesn’t it?

Despite 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts, both were forced by the BBWAA to wait five years before enshrinement.

Now look at a few other players that reached 3000 strikeouts in their career, but did not reach the 300-win mark.

3000 Strikeouts

  • Bert Blyleven(3701 strikeouts) – Selected to HOF in 2011 by BBWAA (14th year receiving votes)
  • Fergie Jenkins(3192) – Selected to HOF in 1991 by BBWAA (3rd)
  • Bob Gibson (3117) – Selected to HOF in 1981 by BBWAA (1st)

We all know the struggles Blyleven faced. Just one 20-win season, two All-Star games, three top-ten finishes in Cy Young voting. Like Sutton and Niekro, he was seen as a compiler, and he fell just short of 300 victories. Jenkins battled the stigma of a cocaine-related arrest which may have forced him to wait a few years for induction.

So back to the original question, how magical are the milestones of 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts? No eligible pitcher has been denied induction, but neither are the marks automatic first-ballot guarantees.

Starting pitchers and the Hall of Fame

Did you realize there are no starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame that debuted after 1967? Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter…they all started their careers in the 1960s. If Bert Blyleven makes it this year (which he should), then he would be the newest starter in the Hall by debut date…1970. The only other starting pitchers who have received more than 5% of the vote in recent years are Jack Morris and Tommy John (who started in 1963). John’s last year of eligibility was 2009, while Morris received 50% support last year for the first time in 11 years on the ballot. By comparison, Blyleven climbed to 50% by his ninth year on the ballot.

Recent pitchers who have appeared on the ballot include Dwight Gooden, Mark Langston, Bret Saberhagen, David Cone, Todd Stottlemyre, Jose Rijo, and Chuck Finley. None of them received enough votes to stay on the ballot a second year. I was a little surprised that Cone didn’t get more support (21 votes for 3.9%), but I never expected him to get in either. Even Orel Hershiser, who won 204 games, only lasted two years on the ballot (dropping from 11.2% in 2006 to 4.4% in 2007). That’s better than 245-game winner Dennis Martinez, who was one-and-done with 3.2% in 2004.

In 2011, only a few starters will be on the ballot for the first time, the most interesting being Kevin Brown. Brown won 211 games in his career, but was named in the Mitchell Report. If McGwire–who was perceived as a shoo-in for Cooperstown before the steroid scandal–only receives 25% of the vote, then I see a possibility of one-and-done for a borderline candidate like Brown. The only other pitcher with more than 150 wins on the 2011 ballot is Al Leiter, but despite his consistency I don’t expect him to receive much support for the Hall of Fame.

200-game winners on the ballot down the road…
2012: nobody
2013: Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, David Wells
2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina, Kenny Rogers
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz

Of those, I expect six (maybe seven) to get inducted. The earliest debut of those six is Maddux in 1986. If Blyleven gets in, and Morris doesn’t, that still leaves a 16-year gap of no new starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame.

Does this seem strange to anyone else?

* Addendum…completely slipping my mind when I wrote this post was Dennis Eckersley, who began his major league career in 1975. Though he never would have made it to Cooperstown had he not moved to the bullpen and dominated in the late 1980s with Oakland, the first half of his career as a starting pitcher wasn’t a total wash: 151 W-128 L, 3.67 ERA, 111 ERA+, and 42.1 WAR.

The Hawk flies high

So the Hall of Fame vote was released today, and “The Hawk” was the only player who got the required 75% for election. Blyleven fell five votes short; Alomar was eight votes shy of induction. I still don’t get the aversion to voting for Bert. I guess the Alomar snub had something to do with the spitting incident. Larkin’s 50% is a good start; I predict 2012 to be his year. Raines only got 30%…I don’t get that. And don’t even get me started on Dale Murphy. Seriously, don’t.

For those who did not receive the required 5% to stay on the ballot for next year…I’m not surprised. None of them should receive serious consideration for Cooperstown. It’s a great achievement to play in the Major Leagues, and they should be very proud of that.

Here’s the breakdown of the vote:

Andre Dawson 420 (77.9%)
Bert Blyleven 400 (74.2%)
Roberto Alomar 397 (73.7%)
Jack Morris 282 (52.3%)
Barry Larkin 278 (51.6%)
Lee Smith 255 (47.3%)
Edgar Martinez 195 (36.2%)
Tim Raines 164 (30.4%)
Mark McGwire 128 (23.7%)
Alan Trammell 121 (22.4%)
Fred McGriff 116 (21.5%)
Don Mattingly 87 (16.1%)
Dave Parker 82 (15.2%)
Dale Murphy 63 (11.7%)
Harold Baines 33 (6.1%)
Andres Galarraga 22 (4.1%)
Robin Ventura 7 (1.3%)
Ellis Burks 2 (0.4%)
Eric Karros 2 (0.4%)
Kevin Appier 1 (0.2%)
Pat Hentgen 1 (0.2%)
David Segui 1 (0.2%)
Mike Jackson 0
Ray Lankford 0
Shane Reynolds 0
Todd Zeile 0

Who’s going to Cooperstown?

One is a shoo-in. We know this. There is no way the Man of Steal is not headed to the Hall.

The question then becomes, who (if anyone) is going with him? Will Bert Blyleven finally be given his due?

Will Jim Rice’s relationship with writers keep him out on his last chance?

What do you think?

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