Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Bert Belongs

Via Repoz, I see that there's a campaign afoot to promote Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame, including the website Bert Belongs. I strongly support this effort. You can see my case for Blyleven (written in December 2000) here, and more on Bert's place among the great pitchers here and here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I think the case for Blyleven gets stronger the longer you look at it. He's almost certainly the best starting pitcher who isn't in, and I think he's a lot closer to the comparable guys who are in (Niekro, Ryan, Sutton) than to the comparable guys who aren't (John, Kaat).

Posted by: Jerry at December 2, 2005 1:17 PM

Any thoughts on Jim Rice's chances this year? With no "big" nominee to suck up the oxygen, and the first class of steroid boys coming next year, might writers acknowledge that Rice might have been surly, but at least he was clean?

[this was raised somewhere else that I cannot recall...]

Posted by: Mr Furious at December 2, 2005 2:23 PM

When I was a kid Jim Rice was my favorite player. I have often thought he should be in the Hall and I have thought at times he should not, perhaps thinking I was being biased.

Jim Rice had some down years in a relatively short career (about 13 years). Those were frustrating years watching a freakishly good hitter bump along at .280 with 20 HRs. 1980, 1981 and then the last 2 full years of his career (87 and 88) were far from Hall-worthy.

However from 1977-79 he was one of the most dominant hitters ever to play the game. 1978 is like a cartoon year. He hit .315 with 46 HRs (next best was 34), 139 RBIs (next best; 121), 15 triples (next best was Rob Carew with 10) and 406 Total Bases (next best was 293!). The total bases number is still in the top 20 all-time and is only of only 2 in the top 20 done between 1937 and 1997 (Stan the Man was the other). He also had a very good stretch from 1982-1986 and probably could have won a second MVP (which might have gotten him into the Hall earlier) in '86 had Clemens not been so freaking dominant.

They have infield shifts nowadays. Against Rice, teams used to put 4 guys in the outfield because he hit the ball down the right field line as well as any power-hitting right-handed hitter ever had or has. He was surly but his surliness was somewhat well-earned as the 70's/early 80's, Boston and black superstar were not something that exactly went together (even Russell was more beloved in legacy than in his time) plus he played with Golden Boy Freddy Lynn and he was taking Yaz's job. He did not get a free pass. On the other hand Ted Williams was 100x more of a bastard to the fans and media than Rice ever dreamed of being.

Put him and Blyleven in. The 70's and 80's was a fantastic era for baseball with some great players that get less credit because their numbers were not as gaudy as those that came well before them and those that are playing now.

Posted by: jim at December 2, 2005 4:07 PM

Well said, Jim. I agree.

Posted by: Mr Furious at December 2, 2005 4:34 PM

Although it's not a particularly popular position to argue, the case for Albert Belle is both quite similar to, and almost exactly as strong as the case for Rice, unless you think he's a steroids guy (which I wouldn't put past him, but I haven't heard him specifically accused).

Posted by: Jerry at December 2, 2005 7:07 PM

I lean more in the direction of Belle . . . as you can tell from my archives I used to favor Rice, but he has two major problems that Belle doesn't: his stats were hugely inflated by his home park, especially in his prime years (look at his home/road splits), and he hit into a gigantic number of DPs, which made him less productive than he appeared. Although on the latter point I'm open to the argument that Rice can't be blamed for the fact that Wade Boggs and Dwight Evans caused him to bat with an unusually high number of slow runners on first base, which would have caused anyone to hit into an above-average number of DPs, and thus that it's unfair to blame Rice for the DPs unless you give him extra credit for the RBIs.

Posted by: The Crank at December 3, 2005 11:01 AM

Blyleven AND Kaat should be in the HOF...and Jimmy Buffett in the Rock Hall

Posted by: Ironman at December 3, 2005 6:00 PM

Blyleven's career ERA+ is 118, which corresponds to a pythagorean winning % of .582. If he had the same number of decisions and a .582 winning %, his lifetime record would have been a Seaver-ish 313-224, and we wouldn't be talking about whether he belongs, because he'd already be there. Do the same math for Kaat and you get 278-242, which is more of a Red Ruffing / Ted Lyons type of record, a little tougher sell.

Posted by: Chris at December 4, 2005 2:13 AM

I'm a bit more sold on Blyleven than on Rice.

But not sure Blyleven should go. Just because guys are in that don't deserve it, doesn't mean that we should let him in too. But I wouldn't cry.

But Rice? I just don't think what he did from '75-'79 & '86 (6 seasons) justifies a bust in Cooperstown. By that standard, then what about Dale Murphy or Albert Belle? I don't think their short periods of "cartoon-like" dominance get them in either.

For my money, I'm waiting for the Goose & Santo to get in before I worry about Rice or Blyleven.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2005 6:42 AM

I have been back and forth on the Rice issue for a long time. He is on the edge either way. He also had very good years in '83-'85. In relation to Murphy I think it's close but Rice was a better hitter (higher career averages in every statistical category except HRs) and while Murphy was a better fielder I don't know if that gets it done. Albert Belle's career is largely in the "juiced ball" era and while what he did is impressive based on when he played to me it either needed to be even more freakish or drawn out over a longer stint in the bigs. I am not some huge Rice advocate. I think there is a good argument for him, Blyleven and Gossage (Gossage being the most deserving to me of the 3). I liked him as a kid and it would be nice to see him go in.

Posted by: jim at December 5, 2005 12:28 PM

I hated the Goose. We had Lockwood/Allen; the Yanks had Gossage. D'oh! Plus, he looked kinda scary.

But great is great.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2005 12:46 PM

I was always a believer that Blyleven belonged in the Hall. But then, I thought Jack Morris belonged as well. It all comes down to what your criteria for induction is. In my case, you have to be the best in your position in your league for a 5 year period; and being the best in the game for 3 of those years helps big time. I think Blyleven and Morris both fit a lot of that. Blyleven was better in the reegular season, but let's face it. Morris was magnificent in October. It should count for something.

Under those rules (well my rules anyway), Rice is a poor fit. As a left fielder, he was a born DH. He put up flashy numbers in Fenway, memory says not as good on the road (Rice isn't worth the effort to look it up), coouldn't field, and was a human double play machine. Couple that with a really miserable personality, and he gets no benefit of the doubt.Eddie Murray, for instance, also had that personality, but his body of work was far greater, and we was the best fist baseman in the AL.

While we are on the subject of pitchers on the cusp, how about Wilbur Wood? He had some great years with some really awful teams.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 5, 2005 2:34 PM
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