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Jon Paul Morosi from FoxSports.com has really done a good job making a name for himself the last year or two, breaking stories. He is kind of the right-hand man with Ken Rosenthal. Yesterday, he wrote a terrific article on Rich Lederer. Who is Rich Lederer? Well, to be perfectly honest, he is the guy who should get a ton of credit for Bert Blyleven getting in to the Hall of Fame (hopefully today!). Lederer writes at a site called BaseballAnalysts.com, and he has since 2003. He has written many articles on Blyleven and his case for the Hall of Fame. If you go to his site and check out some of the articles on the left side of his screen in the Blyleven Series, you can read some of the best written, more well thought out arguments for Blyleven. Like me, and most Twins fans, we believe that there is an easy case to be made for Blyleven, and yet, looking back over the vote, it wasn’t long ago that Blyleven was getting less than one-quarter of the vote. Now, he is on the brink of induction, and although Blyleven’s right arm deserves most of the credit, without the efforts of Lederer, this day may never have been possible. One of Lederer’s finest was a blog in December responding to an article from SI’s Jon Heyman on why he doesn’t vote for Blyleven.
I first ‘met’ Lederer in late 2003. I had written my own blog on the Hall of Fame, and after doing the research was absolutely amazed that Blyleven wasn’t getting more votes. It’s not just the 287 wins. It’s all the one-run losses, and the 10-inning losses. Some argue that he was never dominant because he never won a Cy Young award, and yet statistics showed that he should have a couple of times. It was that when he retired from baseball, he was third on the all-time strikeout list. He’s fifth now, but then he was third. It was looking at several all-time stats lists, and realizing that everyone in front of him and several just behind him on those lists were Hall of Famers. It’s things like Shutouts and Complete Games, but it’s also all those advanced statistical metrics. It would be one thing if he was near the top of a list of two. He’s up there in dozens.
I tweeted yesterday that if Blyleven played in parts of five more big league seasons, and compiled a 37-42 record, he would have the same record as Nolan Ryan. Ryan has the strikeouts and the no-hitters, I understand. But Ryan never won a Cy Young Award either. My point isn’t to say that Blyleven is as good as Ryan, although I think you could work through an argument that wouldn’t be too bad, it’s to say that while Blyleven was struggling to get 25% of the vote, Ryan got in with over 98% of the vote.
Blyleven was part of two World Series champions, the Pirates in 1979 and the Twins in 1987. Some say that he wasn’t his team’s ace in those years. Twins fans know that Frank Viola was the ace in 1987. But have you seen Blyleven’s post-season and World Series numbers? He was terrific. 16 times, Blyleven posted an ERA below 3.20. 12 of those times it was at 3.00 or lower. If Blyleven managed 13 more Wins over his 20+ year career, he would have been voted in ten years ago. Thankfully, writers are now starting to look at Wins for starting pitchers a little differently, a little smarter. And a lot of internet writers deserve credit for that, Lederer among them.
So, back in late 2003, I contacted Rich, and told him that I was going to take my blog article making a case for Blyleven and also include his blog article, put them into an e-mail and send it to as many baseball writers across the country. I went to some sites that had listings of all the newspapers across the country, went to their Sports Pages and sent an e-mail to every writer that I could find an e-mail address for. I think I sent over 150 e-mails. It was kind of a neat project, and I got great responses from many of the best baseball writers. I even engaged in some conversations with some stubborn writers, not willing to budge on a few things. (I want to re-iterate that I believe that the voters have the right to vote for who they want to or don’t want to. As much as I think that Blyleven should have been an easy choice a decade ago, others clearly haven’t seen it that way. They have made cases for players whose numbers and such simply don’t add up… in my mind, and that’s OK. I don’t expect everyone to think like me.)
If you read this article from Lederer posted eight years ago, it’s one of his best blogs on the topic. There have been many.
So today, at 1:00 central time, Bert Blyleven should receive a phone call from the baseball Hall of Fame telling him that, finally, he will be called a Hall of Famer. Most think it is a shoe-in. He was just five votes short a year ago. The reality is that you just never know how new people will vote or if any will change their mind on Blyleven since last year. If Blyleven is called, and FSN will be at his place in Ft. Myers if and when he gets that call, he should be overjoyed. It is a moment long awaited and well deserved. Blyleven will get his due. And I bet that he will mention the name of Rich Lederer, and he will thank him. And Mr. Lederer deserves all the credit that he gets.
Any thoughts? Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.