01/06/2004 9:25 PM ET
Blyleven still wating for Hall's call
By Patrick Donnelly / Special to MLB.com
Baseball, above all other sports, has the reputation of placing an almost mystical value on statistics. That's precisely why Bert Blyleven can't understand why he's not in the Hall of Fame.
|Bert Blyleven is fifth on the all-time strikeout list with 3,701. (Edwin M. Remsberg/AP)
Blyleven, the curveball artist who won World Series titles in Pittsburgh and Minnesota and pitched 22 seasons in the Major Leagues, found out Tuesday that for the seventh consecutive year, he had fallen short of receiving enough votes to qualify for induction to the Hall.
Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were the only players who were named on at least 75 percent of the ballots, the minimum needed to qualify. The one positive for Blyleven is he received more votes this year than in any other year -- 35.4 percent, up from 29 percent last year.
But that doesn't explain why Blyleven's impressive statistical performance hasn't earned him a spot in Cooperstown.
"Numbers don't lie," Blyleven said. "And I think in time, enough writers will look at my numbers and see that they're strong enough to get in."
Consider: Blyleven's 3,701 strikeouts are fifth on the all-time list; he's the only pitcher among the top 13 in that category who's not in the Hall. He's also ninth in games started with 685, the only pitcher besides Tommy John in the top 12 who's not in the Hall; he's ninth in shutouts with 60 and the only person in the top 20 of that category who is not in the Hall; and he's 13th in innings pitched with 4,970, with every pitcher ahead of him in the Hall.
"When you start looking at complete games, shutouts, innings pitched, games started and a lot of the things you evaluate a starting pitcher on, he's got impressive numbers," said Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who categorized it as "a shame" that Blyleven remains on the outside looking in. "When you start breaking down his numbers and compare them to the guys that have made it, he compares favorably."
The key number most voters appear stuck on is Blyleven's 287 victories. That's good for 25th on the all-time list, and the only modern-era pitcher ahead of him who's not in the Hall is Tommy John, who won 288 games. Other strikes against him -- he won 20 games only once, and he played in only two All-Star Games.
"I didn't win a Cy Young, either," Blyleven said. "Heck, Cy Young didn't win a Cy Young."
As Molitor said in his press conference Tuesday, reading the list of players who didn't qualify humbled him and made him realize just how select the Hall of Fame is.
"It speaks to how difficult it is to get enough votes to get in," said Tom Kelly, who managed Blyleven in Minnesota from 1986-88. "It's such a tough, tough ballot to crack. You look at the list of guys on the ballot this year, and if you spoke to any manager in the game, I'm sure he'd say, 'I'd take that guy. I'd take him. That guy can play for me,' and so on down the list."
Blyleven said he has a hard time understanding how a player can be left off a writer's ballot one year, then suddenly be deemed worthy of the Hall a year later.
"It took Tony Perez nine years to get in," he said, "and he didn't hit any more home runs or drive in any more runs in those nine years."
But he remains encouraged that some prominent national writers said they voted for him for the first time this year, and hopes they'll be able to influence other writers to check Blyleven's name on the ballot in the future.
"It won't happen until some of the veteran writers come out and say, 'Look at his numbers -- it's time for this guy to get in,'" Blyleven said.
Kelly summed up the feeling of Blyleven's supporters, saying, "You just have to stay patient and hope Bert can crack that nut. Let's hope he can stay with it, and the voters can find a way to get him in."
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.