12/30/10 8:45 AM EST
Blyleven, Alomar overdue for Hall enshrinement
Duo's exclusion from baseball's highest honor a real injustice
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
Two events need to occur in the balloting for the National Baseball Hall of Fame -- the elections of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar.
Certainly, there are other worthy candidates. We can discuss that later, and we will. But Blyleven and Alomar are previous business for the Hall voters. More specifically, they represent injustices that need to be corrected -- immediately.
Bert Blyleven is in his 14th year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Time is running out on his eligibility for election by vote of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. If he isn't elected by the writers, then his candidacy would be subject to a vote of the Veterans Committee. And we all know what usually happens then -- nothing.
Blyleven has had my vote throughout his candidacy, but he started off with an astoundingly small amount of voting support. His backing has grown over the years, reflecting not only a greater appreciation for his career, but also more sophisticated measurements of pitching worth.
Last year, Blyleven finally got to the very doorstep of induction, receiving 74.2 percent of the votes. With 75 percent required for election, he was just five votes short. It was a major step forward since two years ago, when Blyleven's percentage of the vote was 62.7.
Blyleven has been punished for winning 287 games, falling less than a season short of the typical 300-win benchmark. It was not his fault that he had the misfortune of pitching for some bad teams. He has some remarkable numbers on his side, chief of which is ranking fifth on the all-time strikeouts list. He ranks ninth in shutouts and 13th in innings pitched. From a less objective standpoint, he had a devastating curveball.
The measurement of pitching value has moved beyond victories, as indicated by the Mariners' Felix Hernandez -- he of a 13-12 record -- winning the American League Cy Young Award this season by a wide margin. Surely, a handful more votes should be available this year to make a judgment in the same direction on Blyleven's Hall of Fame candidacy. The matter should have been decided in his favor some time ago, but this could still be a case of "better late than never."
Alomar will never again have the chance to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, a status he richly deserved. But the voters can do the next best thing by electing him in his second year of eligibility.
Alomar, like Blyleven, was at the very edge of election last year. He received 73.7 percent of the votes, just eight tallies short of election. The arguments against him did not center on his career achievements, which was good, because those achievements were indisputable.
He was the best second baseman of his generation, and saying that still represents understatement. Alomar won 10 Gold Gloves in an 11-year period. He was a wonder to behold in the field.
And, at what had traditionally been a defense-first position, he was a genuine offensive threat, with a combination of speed and extra-base power. A lifetime .300 hitter, Alomar was a 12-time All-Star. His numbers compare favorably with, for instance, Ryne Sandberg, another second baseman who is now a Hall of Famer.
There are two pertinent arguments against Alomar. He was involved in an incident in which he spat on an umpire after the umpire insulted him. Alomar was wrong, but the umpire wasn't right, either. Both have since patched up their differences. It might be time for the rest of us to move along, as well.
Secondly, Alomar got old quickly. After putting together more than a decade's worth of brilliant seasons, including two with World Series championship clubs in Toronto, his performance markedly declined at age 34 and never recovered. What was doubly unfortunate for him was that his decline coincided with a trade to the New York Mets. Thus, his late-career shortcomings received a disproportionate amount of media attention relative to a long period of superior play.
Still, those shortcomings should not have erased all the greatness. On balance, he should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Now, in the second time around for his candidacy, he must be a Hall of Famer.
There will be numerous other debates regarding the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot. But in the cases of Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar, the debates should have already been resolved in favor of their induction at Cooperstown.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.