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General : : Crack The Bat
Blyleven, Alomar Hall of Fame Bound
Published: Monday, January 10, 2011

Congratulations are in order to both Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar for being selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Last year I argued that it shouldn’t have taken this long for Blyleven to get in, and that Alomar should have been in on the first try, but now I’m just happy to see that both will be inducted where they belong.

I also noted last year that you can tell from the votes just how much steroids and the age of juicing has left an impression on the writers.  Mark McGwire received only 19.8% of the votes, with first-time eligibles Jeff Bagwell (41.7%), Larry Walker (20.3%) and Rafael Palmeiro (11%) falling far short of getting in.  The steroid cloud is going to make it very difficult for any of these players to get in, although Bagwell and Walker can be thankful that their names haven’t been publicly dragged into the dirt as McGwire and Palmeiro have.

Barry Larkin very well may get his chance next season, while Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Tim Raines may take a Blyleven-esque approach to the Hall, if they do eventually make it.  I think it’s safe to say that the window for Alan Trammell, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy has closed (although I would argue that the only reason Mattingly was considered as much as he was is due to the fact that he played in New York for the Yankees).

Allow me to break down the careers of Alomar and Blyleven in greater detail, just to give an idea of their importance to the game of baseball, particularly the time in which they played.

One of the best ever

Roberto Alomar was quite simply one of the best second basemen to ever play the game.  He joins a short list of players headed by Rogers Hornsby, Joe Morgan, Eddie Collins, Jackie Robinson and Nap Lajoie.  Ryne Sandberg, Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio are among the more recent stars at the position, and while Sandberg is already in the Hall, Kent and Biggio may face similar difficulties as some of the other players listed above getting elected due to the era they played in.

Alomar started his career at the age of 20 with the San Diego Padres and for the most part hit the ground running.  Two years later he was involved in one of the most classic trades ever when he and Joe Carter were dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez.  Both Alomar and Carter of course were integral parts of the Blue Jays success in the early 1990s that led to World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993.

You don’t have to look too much further than Alomar’s 12 consecutive all-star appearances and 10 Gold Glove awards to get an idea of what kind of career he enjoyed.  He never led the league in batting, doubles, stolen bases or any other notable offensive categories outside of runs scored in 1999 (with the Indians), but he was amazingly consistent.  He finished by batting .300/.371/.443 during his career, although he dropped off dramatically after the 2001 season.  From 2002-2004 he hit only .262/.331/.367 to wrap up his career.

He was also effective in the postseason, hitting .313/.381/.448 in 58 games over seven different trips to the postseason with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Indians.  While he turned into a star during his time in Toronto, hitting for average, stealing bases and making spectacular defensive plays seemingly on a daily basis, he may have been most lethal during his time in Cleveland. 

There, he reached or surpassed 20 home runs two of the three times he did so in his career, as well as two of the four times he hit 40-plus doubles.  He did so hitting among some all-time greats and arguably one of the most dangerous lineups ever with Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel batting ahead of him as well as some combination of Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, David Justice, Travis Fryman and Juan Gonzalez behind him.

In one of my stories with Perfect Game, I conducted a different approach to assembling an all-time team, choosing one player from each decade throughout the 1900s to take a spot on every position on the field.  Somewhat by default, Alomar made the first-team representing the 1990s, further reinforcing his importance and standing in the history of baseball.

A throwback

No one is going to throw Bert Blyleven into the conversation as one of the best right-handed pitchers ever, but his durability and the length of his career allowed him to accumulate some pretty impressive numbers.  If you glance at his statistics you will also get an understanding for the era in which he played.

He won 287 games (27th all-time) over 22 seasons.  He also lost 250 games (10th).  He threw 242 complete games (tied for 91st, a real indication how pitching has changed dramatically over the years), 60 of which were shutouts (ninth).

Blyleven is also among the all-time leaders in strikeouts (3701, fifth), games started (685, 11th), and innings pitched (4,970, 14th).

He had double-digit wins in 17 of his 22 years in the big-leagues, reaching 20 only once in 1973.  He also had 15 seasons with double-digit losses (four with 17).  He had 16 seasons with 30 or more starts, 13 of those with 33 or more and one year with 40.  16 of his 22 years he logged at least 200 innings, one of those with more than 300.  In twelve seasons he went the distance at least 10 times, and he had three seasons with at least 20 complete games.

While Alomar was a 12-time all-star, all in consecutive seasons, Blyleven made the squad only twice during his career.  He led the league in strikeouts only once (206 in 1985) a year he split between the Indians and Twins, going 17-16 with a 3.16 ERA.  He finished third in the Cy Young voting in both 1984 and ’85, and fourth in 1989 when he was winding down his career.

In those 22 years he played on five different teams, spending parts of 11 seasons during two separate stints with the Minnesota Twins.  He started his big-league career in 1970 with the Twins at the age of 19 and wrapped it up with the Angels in 1992 at the age of 41.  While he was always known  to have played on some pretty bad teams, he did make the postseason three different years, winning the World Series twice.  He won with the Pirates in 1979 and with the Twins in 1987, overall posting a 5-1 record with a 2.47 ERA in eight playoff games, six of which were starts.

Obviously there are some interesting numbers included above, and I didn’t even get to the 50 home runs he allowed in 1986.  His Hall of Fame career is clearly the polar opposite of someone like Sandy Koufax, who was one of the best pitchers in the game for a relatively short period.  It is a fitting induction that the epitome of all workhorses took 14 years before he got in, a perfect tribute to his durability, and patience.

The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA.  Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and 5 Tool Talk, and can be contacted via email at pebert@5tooltalk.com.




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