Well, it’ll soon be time to announce the hall of fame voting, which means it’s also time for Jon Heyman’s annual “hey look at me, I’m not going to vote for Bert Blyleven again this year” article. And what kind of internet baseball blog would we be if we didn’t support Blyleven’s candidacy. Here’s a list of 10 reasons why Heyman is wrong. Ironically, they are all reasons Heyman cited as to why Blyleven isn’t a hall of famer, but Jack Morris is.
- Blyleven had good, but not great numbers – If Blyleven’s numbers aren’t great (4970 ip, 287 wins, 3.31 era, 1.20 whip, 3701 k’s, 242 cg’s, and 60 shutouts), what do you call Morris’ numbers (3824 ip, 254 wins, 3.90 era, 1.30 whip, 2478 k’s, 175 cg’s, and 28 shutouts). For more on Blyleven’s career, click here..
- Blyleven never led the league in wins or ERA, but twice led the league in hr allowed and once in earned runs – What Heyman conveniently forgets to mention is that Morris never led the league in ERA either and also once led the league in earned runs. Blyleven did give up the most home runs in back to back seasons when he was 35 and 36 years old, but actually gave up less homers per 9 innings than Morris did for his career (.8 hr/9 vs .9 hr/9). As far as wins, Morris led the league twice. Once in the strike shortened 1981 season and in 1992 with 21 wins despite having an era over 4.00. I think that tells you all you need to know about wins.
- Blyleven only led the league in innings twice and complete games, strikeouts, and WHIP once – By comparison, Morris led the league in innings once, complete games once, strikeouts once, and never led in WHIP.
- Blyleven was only a two time all-star and rarely finished in the voting for the Cy Young or MVP – Really? This would be like saying Bill Gates hasn’t had a successful career because he wasn’t voted most likely to succeed in high school and only was named Time’s man of the year once. It’s irrelevant. Just because people didn’t understand or appreciate something while it was happening doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth appreciating.
- Blyleven never dominated any one season – In Blyleven’s first 12 seasons (age 19-30) his average year was 250 innings, 2.95 era, 1.17 whip, 196 k’s. Let me repeat, that was what he averaged for twelve years. Jack Morris never had a single season in his career with an era lower than 3.00, only one season with a whip lower than 1.17, and only three seasons with more than 196 k’s. In fact, Morris only had three seasons with an era below Blyleven’s career era of 3.31.
- Morris was arguably the best pitcher of the 80’s – Ok, let’s argue it. From 1980-1989 Morris (age 25-34) had 162 wins, 3.66 era, 1.26 whip, 1629 k’s, and a 109 era+. Blyleven, who pitched in the 80’s on the downside of his career (age 29-38) had 123 wins, 3.64 era, 1.22 whip, 1480 k’s, and a 113 era+. But according to Heyman, stats don’t tell the story.
- Blyleven didn’t win all that many more games than he lost – For one, had he won 13 more games in his career with the same stats, Blyleven would have been no worse than a 2nd ballot hall of famer and Heyman would have voted for him 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. But I’d say that’s hardly his fault, considering he had 8 seasons where he pitched 230+ innings with an era at or below 3.00 and had double digit losses. If anything, King Felix’s Cy Young taught us that wins are a team stat.
- Morris was the staff ace of three world championship franchises – Morris was a pretty good postseason pitcher and of course pitched one of the greatest games in postseason history. But Blyleven was no slouch. He had less opportunities, but made the most of them going 5-1 in six starts (8 appearances), pitching 47.1 innings with a 2.47 era and 1.08 whip. Morris started 13 playoff games and pitched 92.1 innings with a 7-4 record, 3.80 era, and 1.25 whip.
- Part of Morris’s high era was due to him pitching to the scoreboard, which the very best pitchers could do – This might be the weakest of all the arguments. For one, even if they don’t admit it, baseball players are very into their stats. I mean, no sport takes their stats and records more seriously than baseball (just ask Roger Maris or Barry Bonds). Then to suggest it’s a skill that the very best pitchers possess. . . is that a joke? Could you imagine Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, or Greg Maddux saying, “well boys you got me 5 runs, so I’ll give up 4 just because I can.” Even if it is a “skill”, I’d say Bert Blyleven was better at it, since his teams generally scored less runs and he generally gave up less runs.
- Blyleven’s backers sometimes will also act astounded or even apoplectic over the fact that some, including myself, support Jack Morris over Blyleven – Look, I have no reason to care if Bert Blyleven makes the hall of fame and I don’t even know what apoplectic* means, but when player A has better traditional stats, better sabermetric stats, better postseason stats, and more longevity than player B, you better believe I’m going to be apoplectic (still don’t know what it means) when someone says player B was better just because he had more 10 inning World Series clinching shutouts or just seemed like a more dominant pitcher. It’s kind of like when I watch re-runs of my old favorite shows from the 80’s and 90’s. Sure they are still somewhat entertaining, but upon re-examination, are usually filled with terrible acting and ridiculous plots. And even though they seemed to be good at the time, I realize that they simply weren’t as good as I thought.
By no means am I suggesting that Jack Morris wasn’t a good pitcher, he just wasn’t what many people like to remember. And there is no planet where he should be a hall of famer if Bert Blyleven isn’t.