Blyleven finally a Hall of Fame pitcher

Chris Ruddick,
MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is no Hall of Fame election that sparks the kind of debate that baseball's does. And for years, one of the biggest arguments has been whether or not Bert Blyleven should be in Cooperstown.

Well, the powers that be settled that dispute Wednesday when Blyleven, along with Roberto Alomar, was elected as part of the 2011 class to Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Alomar should have gotten in last year, but probably due to that unfortunate spitting incident in Toronto in 1996, he fell eight votes short. Blyleven, though, became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1998. What exactly has he done in the last 14 years to warrant a call now?

I know he has 287 wins and ranks among the leaders with 3,701 strikeouts, but why has it been such an injustice that he was not in the Hall, rather than someone like Tommy John, whose career numbers are quite similar and whose legacy in the game now far outweighs Blyleven's?

Granted, I saw Blyleven late in his career, but I have always felt that if you have to think about it for longer than a minute or so, the player is not a Hall of Famer. I guess after 14 ballots the voters changed their minds because he received only 17.5 percent of the vote back in 1998.

Bert Blyleven was elected in his 14th year on the ballot.
Now, I don't think Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, but look at his numbers. How is he not a lock? Or at least better than the 41.7 percent he received his first time on the ballot this year? I will tell you why, because he played in the steroid era and although he has never been caught using performance enhancing drugs, he will always be linked because he had big numbers.

On the other hand we have Rafael Palmeiro, one of just four players in his career to amass 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. But he tested positive for steroids after wagging his finger in front of Congress, adamantly denying that he had used them.

We all know that steroids have always been baseball's dirty little secret. Most agree there were players who dabbled in them in the 1980s before it became commonplace in the 90s.

So, in this age where nobody is above suspicion, how do we not suspect someone like, I don't know, Blyleven, who won 17 games at the age of 38 and pitched to a 2.73 ERA in the American League? Prior to that spectacular year with the Angels, he hadn't pitched to an ERA under 3.00 since 1984 and had lost a league-high 17 games in 1988.

There is no debate, though, when it comes to Alomar. It was an injustice that he wasn't voted in last year. Look at the numbers. He is one of the best second baseman to ever play the game.

Offensively he's near the top of every category and defensively there may never have been anyone who was better. He was a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and appeared in 12 straight All-Star Games. How he didn't get in last year is beyond me.

But then again, I shouldn't be surprised. The Baseball Writers' Association of America has become a sham and how they handle this is a joke. It has become a popularity contest and they should be embarrassed. Take ESPN's Barry Stanton for example.

Stanton -- who is one of ESPN's 18 Hall of Fame voters, by the way -- named Jack Morris, B.J. Surhoff, Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez and Edgar Martinez on his ballot. No Blyleven, no Alomar. Really?

Nice work, Stanton. You are a clown and the BBWAA is just as guilty for allowing that kind of nonsense. That, my friends, is a farce and a different argument for a different day.

So where will the debate lie now? Jack Morris? Larry Walker? Barry Larkin? All are worthy, but all came up short. I have a feeling in Morris' case he may be nearing the end. He only received 53.5 percent of the votes this year, just over one percent higher than last year.

I don't think we will see another grassroots campaign like we have seen in the past with Bruce Sutter or Jim Rice, or even here with Blyleven. The big debates over the next five, 10, 15 years will be the steroid guys. Not only the ones we know took them like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Palmeiro, etc. But also the ones who are guilty by association for just having played in this era, like Bagwell or squeaky-clean guys like Frank Thomas and Jim Thome.

I've always compared the cases of the steroid guys to that of the closers. Once one gets in they will all start to trickle in. Dennis Eckersley got in and that opened the door for players like Sutter and Goose Gossage.

Bonds and Clemens are going to be voted in. It might not be on their first try, but they will be in. Why bother having a Hall of Fame if those two are not in it?

And once they do get in, the dominoes will begin to fall. End of story.

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