Blyleven, on durability

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Who Of The Still-eligible Players Should Be In The Baseball Hall Of Fame?

January 14, 2009|By CHILDS WALKER

I respect Andre Dawson as a power-speed combination, an excellent outfielder and an all-around fine gentleman. I suspect he'll be the next guy to make the Hall of Fame from the current group of eligible players. He just didn't get on base at a high enough rate for my taste.

On the other hand, it's a travesty that Bert Blyleven remains on the outside looking in. Blyleven ranks fifth all time in strikeouts and finished among the top 10 in ERA 10 times. He was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in six postseason starts and was a key rotation cog for two world champions. He threw one of the most dastardly curveballs ever observed on this planet.

He hasn't been elected because voters are hung up on wins. Blyleven won 20 in a season only once and fell 13 short of 300 for his career. If he had pitched in front of better offenses, he would have his 300 and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

But Blyleven's detractors point to the wins and say he was never the best in the league, just a good pitcher for a long time.

To that, I say that durability is an incredible skill for a high-end pitcher. Sandy Koufax is in the Hall because he pitched brilliantly for five years. Blyleven pitched very well for more than three times as long. If you could choose today, given the volatility of pitching, would you take a guy who would be the best pitcher in the league until 2013 or a guy who could be your No. 1 or No. 2 starter until 2025?

Maybe you still take Koufax. But I say there's room for both types of players in Cooperstown.

Bert has gained respect over the years, rising from 17 percent of the vote in 1998, his first year of eligibility, to 62.7 percent this year. Players who reach 62 percent usually make it, but Blyleven is running out of years. He'll have three more shots at a late entry. No one deserves it more.

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