Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year, Old Players

I had been meaning for some time to contribute my thoughts on the upcoming (read: tomorrow) Hall of Fame election results. If I had all the time and nothing to do, I probably would have done it sooner. As it stands, I'm doing it hours before the official announcement.

Part of the delay was my continued struggle to write about the 1984 Tigers. If I had a HOF ballot, two of the four names on it would be members of that team; Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. Because I do intend to write more about them later, I will write nary a word about them now other than they should be in the Hall of Fame.

The third name on my list will likely be the only player elected tomorrow. Wade Boggs. Boggs and Tony Gwynn were the premier hitters of the 1980's. Every season it was a given that both would be among the leaders in batting average. Rather, it was expected they would win the batting title and a surprise when they would not.

One of the things I enjoyed about Boggs was his willingness to put himself in a hole to the pitcher to get a look at what the pitcher had. Boggs rarely swung at the first pitch he saw. He waited for a pitch he could stroke for a hit.

There was also the chicken consumption eccentricity. His steadiness in eating poultry, taking pitches, and knocking hits was impressive. There was the Marla Hooch Penthouse thing but I have no recollection of it other than being in Boston, calling my high school friend in Pennsylvania and asking him what he wanted me to bring him back from Boston, being asked to bring this nationally circulated publication, and doing so. Go figure.

The final name on my ballot and the one of which I am least certain is Bert Blyleven. Over the years, as my understanding and appreciation of the game of baseball has increased, I've come to think of Blyleven as an underappreciated talent. He was successful for some bad teams but had a nasty habit of serving up home runs. I don't ever remember watching him pitch and feeling like I was seeing a great pitcher (something I certainly felt with Morris) but that may have had to do with not getting to see him because he was toiling for teams that weren't weekend Game of the Week candidates (or opponents of the locally televised Phillies (ah, the days of pre-cable television)). Also, by the time my interest in baseball was engaged to the point of appreciation, Blyleven was already in his thirties.

He never won a Cy Young, made the All-Star team just twice in 22 seasons.

I'm starting to second guess myself. I have always felt that Pete Rose should not be in the Hall of Fame, not because of his alleged gambling and subsequent lying, but rather because he was a good player who played an extraordinarily long time as a good player. The more I look at Blyleven, the more I see a similar situation.

I never would have voted Tommy John or Don Sutton or Jim Kaat in (and only Sutton is in) for similar reasons. So why Blyleven?

I can't think of a reason why. Make my ballot three.


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