Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hall call was worth the wait for Blyleven, Alomar

As a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I'm often asked how it's possible that a BBWAA member fails to vote for a guy one year but then changes his/her mind 12 months later. After all, the perfectly sane argument goes, the player's stats didn't change during those 52 weeks.

The newest enshrinees announced Wednesday, Bert Blyleven and Robbie Alomar, exemplify why it happens ... and demonstrate that it even makes some sense.

This was Blyleven's 14th year on the ballot, meaning he'd have had only one more try after this one. I didn't vote for him his first 10 years but became a convert four years ago. For the longest time, I had trouble reconciling the fact that if the likes of Jim Kaat and Tommy John weren't in, why should Blyleven? The three had similar stats and similar impact on teams.

Over time, however, several fellow voters made reasonable cases for Blyleven, and I finally saw their points. They emphasized his strikeouts, complete games and two World Series rings, as well as the relative weakness of many of the teams on which he played. And they correctly said that just because Kaat and John didn't get the votes, that was no reason to take it out on Blyleven.

I am not the least bit ashamed that it took me 10 years to come around. Justice was served in the end. (And not David Justice ... he ain't getting in!)

Alomar was the best second baseman I ever saw and, for more than a decade, one of the great offensive catalysts in the game. I enthusiastically voted for him last year, his first on the ballot.

Several of my BBWAA colleagues who shunned him last year checked the box next to his name this time - and I have absolutely no problem with that. Keeping Alomar from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer was perfectly fitting punishment for a jerk who spat on an umpire.

As for other Hall tidbits ...

++ The only other player to earn my check mark this year, Jack Morris, got 53.5 percent of the vote - far short of the 75 percent every Hall of Famer needs. I fully respect the fact that Morris is a borderline case, a big-game pitcher with an excellent winning percentage who excelled for a decade but lacked an eye-popping win total and ERA.

++ The only other guys I seriously considered this time were Barry Larkin and Tim Raines. Maybe I'll change my mind about one or the other someday. Or maybe not.

++ Mercy! Harold Baines finally fell 2 votes shy of remaining on the ballot for future years. He simply isn't a Hall of Famer, despite the arguments on his behalf by my SouthtownStar buddy Phil Arvia.

++ Jeff Bagwell, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Dave Parker, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy were all very good players for a very long time but it's unlikely that any will make the Hall. That shows how difficult it is to get in - which, of course, it should be.

++ Mark McLiar actually lost support from last year to this. Good. He did one thing well ... and did that well only because he made a pin cushion out of his buttocks for years and years. One-dimensional idiots do not belong in the Hall of Fame.

++ I can understand why some of my peers voted for Rafael Palmeiro, who had very good stats over the years (but was a juicer who rarely helped his teams succeed). That 30 of them voted for Juan Gonzalez, a steroid-swilling clown whose numbers relative to his era were unimpressive, is more of a head-scratcher.

++ Two voters checked the box next to B.J. Surhoff's name, one gave Bret Boone a vote and another chose Benito Santiago. Something there helps explain why both Dubya and Blago each got elected to major executive offices ... twice!

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