"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: bert blyleven

Bringing Home the Bacon

Over at The Baseball Analysts, Rich chronicles his recent visit with Bert Blyleven:

Bert went out of his way to accommodate me as he had hip replacement surgery in October. Believe me, he can still zing it. Not shy, I told Bert that I wanted to compare curveballs. I threw him a spinner and he mocked me. “That’s your curveball?” Hey, it was the first one I had thrown in years and only then at a family picnic. He raised his arm and hand to a 12 o’clock position and said, “You’ve got to get it up here.” As someone who had a good curve through high school, I knew I was supposed to throw the ball over the barrel and shake hands with the center fielder (a visual that worked wonders for me). Nevertheless, at age 55, my shoulder wasn’t as cooperative as it once was. Bert, who is four years older than me, broke off a couple of tight ones. Impressive indeed.

My manager, Lee Stange, asked me what position I played. I told him pitcher but said I could also play first base. He kidded, “Everyone out here is a first baseman/DH.” Lee sent me to the bullpen to warm up. He liked what he saw enough to give me the start. The first two batters hit line-drive singles. Standing just outside our dugout on the third base side, Blyleven shouted, “Hey Rich! Try to get an out, why don’t you!” I smiled at him, took a deep breath, and got back to the task at hand. The next batter hit a slow roller to my right. I was thinking two but, then again, I thought I was 30-something rather than 50-something. My brain made the play with no problem, but my body failed me. The ball passed me and the shortstop had no play. A couple of runs later and Bert was now needling me again. “You’ve got an 18.00 ERA!” It was actually higher at that moment in time because I had not yet completed the inning. Thankfully, I did with no further damage.

[Photo Credit: Brian Hirten/Ft. Myers News-Press]

Way to Go, Meat

Rich Lederer, the man who helped get Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame, set the Internet community back years this week when he got his tits lit in a Twins Fantasy Camp game. Way to go, Rich. It’s back to the basement for you. When will these Nerds ever learn?

Hall and Oats

Your new Hall of Famers:

Roberto Alomar — and (at long last, love) Bert Blyleven.

Barry Larkin’s totals were third-highest, with 62.1% of the vote (short of the 75% needed, but in good shape to get in a few years down the road); Jack Morris managed 53.5%, Lee Smith 45.3% (…seriously?), and Jeff Bagwell 41.7%, so get ready to have that fun discussion all over again next year. You can see the full results over at the BBWAA’s high-tech website of the future.

According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system and series of articles over at Baseball Prospectus, there were eight deserving candidates on the ballot this year: Roberto AlomarJeff BagwellBert BlylevenBarry LarkinEdgar MartinezMark McGwireTim Raines, and Alan Trammell. I wasn’t so sure about Raines and Trammell initially, but I’ve completely come around on Rock over the last year and I’m edging towards being convinced on Trammell. It’d help if the guy had a better nickname, which I believe is not a factor JAWS takes into consideration, but it really ought to be. That’s something I’ll have to bring up with Jay, and I won’t have to wait long because he’s chatting live over at BP this very moment.

For those of you who are sick of reading and debating about the Hall of Fame, exhale. For those who aren’t, have at it in the comments. What would your ballot look like?

Sense and Sensibility

Originally, blogging inherently meant not only being an outsider but an amateur. Now that the idiom has been co-opted by professionals in the mainstream, it is something different. Or, a blog can be many things–started by an amateur at home, or part of a reporter’s job. Being an amateur means anything goes and so a lot of blogs are not memorable, and many don’t last, but being an independent blogger also grants you a freedom that professional journalists don’t enjoy. I’ve found that the best bloggers have standards and are at least professional in their amateur approach.

In the baseball world, there is a select group of guys who were blogging when I started Bronx Banter back in 2002 that are still going–Geoff Young, Jon Weisman, Aaron Gleeman and David Pinto to name a few. Rich Lederer is one of that crowd. Ah, Rich. Woolly Bully himself. The man who relishes a good fight, a guy who isn’t afraid to piss people off. He’s got chutzpah, I’ll tell you that. We began an on-line friendship in 2003 when we both brought our blogs to all-baseball.com. And Rich has been campaigning for Bert Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy ever since.

A bunch of the all-baseball crew met at the winter meetings in Anaheim back in 2004 (that’s Rich as the Incredible Hulk).  Here is how Alex Ciepley described Rich, a big, middle-aged guy who was the very opposite of the nerd-in-the-basement-blogger stereotype:

Rich’s Weekend Winter Meetings Beat was in full effect again Saturday morning. Fresh off an evening in which he had managed to both raise and lower Scott Boras’ ire, Rich was all smiles, eager for another day of baseball highs.

SI’s Tom Verducci was apparently a Lederer target, and I joined Rich, Jon, and Verducci in mid-conversation. Verducci has the glow of an athlete, a rare claim among the writers in the room. Steve Finley had the glow when walking through the lobby on Friday night. Matt Williams, standing alone outside the hotel’s glass doors, has the glow. Even the old-timers, Lou Piniella and Felipe Alou, have it. Verducci, too — if you didn’t know his gig you might think he was a retired outfielder looking for a job.

Verducci might not have known Rich’s gig, either, as Rich directed the conversation towards Verducci’s Hall of Fame ballot. I knew there was trouble ahead as soon as Verducci admitted he’ll only vote for a couple guys this year, and that some of Rich’s favorites weren’t among them.

Sandberg? Close but no cigar.

Blyleven? (Now the kicker.) Not even close.

For those who aren’t familiar with Rich’s player fetishes, Blyleven may top the list. He wrote a beautiful and memorable piece detailing Blyleven’s qualifications last year, and I braced myself when hearing Verducci say Blyleven was “never dominant” during his career. Did Rich’s hair just stand on end? Dum-dum-dum-dum-dee-du-wah. Here it came: 5th in career strikeouts. 9th in career shutouts. Top 20 in a host of other categories. Was Rich able to convince Verducci of the case for Blyleven, or is Rich himself only the lonely on this one?

(For what it’s worth, Verducci thinks Blyleven will get in today, though I don’t know if he was personally influenced at all by Rich’s arguments.)

I remember calling Rich at one point, maybe in 2005, and told him, “Hey, you might want to give this Blyleven thing a rest. You don’t want to be just known as the Blyleven guy.” But I was thinking about Rich as a professional writer and he never had any such aspirations. He is a hobbyist, albeit one with roots in the professional game (his father was a journalist as well as a public relations man for both the Dodgers and Angels). Rich took on the Blyleven cause because he honestly felt that the voting process for the Hall was not completely kosher.

Rich recently told John Paul Morosi of Fox Sports:

“The only problem I have with the word ‘campaign’ is that it makes it sound like this was orchestrated with Blyleven’s blessing, and that couldn’t be further from the case,” Lederer said over the phone this week. “I’ve talked with Bert, and I’ve emailed with Bert, but we’ve never even met in person.

“I’m not even sure how to describe it. I don’t know if ‘campaign’ is the right word or not — I’m kind of at a loss. It’s just something I got behind, because I felt he was very deserving. And this is a way for me to follow in the footsteps of my dad, to put to use my love of baseball and analysis. It’s been fun.”

…“The Internet flattens the world a little and allows someone like me to have a say, an audience, and indirectly participate in the discussion,” Rich Lederer said. “I enjoy that. If not for the Internet, it would be next to impossible for me to have an impact on those types of things. It’s been a great vehicle. People say there have been more words written about Bert’s candidacy than anyone else in the history of the Hall of Fame.”

Lederer is one of the spawn of Bill James (as are many contemporary baseball writers from Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan to Joe Posnanski), using reason and data to build his case. He has been tireless in his advocacy of Blyleven–something I hope the pitcher appreciates. But I think Rich is after something more than just building a case for his guy, he wants the fundamental voting process to change, to be more considered and thorough. And because of the Internet and places like baseball-reference.com, the information is available. It’s foolish to think that all of the baseball writers will change their approach but some of them might.

Rich is not alone–Jay Jaffe, Jonah Keri, and Craig Calcaterra have helped lead the charge. Still, Rich put in the work and deserves kudos for his efforts. I was wrong when I told him to back off stumping for Blyleven. Not bad for a rank amateur!

Dem's Fightin' Woids

So while you fuming, I’m consuming
Mango juice under Polaris,
You’re just embarrassed
Cause it’s your “Last Tango in Paris”


Rich Lederer v Jon Heyman: The Bert Blyleven Battle Royale Continues…

Speaking of Zealots…

And before…

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver