01/02/09 1:23 PM EST
Blyleven waiting for the Hall to call
Former All-Star hoping 12 years on the ballot is enough
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
Blyleven's candidacy has definitely been picking up steam over recent years. After receiving just 14 percent of the vote in 1999, his second year on the ballot, Blyleven's vote totals have jumped nearly every year.While Blyleven appreciates the increased support he's received over the years, he doesn't quite understand what has changed. "I don't know what the writers look at and why, all of a sudden, one year you don't vote for a guy and the next year you do," Blyleven said. "It seems I always find myself this time of year defending my numbers more than admiring them." Those who haven't voted for Blyleven point to the pitcher lacking the benchmark achievements like 300 victories or a Cy Young Awards that often equal an induction into the Hall. Blyleven had just one 20-win season during his career along with just two All-Star bids and no Cy Young awards to his name. In the key categories -- strikeouts, wins and ERA -- Blyleven only once led his league in any of those stats, and that came in 1985 with the Twins, when he led the American League in strikeouts (206). But those who played against him believe that Blyleven should already be in Cooperstown. "The writers never had to face him," Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett said a few years ago about Blyleven. "If they did, they'd vote for him. He was as good as there was for a long time. Bert is up there with the toughest four or five guys I faced in my career." Delayed entry into Cooperstown is nothing new. Like Rich "Goose" Gossage, who was inducted last year in his ninth turn on the ballot, Tony Perez also spent nine years on the ballot before being selected in 2000. And Bruce Sutter was elected to the Hall in 2006 in his 13th year on the ballot. A total of 14 Hall of Fame players have been on the ballot for at least 10 years before being voted in by the writers. Historical perspective could have something to do with the change in opinion. It seems that the longer some players are on the ballot, the more their numbers seem to resonate with voters. Like Gossage, who earned 33.3 percent of the vote during his first year on the ballot in 2000, he watched his totals steadily increase over the following eight years. Blyleven has four more tries to gain the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, including the '09 ballot. And no matter if it takes until his final stint on the ballot, the hope remains for Blyleven that one day the long wait will pay off. "I look at it as I only have four more years and I can't predict if a writer is going to change his vote," Blyleven said. "Why did Bruce Sutter get in after 13 years or Goose Gossage after nine? It's nice to see my numbers increase, but hopefully they'll just keep going up in a positive direction until I'm headed to Cooperstown."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.