Rich Lederer of The Baseball Analysts blog is the most eloquent non-player advocate for the belief that former Angels pitcher Bert Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame. He's been carrying the torch for several years and has added an influential ally: Denver baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby. A former baseball scribe at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, where Lederer's late father also had the beat many years ago, Ringolsby has a plaque in the writer's wing of the hall. He has left Blyleven off his ballot in the past, but before Christmas he emailed Lederer that he has seen the light.
Between the information you provided and the constant conversations I have had with Blyleven's contemporaries, I became convinced that I had slighted him in the past. He is the first guy I can remember that I have ever failed to vote for on the first time and then added later.
Earlier this month, longtime anti-Blyleven partisan Bil Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News also switched his vote.
Lederer talks to Blyleven on the site every so often and annually makes the case in a fresh way. In sum, here are his points:
Since 1900, Blyleven ranks 5th in career strikeouts, 8th in shutouts, and 17th in wins.
Only eight pitchers in history rank in the top 20 in wins, shutouts, and strikeouts. All are in the Hall. Only Nolan Ryan ranks above Blyleven in all three categories.
On better teams he would have crashed through the magic 300-win level. As it is, he fell just 13 short. His 287 wins are more than Marichal, Drysdale, Gibson, Jenkins, Hunter, Roberts, Feller or Koufax won. He won more 1-0 games than everybody but Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.
He finished in the top ten for the Cy Young Award more times than Drysdale and Marichal and the same number as Gibson and Hunter.
He won Rookie of the Year as a 19-year-old and pitched 22 seasons.
"Ask any ballplayer from the 1970s and 1980s who had the best curveball and, almost to a man, they will tell you 'Bert Blyleven.'"
He pitched 242 complete games. Clemens (118) and Maddux (108) are the only active pitchers even in triple digits.
Blyleven belongs just on the company he keeps alone. When the debate is whether he ranks before or after guys like Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson, you know you are talking about one of the sport's all-time greats. "Based on career value, one could easily make the case that he is one of the top 20 most productive pitchers in the history of modern baseball," Lederer wrote in this month's Blyleven treatise.
Readers of his site have come to look forward to Lederer's tightly argued annual article on behalf of the pitcher. Says one in the comments under this year's post: "Man, while I really want to see Blyleven inducted, it'd mean that I'd no longer to have these excellent articles to anticipate."