Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar are Hoping to Finally be Elected
Bert Blyleven Pitching for the Twins
Former pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar hope to take the final step into baseball’s Hall of Fame after their near misses last year as the 2011 ballots for election were sent out Monday. History suggests that induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is all but sealed for pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar, but they don’t hold the key to Cooperstown yet.
Blyleven was only five votes short of election last year, receiving 74.2 percent of 539 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), while Alomar fell eight votes short in being named by 73.7 percent of voters.
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible BBWAA members to gain election. Never before had two players come so close to that threshold without gaining entrance, with Blyleven finishing just five votes shy at 74.21 percent last year and Alomar falling only eight votes short at 73.65 percent in his first year on the ballot.
The good news for both of them is that all 21 of the previous players to receive at least 70 percent in a given election wound up being granted admission to the Hall, one way or another.
Time is Running Out for Blyleven
For Blyleven, last year’s close call was on his 13th year on the ballot. This is his 14th, and a player gets 15 years on the BBWAA ballot. Alomar and former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin will be joined by first-year eligible players Jeff Bagwell, an Astros icon, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker and Juan Gonzalez.
Blyleven needs only a few more votes than he had a year ago to honor a 22-season career that spanned from 1970-92 with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. He recorded 287 wins, 27th on the all-time list, and is fifth in career strikeouts with 3,701. Blyleven is 11th in games started with 685, ninth all-time with 60 shutouts and 13th all-time in innings pitched with 4,970.
Alomar Should Make it This Time
Alomar came close to becoming just the 45th player to earn admission on his first ballot. He definitely has the stats to
Roberto Alomar executing a double play
get elected. He signed with the Padres in 1985 and debuted in 1988 at age of 20. He was an All-Star before he was traded to Toronto before the 1991 season. He was on two World Series championships with the Blue Jays, in 1992 and ’93, and helped two other teams, the Orioles in ’96-97 and Indians in ’99 and 2001 get into multiple postseasons.
His career numbers of 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 474 stolen bases and a .300 average in 2,379 games stand up favorably to second basemen who have reached the Hall of Fame. Ryne Sandberg, the most recent second baseman elected by the writers in 2005 — his third year on the ballot — had 2,386 hits, 282 homers, 1,061 RBIs, 344 steals and a career average of .285 in 2,164 games.
Jeff Bagwell Would Get My Vote
Jeff Bagwell’s career was cut short after 15 years because of a shoulder injury. He hit 449 home runs with a career batting average of .297. Bagwell was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the Most Valuable Player in 1994. He had over 100 Runs-Batted-In (RBI) eight times. He was among the premier first basemen in the game from 1994-2003.
Rafael Palmeiro will test the 500-homer, 3,000-hit “guarantee” of entrance to the Hall because of his 2005 suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Palmeiro hit 569 home runs and had 3,020 hits in a 20-year career for the Cubs, Rangers and Orioles. There is no player who reached those milestones who has not been elected to Cooperstown. Mark McGwire (23.7 percent last year), who hit 583 homers, may have been the first “test case” for players who used or were suspected of using steroids, but Palmeiro was the first star to be suspended for such use.
Other first-timers include Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and Tino Martinez, among others. Top returnees include Jack Morris (52.3 percent), in his 12th year on the ballot; Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (51.6), who had a strong debut last year; and closer Lee Smith (47.3), who is in his ninth year of consideration, Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines, all of whom finished in the top 10 last year.
BBWAA voting members have December to consider their ballots, and they are to be collected Jan. 4. The results will be announced on Jan. 5, and the players nominated are expected to be introduced at a press conference in New York on Jan. 6. The players voted in will be inducted in Cooperstown in July.
Other first-year eligible players include left-handed closer John Franco, starter Kevin Brown, first baseman John Olerud and catcher Benito Santiago.
Gonzalez was also a premier player for the Texas Rangers, surpassing 40 home runs five times from 1992-98 and 39 in 1999. He won the American League MVP award in 1996 and 1998. He finished with 434 career home runs, but like McGwire,he may be judged by suspicion, having been named in the 2007 Mitchell Report. Gonzalez has denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
Walker was also an MVP, winning the award in 1997 when he hit .366 with 49 homers and 130 RBIs. Tino Martinez played for all four of the Yankees’ World Series championship teams from 1996-2000.
The remainder of the ballot features returnees Harold Baines, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, McGwire, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker Tim Raines and Alan Trammell, and first-timers Carlos Baerga, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago and B.J. Surhoff.
Will Blyleven and Alomar Have History on Their Side
If history repeats itself, Blyleven and Alomar should be celebrating when results are announced the first week of January. Of the 21 players who gained entrance after getting between 70 and 74.9 percent of the vote, 17 of them won election the following year.
The most recent close call that turned into induction to the Hall the following year was catcher Gary Carter, who was 11 votes short at 72.7 percent in 2002 and reached the threshold with 78 percent the following year.
One foreboding fact that relates to Blyleven is a career starting pitcher has not been elected to the Hall of Fame since current Rangers president and former flame thrower Nolan Ryan received 98.8 percent of the vote in his first year, in 1999.
Blyleven’s candidacy has been slowly building over the 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. He goes into this election hoping to join 14 others who had to wait 10 or more seasons to get into the Hall. The last, Jim Rice, had to wait all the way until his 15th and final year in 2009.
So I ask the question again; did the careers of Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and the others who had to wait 10+ years improve during that time frame?