How a Part-Time Blogger Changed the Face of Baseball's Hall of Fame


Who doesn't?

Today, the great 1970s and '80s pitcher Bert "Be Home" Blyleven (stats here) was elected by baseball writers into the sport's Hall of Fame in his 14th and penultimate year of initial eligibility. Though my ignorant colleague Nick "Ed Kranepool" Gillespie remains a Blyelven denialist, there had long been a strong case that the Dutch-born curveballista was the most deserving player on the outside of Cooperstown looking in. And therein lies a great story of potential interest even to people who despise all sports.

Seven years ago, the president and chief investment officer of Lederer & Associates Investment Counsel in Long Beach, California, a guy by the name of Rich Lederer, began spending some of his off-hours writing analysis on the Interwebs about Blyleven's overlooked case. As John Paul Morosi of wrote this morning:

Blyleven has climbed steadily in the Baseball Writers' Association of America voting since the founding of Lederer's website. Blyleven, who polled below 30 percent on his first six times on the ballot, reached 74.2 percent last year. That did not happen by accident. […]

[Lederer] targeted the people whose opinion of Blyleven mattered most — the hundreds of sportswriters who form the Hall electorate.

So, Lederer wrote and blogged and analyzed. He called and emailed writers. He even attended the winter meetings once — direct marketing, if you will. He targeted writers who had a national profile and might therefore influence other votes.

It has been a grassroots campaign, unlike any other in the Cooperstown annals. Lederer is demonstrating that a part-time blogger — an entity unknown to most sports fans and journalists one decade ago — can shape opinion within one of the game's most traditional organizations. […]

"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."

What's especially fun about this Army of Davids moment is watching the petulant and defensive reaction from sportswriters who know they are on the losing end of history.

More on Lederer's Quixotic campaign here, here, and here. I grew up down the street from Rich (our families were close), and interviewed him on my personal website back in 2005.

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  1. Matt, you’ve obviously had this article ready to go for so long that…I won’t lie, it would’ve been sort of funny had Bert fallen short by a couple of votes again.

    I’m thrilled for Blyleven (and Alomar) today. It’s about time. Now it’s time for the VC to get off its ass and posthumously right the wrong that is Ron Santo’s exclusion.

    1. Why Alomar and not Larkin?

      Almost identical batting stats and both, both great baserunners, both great middle-infielders. Alomar had more gold gloves, but that’s only because Barry had to compete with Ozzie Smith in the first half of his career.

      1. Plus, Larkin was the MVP in ’95. Alomar never one an MVP.

      2. I never intended to draw a distinction between the two. Larkin may be one of the best shortstops in baseball history. He should’ve been a first ballot HOF’er, and I think he’s got a shot at making a run in 2012 before “The Flood” comes.

        The only knock on Barry was health – guy couldn’t stay on the field for an entire season. But yes, a no-doubter as far as I’m concerned.

        1. I just checked Larkin’s percentage of the vote: 62%. I think he’s got a very, very good chance of making it the next time ’round from that position.

          I am mildly peeved that Palmeiro didn’t get bounced from the ballot (

          1. Larkin also moved up in percentage from last year, another good sign.

            There seems to be some whispering campaign about Bagwell, AFAICT.

      3. Interestingly, both are in each others’ top 10 for similarity scores. Though if you look at the HoF Stats on Baseball Reference, Alomar has more black (Larkin has 0 black ink) and gray ink and scores higher on HoF Monitor and Standards. That probably explains why Alomar got in first.

      4. I was born in Cincy and I absolutely love the Reds, but I don’t think Larkin’s stats were as good as Alomar’s in their prime. The career numbers (HR, BA, RBI) slightly favor Alomar

  2. Good to see the Dutchman finally get his due. Thanks for pitching the Angels into brief relevancy in 1989 Bert.

  3. If anyone was “petulent and defensive” in that exchange, it was your buddy, who seems genuinely offended that there could be people of goodwill who honestly disagree about whether Bert Blyleven belongs in the HOF. For Kobe’s sake, he even “fisks” Mr. Heyman, a telltale sign of a blogger who hasn’t grown up since September 12, 2001.

    1. Spoken like a guy who is unfamiliar with a.) baseball; b.) Jon Heyman.

      Anything anyone says to Jon Heyman, ever, is pretty much a priori justified, so long as it is sufficiently rude.

      1. No kidding. Jon Heyman is the Jay Leno of baseball journalism. (NOTE to Mr. Smith – that is not a compliment).

        His Blylevyn column this week is a breathtaking exercise in immaturity. Can you imagine the snickering when Joe Posanski and Tom Verducci get in a room together?

        1. Are you referring to his almost comically douchey “New Year’s Resolution” column? The one where he presumed to write resolutions for everyone else?

          Yeah, nothing’s too nasty to say to that guy. He’s also Scott Boras’ official Lord Haw-Haw mouthpiece, which only adds to the hateability.

          1. Heyman on Blylevyn

            17. Bert Blyleven. I will consider myself fortunate when I am voted into the Hall of Fame, and understand that while I had a great career, I am not Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton but rather Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, near-great pitchers who were borderline candidates who gained enshrinement. I will also thank the small coterie of Internet zealots who kept calling attention to the value of strikeouts, shutouts, complete games, longevity and durability and helped me rise from 14 percent of the votes in my second year of eligibility to more than 75 percent and act gracefully upon hearing the expected good news.

            Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.c…..z1ACIkwyBt

            What a shitbag. Yeah, “the value of strikeouts, shutouts, complete games, longevity and durability” is just so controversial. I mean my God, a guy who pitches for years, strikes out a ton of people, and has a bunch of complete games and shutouts is considered a great pitcher. What is the world coming to?

            That sentence is one of the dumbest things I have ever read.

  4. Baseball writers are assholes. The vote should have been taken away from them decades ago. Consider the various idiocies of HOF voting.

    1. No one ever can get 100% of the vote. So when undeniably deserving players like Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron came up for election, various jackasses left them off their ballots for the soul reason “no one gets 100%”.

    2. They have created this bullshit hierarchy regarding “first and second and so forth” ballot hall of famers. So said jackasses will refuse to vote for deserving players because “they should have to wait”.

    3. Unless the candidate is someone like Steve Carlson and completely undeniable, they think nothing of rewarding or screwing players based on how much they kissed writers’ ass during their playing careers. Thus, a player like Kirby Puckett gets in no questions asked. But a player like Albert Bell, who had just as good of a career, never gets close.

    Players ought to be the ones who vote on who gets in. Or if you don’t like that, let fans vote on it. Yeah, the fans would put the occasional “hall of the very good” player like Don Mattingly. But so do the writers. And the fans wouldn’t have fucked over people like Ron Santo and Roger Marris the way the writers have.

    1. Agree with most of what you say here, except for the fact that nobody seriously would consider Roger Maris a HOF candidate. He’s sort of like the Dale Murphy of his era, except not as good: a great peak that was too brief (the two MVP seasons), followed by years of mediocrity. And only 11 years in the game.

      But I do still consider him to be the single-season home run king, at least informally.

      1. He was an MVP. Had a great glove. And he is still the real owner of the greatest record in sports. They let Sandy Kolfax in for what amounts to a few years of dominance. Why can’t you do the same for a player in the field? Where is it written that that only criteria for getting in the HOF is long term dominance? And if it is written somewhere, how did Kolfax get in?

        1. That would be “Koufax”. And the dude was a freak; it’s hard to come up with any other player who burned so brightly. Your point is taken, but Roger Maris didn’t have nearly the same impact as Koufax (who was, interestingly enough, the youngest man ever inducted into the HoF).

        2. Well, it IS pretty much ‘written’ informally that there are two possible cases you can make for the HOF: peak value vs. career value. Alomar and Blyleven actually embody these two types pretty well. To be fair, Alomar really is both a peak AND career candidate IMO, but lots of writers still view him through the lens of his sudden collapse w/the Mets near the end. But Blyleven only made two All-Star teams, never finished higher than 3rd in Cy Young balloting, and was never one of those guys who “looked” like an HOF’er when he was playing. It’s only when he finished and you realized, “holy shit, he’s struck out over 3,500 guys, pitched 60 shutouts, and won 287 games on mostly crappy teams” that he looked like a HOF’er.

          So in Koufax’s case he’s obviously a “peak” HOF case rather than a “career” one. And Koufax’s peak was both long enough (six years) AND dominant enough (he truly towered above all other contemporary pitchers) that it’s a strong case. Finally, Koufax was given a great deal of slack because of how he left the game: retiring at his absolute peak, without any sort of decline phase. (The voters have made similar allowances for other players whose careers were cut short in such a manner, the most recent being Kirby Puckett.)

          1. I don’t mean to imply that Maris is Koufax. But I honestly think an exception should be made for Maris after the way baseball fucked him. First, they put an asterisk by his record. Then they let low lifes McGuire and Sosa break his record by cheating. Considering what he went through, his peak value during his five really good years with the Yankees ought to get him in. But that is just my bias.

            1. Except, of course, that they didn’t actually put an asterix by his record.

              1. Take it up with Billy Crystal and Ford Frick!

            2. It’s funny that you decry the attempt to minimize Maris’ record and then turn around and attempt to minimize the stats of suspected steroid users.

              Playing 162 games instead of 154 automatically gives you an advantage in the quest to hit 61 home runs in a season.

              Taking steroids? I’m not so sure. First, it’s not like he just injected his butt in the clubhouse and immediately gained home run power. The steroids only make it possible to work out more; you still have to do the work.

              Also, of course, there’s the inconvenient fact that Maris didn’t have to face pitchers who were taking steroids like Sosa, Bonds, and McGwire did.

        3. Koufax played as many years as Maris did (12 seasons). The difference was that Koufax was dominant for pretty much the whole time. He was #1 or #2 in H/9 for 8 of those years and is #2 all time, he was in the top 5 in strikeouts 8 times, led the league in ERA 5 times and led the league in K/9 6 times. He is #12 all time in black ink and his Hall of Fame Monitor is 227 (100 is a likely entrant). Maris doesn’t come close in the black or grey ink standards.

          Maris had 3 seasons where he received MVP votes (won 2, got 1% once), half the number of times Koufax got it. And it’s much harder for a pitcher to get MVP votes, let alone win it, than it is for a hitter.

          Comparing Maris to Koufax is ridiculous.

          1. I am not saying one is equivelent to the other. The point is that Koufax got in with pretty pedestrian career numbers. He had only 165 wins. And he was a below .500 pitcher with an ERA above four during his first six seasons. And his first dominant season, 1962, when he got his ERA below 3.0 for the first time, was also the first season with the raised mound.

            1. I don’t see what raising the mound has to do with anything. It’s not like Koufax was the only pitcher with a raised mound. He also received MVP votes in 61 and 62 before they raised the mound.

              W-L record doesn’t matter, otherwise Blyleven wouldn’t deserve to be in the HoF. Koufax has only had 2 below average WAR years and dominated for half a decade.

              1. Raising the mound mattered because it radically lowered the league ERA. It was easier to pitch from a higher mound. Koufax’s 2.54 ERA in 1962 wasn’t the same as having such an ERA in 1961.

                And wins and losses do matter when you play for a good team. We rightly discount Blyleven’s winning percentage because he played for really bad teams. Koufax in contrast played for the late 1950s and early 60s Dodgers. Those teams won a lot of games. Being a below .500 pitcher on those teams tells you that Koufax wasn’t very good pre 1962.

                1. Raising the mound had no impact on his pitching compared to other pitchers, who presumably were pitching off of the same size mound.

                  His absolute dominance at his peak is undisputed. Arguing otherwise is futile.

      2. Dale Murphy should be in.

        1. I yield to man in my personal admiration for Dale Murphy, but I don’t think he should be in. If he had managed to have even a normal decline phase, his case would be much stronger, but man…talk about a swan dive. I mean, he was almost completely worthless after 1987.

        2. Wrong.

          1. No, right.

            1. Present the facts. There is no measure by which he qualifies (to me).

            2. For the record, I have nothing against him, but if you let him in, you have to let Parker, Garvey, etc. in. These were really good ballplayers, but not HOFers. IMHO.

              1. Yeah. Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Jim Rice: classic “Hall of the Very Good” players, but not Hall of Famers.**

                **N.B. I refuse to acknowledge Jim Rice’s election to the Hall of Fame. Didn’t happen, sez I.

                1. You and I agree. I feel like you should be the shit for a number of years and you’re entitled to your decline. Something like Frank Thomas did or Alomar was just rewarded (deservedly) for.

                  Disclaimer: I have a White Sox tattoo.

                  1. Frank Thomas? Hell, nobody needs to make any clever arguments for The Big Hurt. Not only was he one of the greatest offensive players in an era known for its incredible offense, he was also pretty much the ONE GUY who I’m 100% certain was not a juicer.

                    My guess is that Frank Thomas will be the only “offensive” player from the steroid era to get in on the first ballot. Because his numbers are even more ridiculously impressive when you know (or are at least really, really sure) that, unlike so many others, he did it clean.

                    1. I’m smiling ’cause it’s true…

                2. If Jim Rice belongs in the Hall, a career .298 hitter with 382 homeruns and around 1,400 RBIs, why isn’t Dwight Evans, a .270 hitter with 385 homeruns and nearly 1,400 RBIs, and one of the great fielders of his day in the Hall? I remember those Red Sox teams and never thought that there was that much difference between the two. Both belong in the hall of the very good. And don’t get me started on Bill Mazeroski being in the hall.

                  1. Jim Rice doesn’t belong in the Hall. Freakin’ Red Sox fanboys.

                  2. Actually John, a lot of sabermetric types (myself included) feel that Dewey Evans DOES have a credible HOF case. Certainly a better one than Jim Rice. Evans would be very much on the borderline, though.

                    1. I loath the Red Sox. But I always respected Evans. He was a very good player. I have never understood why the media was bound and determined to put Rice in and never made any effort for Evans. I don’t think either of them should be in. But if Rice should be in, so should Evans. This is one time were the Sabregeek stuff actually agrees with my eyes. I remember Evans playing and he was an excellent player for many years.

                    2. Agreed, but not good enough. Garvey comes to mind…

                  3. I think Jim Rice’s election to the HoF is something of a last gasp of the 60s-70s writers before they get drowned out by the modern SABR crowd. Folks like Rob Neyer and writers from Baseball Prospectus are now members of the BBWAA and will be voting for the HOF in short order. The days when “Everyone feared him” are justification for voting for a candidate are drawing to a close.

        3. what’s sad is that the Braves were the absolute worse baseball team when Dale was in his prime, and right after he left they became ridiculously good.

  5. The HoF vote seems specifically designed to demonstrate how dumb baseball writers are. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Blyleven threw a single additional pitch between the years where he polled south of 30% and this year.

    It’s just a stupid collection of unwritten rules (no unanimous selections, strong prejudice against first-year selections, etc) and an apparent complete lack of historical perspective (Kill Barry Bonds! Long Live Mike Schmidt!). I’d rather just see the entire thing handed over to the Veteran’s Committee.

    1. blyleven was not voted in prior to this year because of his win loss record. However anybody watching him pitch in minnesota in the seventies would know why. His team couldn’t hit. He had an era of about 2.7 with a shitload of complete games and was barely over .500 in winning percentage. He deserved to be in the HOF many moons ago. and I’m not saying this just cause I got his autograph in 1973 at the Met.

      1. blyleven was not voted in prior to this year because of his win loss record

        Again though — that won-loss record is no different this year than it was in any other year of his eligibility. Either it’s hall-worthy or not. I can see guys right on the brink taking a couple years to gain marginal support to put them in, but how does a group with relatively little turnover swing by over 40 percentage points in the course of a few years, without any relevant new facts coming to light?

        1. The way stats, especially advanced stats, are viewed today is completely different than they were a decade ago.

          1. This is really what happened with Blyleven (plus having guys like Lederer and online statheads to really push the hell out of his candidacy over the last decade or so).

            But you do kind of have to wonder how the BBWAA could look at a guy with 3,700 strikeouts and say “nah, not good enough.” I mean, that’s the 5th highest of all time, for fuck’s sake! And everyone else from 1-20 is either a HOF’er, a surefire HOF’er once they make the ballot, or a steroid cheat.

            I think part of the problem was that a lot of people just didn’t *LIKE* Blyleven. He could be a bit of a dick back in the day.

            1. Absolutely correct. Since he’s on TV now people think of him as a nice guy. And maybe he is nicer these days.

              Bert hasn’t sat around doing nothing, he’s been actively campaigning for votes for years (after he stopped whining for years, something Santo never stopped doing). It’s a personality contest.

            2. Not just that, but a career 3.30 ERA. It’s not like he was Ryan, walking people all over the place. Part of it is lacking in a lot of the subjective crap. Things like, “Oh, he only made the All Star game twice, how good could he have been,” or “He only made the top 5 in Cy Young votes 3 times and never better than 3rd, so his contemporaries never saw him as great”. Crap like that.

              1. That’s what I hate about PC bullshit. Back in the day, writers would hide star players personality deficiencies, now they revel in exploiting and exaggerating them.

        2. Because people are coming around to the fact that W/L record is a pretty meaningless stat. Look it used to be that all 500 HR guys and 300 W guys got into the HOF. Today, very few of the 500 HR guys are going to make it and in 10 years there won’t be anymore 300 W pitchers.

  6. Tim Raines: 37.5% of the vote.

    ‘Tis to weep. Rich is gonna need to start campaigning for Rock now, too.

    1. Reines not being in is a crime. What the hell is the matter with these people?

    2. The Rock needs to get in.

      1. Gotta agree – Raines should be in.

        1. TIMMEH!


  8. there had long been a strong case that the Dutch-born curveballista was the most deserving player on the outside of Cooperstown looking in.

    Not as strong a case as Dick Allen. But Bert’s on TV now so that’s why he gets votes.

  9. My stats are the equal of Kirby Puckett’s. Just sayin’.

    1. Kirby all but went blind to get his votes. What did you do?

      1. Now that’s just cold…

        1. You also played mainly 1B and DH vs. mostly CF and some RF. While Puckett is still a borderline case compared to other primarily CF players, Mattingly would be one of the weakest 1Bs.

          Or look at them vs. contemporaries, Puckett won more silver sluggers and had more MVP shares despite a shorter career.

          Or just look at Bill James HoF monitor stats, despite a shorter career Puckett is well ahead on Grey Ink, HoF Monitor and HoF standards while one behind on Black Ink.

  10. Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker.

    Yes, I’m a Tigers homer – sue me. All three should be in.

    1. I’ve gotta lot of respect for these guys, but… I gotta draw the line ahead of this trio.

    2. Trammell yes, Whitaker quite possibly (and going one-and-done was a travesty), but Morris? Hell no.

      1. Winningest pitcher in the 80’s. Just sayin’…

      2. And Mark Grace had the most hits in the 1990s. That doesn’t mean he should be in the Hall of Fame.

  11. I’ll see your Ed Kranepool, raise you a Marv Throneberry, and toss in a Choo Choo Coleman for good measure. Let’s go Mets!!

    1. What the hey, you already got the first Met to ever get a hit, and the last hit of the same crappy first season, and the first Met to hit .300
      in the Hall: Rich Asburn.

  12. I find the fact that Jeff Bagwell didn’t even garner 50% of the vote to be prima facie evidence that the BBWAA has no idea what they’re doing.

    1. They know full well what they’re doing. It’s the steroid rumors surrounding Bagwell (which I had heard about going as far back as 2000 or so) that are holding him back. That’s also what makes me somewhat pessimistic about his chances…those are the kinds of candidates who might very well have trouble increasing their voting percentages over time, because it’s not like an Alomar situation where a ton of voters omitted him last year due to the spitting incident but felt that he’d otherwise paid his dues. The sorts of voters who are inclined to not support a guy due to steroids aren’t likely to change their minds. Look at McGwire’s fate.

  13. Look, there ought to be one clear criteria for being in the Hall of Fame–when you were a player, did the other players fear going up against you?

    Jack Morris–actually, yeah, I think he would qualify.

    Blyleven? Not even close.

    In any given year there are a few players elected to the HOF. For a player to be chosen, there has to be at least a couple of years in which the player was the Alpha Dog at their position.

    If you have to crunch a bunch of numbers to build an argument to elect someone to the Hall, then that is itself an argument the player doesn’t belong here. You shouldn’t have to talk people into voting you in.

    Hall Of Guys We Remember Fondly And Look Good On Paper? Sure, vote Blyleven in there.

    1. If by “crunch a bunch of numbers” you mean add up the number of batters a pitcher strikes out then your post makes sense.

      In the history of major league baseball in America, in the THOUSANDS of players who’ve pitched, there is a grand total of SIX players that threw more strikeouts than Blyleven. We’re not talkinb about some weird sabermetric stat, I’m talking about strikeouts, which IMHO represents the worth of a pitcher.

      The intimidation factor is greatly overrated. Kevin Brown had amazing mound presence and scared a lot of batters, but toward the end of his career he was hit like redheaded stepchild. He probably struck more fear than Blyleven, but I don’t think he’s hall of fame material. Likewise, pitchers were scared as hell of Barry Bonds, but I don’t want him in the HOF.

  14. I find it more than a little disturbing that guys will kept out of the hall, not for the rules of the game being broken, but for some moral crusade against steroids.

    Every era has had it’s taboos. They’ve ranged from amphetamines to spitballs, from racism to cocaine and not once have the individuals paid so dearly for their decisions. I think it’s a shame we let a generation of betters (pre-1900 to the Black Sox scandal, and yes, it was rampant and known), amphetamine/cocaine users of the 50’s-80’s and now it has been decided we’ll start to discriminate substance use? Bullshit!

    1. Agree. Not so hard hitting 714 HRs when you don’t have to face black pitchers. But we don’t penalize Babe Ruth for this, and we shouldn’t.

      1. I wouldn’t say it’s not hard and I would never argue against greatness. I just have a hard time rationalizing the current zeal for persecution against this romantic vision of the past that just isn’t true.

      2. Also note that until 1931, balls that bounced in fair territory and went into the stands were considered home runs (rather than ground rule doubles as they are today). That’s the technicality that never gets brought up when discussing Babe’s HR performance.

        1. You’ll have to face the argument that if he played in today’s parks, he’d of hit more than 80 according to some. Then again, I’ll believe that some guy throwing 500+ innings a year had the same stuff as even a journeyman reliever does today is very slim. It’s just impossible to say what would or could be.

          I say take it all for what it’s worth. There will be stories and backgrounds attached to every player worthy of enshrinement. (Ahem.. Pete Rose…Ahem)

        2. I don’t think that any of Ruth’s home runs fall into that category.

          Also everybody else in that era was playing under the same conditions and nobody else came close to hitting 714 home runs. Or 600 for that matter.

  15. And therein lies a great story of potential interest even to people who despise all sports.

    As a long time hater of America’s great pastime i can affirmatively say i am still uninterested.

  16. Nice shirt, Bye-bye.

    My in-laws went to Tofart and all I got was this crappy t-shirt?

  17. I am once again proud to be an American.

    just kidding

    Seriously, I’ve lost a lot of the love for MLB that I once had. Hearing that Blyleven made it in has restored some of my faith not just in baseball but in the good of man. His exclusion from the HOF has been a travesty.

    I’m extremely disappointed that Matt didn’t mention that Blyleven is in the top ten OF ALL TIME for strikeouts. He’s thrown more strikeouts than Bob Gibson, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry, and even Cy Young.

  18. The Blyleven’s were friends of our family when they were in southern california – played ball with Todd and went to Villa Park together – and I couldn’t be happier for Burt. He was a great ballplayer and good guy. Congratulations!

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