This is what Blyleven is up against

Leave a comment

Blyleven AP.jpgIt’s generally accepted that having fallen five votes short this year, Bert Blyleven’s induction in 2011 is a foregone conclusion.  That’s certainly the sensible position. And if I had to bet, I’d wager that he makes it. Part of me still wonders, however, if we haven’t seen his candidacy’s high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

A couple of reasons for this.  The first one is hearsay, but it’s plausible hearsay. Brooks, from SPORTSbyBROOKS tweeted the following a few minutes ago: “Guy in BBWAA told me today that if Bert hadn’t campaigned so hard, he’d have gotten in LAST year.”  Sure, that’s probably just snarky chatter, but there’s no denying the fact that (a) Blyleven and his surrogates have spilled an awful lot of virtual ink on his case in recent years; and (b) that kind of thing grates on people after a while.  Backlashes have been borne of less.

The second reason is best displayed by the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, who spent some time today explaining why he won’t vote for Blyleven.  It was mostly about how Blyleven doesn’t feel like a Hall of Famer in his gut, but he reached for this gem to support his position:

When Chuck Tanner got him in Pittsburgh the word went around that Chuck
had decided, over BB’s protestations, to take him out of late-and-close
games because he’d never had the stomach for it. “Take him out before
he can lose.” Tanner never said it in public.

And to be fair, Tanner and Blyleven had a famous dustup in Pittsburgh because Tanner slotted Blyleven into a strict five man rotation and would take him out of games in late innings for relief pitchers, which was still fairly novel in the late 70s. But here’s Chuck Tanner, interviewed by Jerry Crasnick two years ago:

“I loved Bert because he was a competitor,” Tanner said. “Other than
that one time when his feelings got hurt, I never had a problem with
him. That son of a gun never wanted to come out of a game.”

The “never wanted to come out of a game” line is usually used to support a guy’s Hall of Fame case, not denigrate it, and Tanner certainly believes that Blyleven is a Hall of Famer. When it comes to Blyleven’s competitive fires, are we to take his manager’s word for it, or are we gonna take Boswell’s “word went around” stuff?

Doesn’t matter, because Boswell believes what he thinks Tanner believed, and Tanner’s own words to the contrary won’t dissuade him. In light of that, why should we think that Blyleven being five meager votes short of induction will give Boswell any greater reason to change his mind? And why, for that matter, should we think that Murray Chass and Jon Heyman, who come up with new reasons to vote against Blyleven every year, are simply going to cave?

At some point people become entrenched in their opinions, and the more people fight to change a person’s mind, the more that person sticks to their guns.  Boswell will die with that “word went around” crap in his head. Chass is always going to think what Boswell did in his age 38 season outweighs everything he did over the previous 17 years.  Who knows what Heyman thinks, but he sure as hell isn’t going to change his vote next year.

Again: I think Blyleven makes it next year. But I don’t think, like so many other people, that it’s a foregone conclusion.

(hat tip to BTF commenter Guapo, who found the Tanner quote in this thread).

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
5 Comments

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.