A lot of the resistance to Bert Blyleven’s Hall of Fame candidacy is based on the notion that, while he was pitching, no one thought of him as a Hall of Famer. I think that’s definitely the case. I wasn’t really aware of him as a player — as opposed to a random 1970s baseball card — until the early 80s, and no one at that time was calling him a lock for the Hall. Steve Garvey? Oh yeah, but not Blyleven.
Today Wezen-Ball has a fantastic post, looking at what was being said and written about Bert Blyleven back when he was a young pup in the early-to-mid 70s. lar quotes two old Sports Illustrated stories about Blyleven extensively, and the upshot is clear: everyone thought he was talented; few thought he could truly pitch. lar rightly notes that this impression clearly stuck. Everyone who cared about sports was reading SI in those days and it likely led to the slog that has been Blyleven’s Hall of Fame campaign. A hurdle that, one assumes, is about to be overcome.
In those terms I understand the anti-Blyleven lobby. It’s not easy to change one’s long-held perceptions. But when it comes to the Hall of Fame, it’s essential. Our perceptions of ballplayers are formed when they are young and are based on a handful of games or early accomplishments. Hall of Fame cases, in contrast, are meant to take in entire careers. Because of that, the process rewards those who make an early splash and penalizes those whose greatness is based on a late bloom or sustained excellence.
If you came from another planet in 1965 and watched baseball for the first time, you’d never think Ernie Banks was a Hall of Famer. Same with Ken Griffey Jr. in 2001. Likewise, if you stopped looking at Bert Blyleven objectively in the mid-70s, you could have easily missed out on what made him great. But all three are Hall of Fame players. And, hopefully, all three will be able to call themselves Hall of Famers soon.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.