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.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.