People were sour on Bert Blyleven 35 years ago

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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.

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph: “We suck”

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As I mentioned in the recaps this morning, Baltimore lost its 107th game last night, tying its 1988 mark for the most losses in Orioles history. They will certainly break that record and will almost certainly blast by the all-time franchise loss record of 111, set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. That team only played a 154-game schedule so the O’s likely won’t be the worst team in the franchise’s 118-season history by winning percentage, but it’ll be close enough.

Over at The Athletic Dan Connolly reports that one Oriole, catcher Caleb Joseph, is well aware of how bad the Orioles are and he is not mincing words about it:

“I’m not a loser. So, to be associated with that severity of losing is embarrassing. It’s shameful really . . . I don’t blame [fans] at all [for not attending games]. We suck.”

That last bit was in response to Matt Olson of the Athletics coming up to him before a recent game, noticing how many empty seats there were in Camden Yards and asking Joseph if it was always like that. Let that sink in: a player for the Oakland Athletics who, year after year, have some of the worst attendance in baseball, is shocked at how poorly Baltimore is drawing.

As for Joseph, he spends a lot of time talking about how the attitude is all wrong with the Orioles, how there does not seem to be any accountability and how things weren’t like that when he came up back when the Orioles were winning. Which, well, yeah.

Baseball players often attribute winning and losing to whatever attitude is prevailing around the clubhouse. Maybe that’s true on greatly underachieving teams or borderline teams that aren’t catching the breaks, but it seems far more likely that winning makes teams happy and instills camaraderie while losing makes teams sad and makes people look inward. Players tend to get the causation wrong about all of that because, I suspect, they don’t want to admit that they’re not as talented as the competition so it has to come down to some motivational or mental defect. Which, if that makes a player feel better, fine, but these O’s weren’t going to win many games even if they came in with smiles on their faces while singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” out of their rear ends every day. They just aren’t good.

Whatever you think of all of that, one thing is clear: the O’s need to clean house in a major, major way.