Lot of stuff going on today. First, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven gained election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I’ll have reaction from Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush, one of Blyleven’s teammates, in a sec.
No doubt you’ve read the talk about the Cubs and Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza. Several people I’ve talked to today said nothing is imminent on that. In fact, one Cubs operative said he was glad to read that they were the front-runners to land Garza because they didn’t know it.
Yes, the Cubs are interested in Garza, but to my knowledge, no names have been exchanged between the Cubs and Rays, and the Rays just may hang on to him into the season. Even though field managers don’t have the final say on such things, Rays manager Joe Maddon said during the season that Garza would be pitching for Tampa Bay in 2011. As always, we shall see.
In other news, the New York Yankees have claimed reliever Brian Schlitter off waivers from the Cubs. Schlitter, from Park Ridge, made his major-league debut with the Cubs last year, going 0-1 with a 12.38 ERA in 7 games.
Had a chance to talk minutes after the Hall of Fame announcement with Randy Bush, a teammate of Blyleven’s with the Twins. Randy has long felt Blyleven should have been in the Hall. I asked Randy his reaction.
“What comes to mind is just what a great competitor he was, what a workhorse, what a winning-type pitcher, great leader on the ballclub,” Randy said. “I know a lot of it is based on statistics. I know in my heart…I felt he was one of the dominant pitchers of his era. Sixty shutouts. It was such a different era with complete games and going out there was such a big part of the game, and he did that. I’m just really, really happy for him. It’s long time coming.”
Bert talked of 14 years of “praying and waiting” for the call to come.
"My last name's Blyleven. It's 2011. Maybe the writers just decided, 'Hey, that would be a good year for him to go in,'" Bert said. "Yeah, it's been frustrating over the years watching your percentages sometimes go down and then steadily go up. Last year was a phenomenal year because I went from 62 to 74.2 (percent), 5 votes short. Still, I didn't anticipate going in this year. I didn't know.
"I'm proud of every inning I pitched at the major-league level. I'm proud of my shutouts. I'm proud of my complete games. I'm proud of my wins. I'm proud of my losses because I got to play a kids game for a long time. That's the bottom line. I'm with a very elite group that loved the game of baseball as much as I do, and that's cool."
In my earlier blog about the Hall, written in December, I wrote of a teammate of Bert’s who told a story about a player striking out against Blyleven three times, all on Bert’s wicked curveballs. Here’s how Randy remembered it: “We had a guy who just came up from the minor leagues, and he said he had never struck out three times in one game before. We’re all laughing about it. We faced Bert when he was with Cleveland. Bert struck him out his first three times up on nine curveballs. He struck him out on nine pitches in three at-bats. He threw him nine curveballs, and he couldn’t touch him."
As far as the voting went, Alomar received 90 percent of the vote in his second year on the ballot. Blyleven received 79.7 percent in his 14th year. As you know, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast. This year, 581 ballots were cast.
Those falling short:
Barry Larkin, 62.1 percent
Jack Morris, 53.5
Lee Smith, 45.3
Jeff Bagwell, 41.7
Tim Raines, 37.5
Edgar Martinez, 32.9
Alan Trammell, 24.3
Larry Walker, 20.3
Mark McGwire, 17.9
Dave Parker, 15.3
Don Mattingly, 13.6
Dale Murphy, 12.6
Rafael Palmeiro, 11.0
Juan Gonzalez, 5.2
Harold Baines, 4.8
Also receiving votes were Marquis Grissom, B.J. Surhoff, Bret Boone and Benito Santiago. I have no idea why.
McGwire's percentage dropped from 23.7 last year. Gonzalez barely stayed on the ballot, just beating the 5 percent threshold. Blyleven talked about the so-called steroid era.
"It's not my decision to make, what the writers vote or don't vote for," he said. "I think we've seen over the years with McGwire, how the writers have felt about him. He has great numbers. Why has he not increased? Well, I think the steroid era had a lot to do with it. Guys cheated. One reason Pete Rose isn't in the Hall of Fame (is) because of that: He just did something that baseball doesn't allow. You just move on."
Whom did those suspected of PED use cheat?
"They cheated themselves," Blyleven answered. "They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a steroid era, and it's up to the writers to decide when and who should go in from that era."