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Hayden Goethe, Published January 06 2011

Goethe: It took awhile, but Baseball Hall of Fame voters get it right with Blyleven

I made the joke Wednesday afternoon that Bert Blyleven will sure have a lot of time on his hands now that he doesn’t have to spend so much time pumping up his own candidacy for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But in all seriousness, the time had come for Blyleven to get elected.

Blyleven’s public Hall campaign had become nearly as famous as his career, but the statistics are impressive enough that they should not have required self-promotion.

He’s fifth all time in strikeouts and ninth in shutouts. He was 13 wins shy of the 300 mark and anchored a couple of rotations that went on to win the World Series, including in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins.

And despite all of that, it took Blyleven until his 14th year on the writers’ ballot to cross the 75 percent threshold needed for election. In his second year on the ballot, he garnered just 14 percent of the vote.

Quite a few of those voters have questioned on their blogs over the last week how so many of their fellow writers can change their minds. If you think he’s a Hall of Famer now, how come he wasn’t one 10 years ago? His win and strikeout totals are the same today as they were when he retired after the 1992 season.

It’s a fair question. One of the writers – I don’t remember which one – suggested on his blog that players be on the ballot for just one year and then removed from it. That wouldn’t allow writers to “send messages” to certain players, which is what appeared to happen to Roberto Alomar.

Alomar garnered a whopping 90 percent of the votes this year, despite having fallen short of induction last year.

So I understand the rationale behind a one-and-done proposal, but I think in most cases it’s good to leave room for some debate year after year.

This idea that, “Well, I didn’t think Blyleven was a Hall of Famer in 1998, and I’m not gonna change,” mentality is a pretty stubborn one. Is there anything wrong with changing your mind? A healthy discussion – even if, in Blyleven’s case, it lasts 14 years – is a good thing. Hopefully, those discussions about other deserving players like Barry Larkin and Tim Raines continue to occur.

The important thing is that no matter how long it took, the writers did get it right with Blyleven.

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558 or at hgoethe@forumcomm.com