December 9, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Monday, December 17, 2012
10,000 days ago, a Hall of Fame pitcher got traded back to the team whose cap he’d wear on his Cooperstown plaque. It wasn’t his first go-around with the club but a return engagement for him.
On Aug. 1, 1985, the Cleveland Indians sent Bert Blyleven to the Twins in exchange for Jay Bell, Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver, and a player to be named later (who turned out to be Rafael Vasquez).
On the face of it, this is a pretty dang one-sided trade. Yeah, the Indians did get Bell in the mix, and he had a nice career, playing until 2003, mostly as a shortstop. He did well, but barely 100 of his 2,000-plus career games came with the Indians, and he hit just .223 for them. Cleveland ended up trading him as a player to be named later to Pittsburgh.
The other guys in the trade barely even rate a mention. Wardle posted a 6.68 ERA in 15 starts for the Indians in 1985 and never pitched in the majors again after that. Jim Weaver had 31 career games, none with either the Twins or Indians. Yett served as a lousy swingman pitcher for the Indians for four seasons.
The Indians traded Blyleven for a prospect they had little interest in and some loose change and bits of silly string. Surely, it isn’t the haul you’d expect for a Hall of Famer, is it?
Please note that Blyleven was a pretty good pitcher for Cleveland. His record was an underwhelming 9-11 at the time of the trade but with a superior 3.26 ERA. Between the two teams, Blyleven would lead the AL in strikeouts, innings, complete games, and batters faced in 1985. The year before, Blyleven went 19-7 with the third-best ERA in the league for a sixth-place Indians club.
Heck, even if Cleveland was in love with Bell in August 1985, you’d think they could still get better than him for Blyleven.
In fact, this wasn’t the first time Blyleven was traded for little. In Dec. of 1980, Blyleven came to Cleveland in a similarly strange one-sided deal. The Pirates sent Blyleven and worn-out catcher Manny Sanguillen there for four players, all of whom did little to nothing with Pittsburgh—or with anyone else—for the rest of their careers.
Why were teams so willing to dump off Blyleven for pennies on the dollar?
Well, though we don’t like to talk about clubhouse issues and words like chemistry on a sabermetric-leaning sight like THT, Blyleven had a bad off-the-field reputation back in the day, a really bad reputation.
In fact, as a Pirate, Blyleven once left the team outright. He didn’t like the way manager Chuck Tanner used him, so Blyleven flatly quit the team in midseason, flying to his home in California. Eventually, the two sides agreed to a truce, but the Pirates didn’t want a player who would do that to them, so they dumped him on Cleveland.
With Cleveland, Blyleven never left the team in midseason, but he retained his bad reputation. Most notably, he once gave the fans in Baltimore the finger when walking off the mound.
In fact, even in his first stint in Minnesota, Blyleven had his troubles, as he largely forced a trade there in mid-1976. In his last start in Minnesota, fans “serenaded” him as he left the game, singing, “Bye, Bye, Blyleven.”
In his second go-round in Minnesota, Blyleven finally wised up. The bad stories of his earlier stints went away, and he settled into the role of veteran pitcher. Though the Twins later let him go to the Angels at the end of his career, they brought him back to their announcing booth, where he currently resides.
Among other things, the Indians-Twins trade marks a turning point in Blyleven’s personal reputation, and that turning point happened 10,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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