10,000 days since Bert Blyleven traded to the Twinsby Chris Jaffe
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.
1,000 days since the debut of Target Field, the new home of the Twins.
4,000 days since the Angels sign free agent starting pitcher Aaron Sele.
5,000 days since Jim Leyland wins his 1,000th game as a manager. His record is 1,000-1,044.
5,000 days since Carlos Beltran, then a Royal, hits his first career home run.
6,000 days since Paul Molitor hits his second and last career walk-off home run.
9,000 days since Scott McGregor appears in his last game.
9,000 days since Nolan Ryan loses a no-hitter in the ninth inning. Mike Schmidt gets the hit to ruin it. This is one of five times Ryan takes a no-hitter into the ninth but doesn’t walk out with a no-hitter.
10,000 days since Adam Jones is born.
15,000 days since the Pirates name Bill Virdon as their new manager.
15,000 days since Bob Short says the former Washington Senators will be known as the Texas Rangers. Short is the franchise owner who is taking the team to Dallas.
20,000 days since starting pitcher Leon Cadore dies. He is most famous for being one of two pitchers to throw a 26-inning complete game on May 1, 1920 in a 1-1 Dodgers-Braves tie.
At some point today it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since the big league debut of Chili Davis.
1859 Bill Hutchinson, 19th-century workhorse pitcher, is born.
1875 William Hulbert and Al Spalding create the constitution and bylaws for a new baseball league that will start the next year, the National League.
1879 Cy Falkenberg, who led the Federal League in strikeouts, total batters faced, starts, and innings pitched in 1914, is born.
1891 The American Association, a major league since its 1882 founding, folds.
1902 AL owners adopt a 154-game schedule for the next season. This will last for over a half-century.
1914 The White Sox, in a surprise move, hire the obscure Pants Rowland to manager their team. He’ll guide them to the 1917 world championship but never be well regarded in the baseball world.
1920 The AL votes to let existing spitballers continue to throw their unsanitary (and recently outlawed) pitch.
1924 The Browns trade their best pitcher, Urban Shocker, to the Yankees for Bullet Joe Bush, Milt Gaston, and Joe Giard.
1932 The Cardinals trade Hall of Fame first baseman Sunny Jim Bottomley to the Reds for two players.
1935 Cal Ripken Sr., baseball lifer and father of two major league infielders (one, of course, his Hall of Fame shortstop son), is born.
1935 Washington trades Hall of Famer Heinie Manush to the Red Sox for Carl Reynolds and Roy Johnson.
1936 Jerry Adair, Orioles second baseman, is born.
1938 Leo Cardenas, a five-time All-Star, is born.
1953 AL voters approve of Chicago industrialist Arnold Johnson purchasing Yankee Stadium, who will rent it back to the team. Things will get more complicated a few years later when Johnson buys the A’s and begins a series of questionable trades with the Yankees.
1957 Bob Ojeda, starting pitcher, is born.
1957 Boston releases Gene Mauch.
1957 Fritz Ostermueller, pitcher, dies at age 50.
1961 Ping Bodie, 1910s outfielder, dies at age 74.
1964 The Yankees fire longtime radio/TV voice Mel Allen. How about that?
1968 Owners announce they’ll increase pension fund contributions by $1 million to $5.1 millions, but the players vote it down 491-7.
1968 Hank Severeid, longtime AL catcher, dies at age 77.
1975 Paul Richards is named the new manager of the White Sox by new team owner Bill Veeck. This marks Richards' return to the dugout after nearly 15 years in the front office.
1976 Erik Bedard, starting pitcher, is born.
1978 Chase Utley, Phillies infielder, is born.
1980 San Diego signs amateur free agent Venezuela shortstop Ozzie Guillen.
1983 The Tigers sign free agent slugger Darrell Evans.
1985 Ken O’Dea, NL catcher for 12 years who was selected to the All-Star team in the only season in which he played 100 games (1945), dies at age 72.
1989 Toronto trades longtime catcher Ernie Whitt to the Braves.
1990 The Cubs sign free agent closer Dave Smith, who will stink with the Cubs.
1992 Minnesota signs free agent outfielder Dave Winfield.
1993 The A’s sign free agent outfielder Rickey Henderson. It’s one of several stops in Oakland for Henderson.
1995 Atlanta trades Kent Mercker to Baltimore for Joe Borowski and a minor leaguer.
1996 Texas signs free agent relief pitcher John Wetteland.
1999 Los Angeles signs free agent Orel Hershiser, who will spend his last year with the team he came up with.
2000 Miami city officials and Marlins club officials announce plans for a new retractable roof stadium in downtown Miami.
2001 The Mets sign second baseman Roger Cedeno as a free agent.
2002 San Francisco trades starting pitcher Russ Ortiz to the Braves.
2004 The Red Sox signs aging free agent pitcher David Wells.
2004 The White Sox claim talented-but-troubled relief pitcher Bobby Jenks off waivers from the Angels.
2004 The Mets sign free agent Pedro Martinez, ending his tremendous run with the Red Sox.
2004 Seattle signs free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.
2007 Tampa signs free agent Cliff Floyd.
2008 Dave Smith, former Astros/Cubs closer and two-time All-Star, dies at age 53.
2010 The Cubs sign free agent pitcher Kerry Wood, who will end his career playing for club with which he became famous.
2010 Walt Dropo dies at age 87. He led the league in RBIs and total bases as a rookie in 1950.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.