There’s a wonderful article today in the Florida News-Press. It describes the first meeting between two men so deeply aligned in my mind’s eye: one a great major league pitcher, the other his most ardent advocate. I didn’t realize that the two hadn’t met before; it’s about time.
The story of Rich and Bert is perhaps the greatest story of Sabermetrics on the Internet. There are other great stories, such as the formation of Baseball Prospectus and the growth of Tango’s sabermetric blog and theories, but none have had the impact of Rich’s early and impassioned advocacy of Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame.
Blyleven was an under-the-radar kind of guy when he pitched, and I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps it was the small markets he pitched in, or the fact he never won a Cy Young. It was easy to overlook him when you talked about the all-time greats.
But Rich changed that. When Rich laid out Bert’s career stats, you took notice. Your eyes opened, and you realized that you had been missing something for a long time. It truly was like waking up.
Thanks to Sabermetrics (and one of Rich’s idols, Bill James), you just couldn’t deny the power of the evidence. And thanks to the Internet, the word spread quickly. Many eyes opened and minds changed. Others joined the chorus, but Rich started the chant. And eventually the BBWAA heard, too.
This is a great story within a story, and it gives many of us hope. Hope that compelling stats really can mean something; hope that some more rationality can be brought to bear to the Great Baseball Arguments. Hope that the fundamental nature of the game can be fully incorporated with its emotional impact. Hope that minds and hearts can co-exist.
This from the article…
“Would Bert had gotten in without Lederer? That’s hard to say,” said LaVelle Neal, a sportswriter for the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis. “I will say that Lederer and the stats revolution came when Bert really needed a boost.”
…gets it wrong. There is no way the BBWAA would have inducted Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame without Rich Lederer. Let’s give credit where it’s due.
Congratulations, Bert; and congratulations, Rich. You both belong in the Sabermetric Hall of Fame.