When Bert Blyleven first appeared on the baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 1998, he received 17.5 percent of the vote. Seventy-five percent is needed for induction.
A year later, his total dipped to 14.1 percent.
Wednesday, Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame with 79.7 percent of the vote in his next-to-last year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot.
Blyleven joins 12-time All-Star Roberto Alomar as the only players elected this year. Alomar received 90.0 percent of the vote in his second year on the ballot.
So what happened to Blyleven? He didn't snap off any more of his signature curveballs after his retirement in 1992. He didn't add to his totals of 287 wins (27th overall), 60 shutouts (ninth) or 3,701 strikeouts (fifth).
It seemed it was a change in attitude among voters (and in voters as writers retired). A pitcher's worth is no longer judged by just wins and losses. Newer statistics such as wins above replacement (WAR) and fielding independent pitching (FIP) try to add context to the always difficult debate about greatness.
Or maybe it was just Blyleven's time. "It's been 14 years of praying and waiting," he said. "I thank the Baseball Writers [Association] of America, I'm going to say, for finally getting it right."
"Fourteen years is a long time to keep climbing that mountain," Blyleven said. "Now I'm representing baseball as a Hall of Famer, to do the best I can to show everybody what the game of baseball is all about."
In the end, it's about who wins and who loses. But the current trend is a starting pitcher has less to do with the final outcome. "There's so many different stats [other] than just wins and losses," Blyleven said. "You can't control wins, can't control losses. What you can control are things like innings pitched. Did you keep your club in the game?"
Blyleven had his greatest success with the Twins and was a member of their 1987 World Series champion. He also pitched for the Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels and the 1979 champion Pirates. He was 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in the postseason.
There were 17 candidates who received fewer than five percent of the votes and will not be on future ballots, including former Mets closer John Franco, who received 27 votes (4.6 percent). Al Leiter and John Olerud received four votes each. Yankees fan favorite Tino Martinez received six votes.
Other holdovers whowill remain on the ballot are Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Tim Raines, Dale Murphy, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell and Lee Smith. In his final year on the ballot, Dave Parker received 89 votes (15.3).