Ballot 31: Casey Blake
Played 13 years for five different teams
Lifetime 264 average with 264 doubles and 167 home runs. 24.9 WAR, 7.7 WAA
Pro argument: All-around good player.
Con argument: All-around good player.
Deserves to be in Hall?: No
Will get elected this year?: No
Will ever get elected?: No
Here is a list of the Caseys by WAR:
Casey Blake, 24.9
Casey Stengel, 20.1
Casey Patten, 14.3
Casey Kotchman, 7.5
Casey Janssen, 7.5
Casey Candaele, 2.2
Casey Fien, 2.2
Casey McGeHee, 1.2
Just as a point of reference, Sean Casey's lifetime WAR was 16.3.
It is a bit of a surprise, to be honest, that Blake was on this Hall of Fame ballot. He had one of those admirable careers that said more or less everything EXCEPT Hall of Fame. He did not make an All-Star Game or win a batting title. He did not lead the league in anything or really come close to leading the league in anything (well, he did finish second in sacrifice flies one year). He did not do anything singular that would set him apart. He was a perfectly good player for a perfectly good number of years. There was never a moment that you watched Casey Blake play and thought: "Hall of Famer!"
But then, maybe that is the very thing that identifies him; he's like Emmet from The Lego Movie, special BECAUSE there's nothing special about him. It's interesting doing the Hall of Fame balloting this way, ranking the players from No. 34 to No. 1, because slot No. 31 came down to two wildly different players with wildly different backgrounds: Casey Blake and Pat the Bat Burrell. One was a phenom with unlimited potential. The other was Casey Blake.
And, yet, Blake somehow ended up with a higher WAR than Burrell. I could have rated him in the higher spot. But, in a way, I thought it was more fitting to put him here.
Blake was a big-time high school athlete in Iowa, a four-sport star. He comes from a baseball family -- his father, brothers all played (or would play) minor league baseball. He was drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round out of high school.
He decided to go play ball at Wichita State instead, where he was a good player, a terrific student (two-time Academic All-American) and a marginal prospect. The Yankees took hin in the 45th round when he was a junior, and the Blue Jays took him in the seventh round as a senior. He signed with Toronto, and the then began one of those discouraging minor-league careers familiar to many. He definitely hit. He hit .350 in high-A ball. He hit .372 during his brief time in double-A. He got up to the big leagues for 14 games as a 25-year old. He didn't hit much, and he was sent to triple-A.
And then he got waived.
Why did he get waived? No specific reason: He just wasn't good enough. The Blue Jays saw at 26-year-old player who simply wasn't going to help the team. He signed with Minnesota and in triple-A, again, he hit -- .317 average with .529 slugging percentage in Salt Lake City. The Twins called him up for 26 total games. In the second stint, he actually hit OK, but it didn't really matter. They waived him.
Baltimore was next. They played him six games, he didn't hit at all, and they waived him.
Minnesota picked him back up. You getting dizzy yet? He played in triple-A Edmonton and hit .309 with 19 home runs. And the Twins, you guessed it, released him.
So, there you go -- he was 29 years old and had been released four times, twice by the same team. There was no reason at all for him to think that he was going to play in the big leagues. But he would not quit. His father, Joe Blake, had been a minor-league pitcher, and not a bad one; he made it up to Class AAA by the time he was 24. But he started to have doubts. He began to talk to his wife about quitting this silly game and going home to Iowa, getting a real job and starting a family. Shortly after that, he blew out his arm and did just that.
Joe Blake did not like talking about regrets. But Casey Blake's mother Chris sensed them. She told her son: Keep going.
So he did. He signed with Cleveland, in large part because he knew manager Eric Wedge (who had played at Wichita State before Blake). Wedge told Blake that he would have a real chance to win the third base spot. That was all he ever wanted. Blake absolutely killed the ball in spring training to win the job outright. And at age 29, for the first time, he got his chance as an everyday Major Leaguer.
And he was ... pretty good after pretty good after pretty good. He hit with a little power. He played a good third base. The next year, at age 30, he hit little better with a little more power, and he still played a good third base. The next year, the Tribe moved him to the outfield, so he worked on that, you know, anything to help the ballclub. Not long after that they moved him back to third base, so he worked on that, you know, anything to help the ballclub, and all along he hit .271, .282, .270, and all along he hit 23 homers, 19 homers, 21 homers.
In 2008, at the trade deadline, Cleveland moved Blake to the Dodgers where for the next three years he, guess what, was pretty good. He hit with some power. He played good defense. He signed with Colorado at the end for one last shot, but he got released one last time and called it a career.
It was, for all intents and purposes, an eight-year career. But for those eight years, he put up a 108 OPS+, averaged 30 doubles and 20 homers, was a plus fielder and was a starter for three teams that reached the Championship Series. He probably won't get a single Hall of Fame vote and he should not ... but his name looks good on the ballot anyway. It means he had a good career. And he did.