Written by Mike "the Buzz-saw" Asti
I promised my full thoughts, here they are. Now that the rumors and predicting proved true and Andy Pettitte has officially announced retirement (Cashman, he did not Favre or should I say Clemens you) I feel it is time to put out his hall of fame potential and let everyone make up their own minds on the hot button topic surrounding baseball right now.
More than any other sport, baseball focuses so much (maybe even to much at times) on the numbers when deciding a players hall of fame case and standing in one of the oldest games. It is so important that a recent candidate, Fred McGriff, will forever be 7 home runs shy of enshrinement. The Crime Dog played stellar first base both offensively and defensively (one of the best defensive 1b in the last 30 years). He accumulated over 1,500 RBI, won several Gold Gloves, and blasted 493 career home runs while playing in big games and winning a World Series (95' Braves). Yup, 493, there's my 7 shy. First base is considered a power position, maybe more than any other. You are expected to be able to jack 35+ and knock in 100 every year at the least to be thought of as elite. Players of the past such as Mike Schmidt, Lou Gehrig, Frank Thomas, and recently Jim Thome did this regularly. McGriff did too and that 500 bench mark, especially since he has no PED suspicion, would get him in. Unfortunately he was never the best at his craft in a single year and falling shy of 500 will cost him. The NFL voters will never say had Chris Carter caught 7 more balls he would be a shoe in or if Pavel Bure had scored just 7 more goals in the NHL he would move from borderline to a hockey hall of famer. In baseball, lucky number 7 will haunt McGriff for the rest of his days.
Case for Hall of Fame
With that point made, now on to Pettitte. Andy, like McGriff was never the best at his position, however, he played in a great era for legendary pitchers. Joe Torre said it perfectly, "he was always a number 2 who pitched like a number 1", that is a fair point. No team had a number 2 who they felt more confident in and who was more clutch over his career. Pettitte actually is the only pitcher in history to never post a losing record, he averaged about 15 wins per season for a total of 240 (only 138 losses). On top of consistency in the regular season, Andy could make an argument as perhaps the best post-season pitcher of all time. Pettitte holds the record with 19 wins in the playoffs and combines that staggering stat with only 10 losses, a .655 win %. Despite not being the ace of the staff, he was often matched up with a hall of fame mound opponent. Take his 1996 World Series game 5 dueling with legend John Smoltz for example (96 was a Smoltz Cy Young year too). He pitched 16 seasons and literally half of those years he appeared in the Fall Classic. Pettitte holds a 12-6 record in championship series and World Series games. With 5 rings and 8 total pennants, including 1 from the NL as a 2005 Houston Astro, Andy Pettitte climbed the baseball mountain top more than any other during his playing days and exemplified the term clutch. Is an outstanding post-season resume enough to send him to Cooperstown?
Case against Hall of Fame
Now to play the necessary devils advocate role. Everything I said so far is true, but is it enough? Baseball is a numbers game and focuses on bench marks. McGriff is 7 shy of 500 home runs and that hurts his case, Andy Pettitte is 60 victories away from the pitching equivalent, 300 wins. He entered the league in 1995 and immediately was apart of a dynasty. The 90's early 2000's Yankees were some of the best teams in baseballs modern era, 98 is often labeled as a top 5 all-time squad. In a lot of ways, a pitcher is only as good as his teammates. Felix Hernandez made this point this season, he won a deserving Cy Young award but only was 1 game over .500 record wise. Andy Pettitte had some of the best teammates any guy could ask for, Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez (Spiel, I threw him in for you buddy), Gary Sheffield, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, and Alex Rodriguez just to name a few. He had some of these guys during their best seasons and his team lead the league in offense almost every year he took the mound. Pettitte knew, it often happened, he could allow 5 or 6 runs and still have a great chance at getting the W. Some would say you could put Gil Meche on those teams Pettitte pitched for and he would put up 15 wins in his sleep too.
Getting away from his record, there are a few other reasons why this guy may not get in. This year, Bert Blyleven finally earned the necessary 75+% of the vote. This honor came after a 14 year waiting period, this angered him and his fans greatly. To compare and prove my shy of bench mark number equals waiting theory, Blyleven has 287 victories in his career, 37 more than Pettitte and only 13 from 300. Bert also was not just a regular season pitcher, he won 2 rings (79 Pirates & 87 Twins). His wait should be looked upon as a negative omen for 90's and 2000's pitchers like Pettitte and his rival counterpart, Curt Schilling. Andy's and Curt's cases are very similar. They both were dominant playoff pitching studs, yet were usually in the shadow of Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson among others. While Pettitte does have 24 more wins in about the same amount of games, Schill finished 2nd for the Cy Young award, a runner up spot Andy never reached (Curt winning one of those would improve his case greatly). Schilling has more key moments, something baseball writers love as well (Mazeroski wouldn't be in HOF if were not for his walk off HR to win 60 World Series). The co World Series MVP (2001 Diamondbacks) and the bloody sock (2004), which already sits on display in Cooperstown, go along way for him. Pettitte pitched in many big games and pitched well, but lacks key moments such as those.
Finally, that elephant in the room Ramos alluded to with his comment on my initial post, could be the final dagger. Pettitte admitted to using HGH during his Astro days and also has become a big figure in the perjury trial against his former teammate and bff, Roger Clemens. His involvement in that investigation and testimony may not sit well with the purist mentality held by the committee. Even though the steroid issues should be used on a case by case basis, that doesn't mean they will. The committee has made it VERY clear, based on the comical percentages guys like Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire have received thus far, they are not allowing steroid guys in this club, at least not for a while. Personally, I would only hold the PED issue against a player if he fits in one of these categories, tested positive at some point (Raffy), there is extreme evidence or proof (Bonds & Sosa), or the player admits to having used (McGwire, A-Rod). Unfortunately for Pettitte, he fits into the last of those groups. Yes, it is nice he does not try to teat us like idiots, similar to how Barry does with bold face lie after lie, however, he only admitted it after the full court press was on him. Even if a guy admits on their own having taken steroids their numbers were enhanced and they were aided in recovering from injuries faster, if you are not on the field you can't put up HOF stats. This black eye on an otherwise fabulous career could move Andy Pettitte from a good border line case to another star made an example out of. It also doesn't help that the guys I used to compare his chances all have 0 PED issues weighing on them, Blyleven mostly pitched prior to that era and Schilling has to this point avoided any hint of steroid thoughts in his direction.
Yankee fans you can bitch and moan all you want, at best Andy Pettitte will have a long wait if he hopes to someday have his plaque on the wall.
- Mike "the Buzz-saw" Asti
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