Just saw on ESPN’s webpage that the Yankees have signed Andy Pettitte to pitch again this season. He’ll get back into shape and then join the team when he’s ready. He’s currently third in wins among Yankees pitchers (Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing) and is signed for one season only. Let’s see how this works out.
Posts Tagged ‘Andy Pettitte’
Now the Hall of Fame voting is over. We can sit around and cuss and discuss the results. Your favorite get in? Good for him. Your favorite still on the outside looking in? Sorry about that. But there’s always next year for him (unless the Mayan thing is right). So maybe it’s time to start talking about next year’s Hall of Fame election.
I understand the dilemma of the voters. You’re going to have people with truly astounding numbers on the list. You’re going to have people who are admitted or suspected PED users. You’re going to have people on the list that were great players prior to the PED controversy who got better when PED’s were suspected. What do you do? I’m a bad person to ask for advice, because I’m not privy to all the nuances of the Mitchell Report, the BALCO testimony, and God knows what else. But, of course, that’s never stopped me before, so why should it now?
There are, in broadest terms, three groups of players when it comes to PEDs: those we’re sure didn’t use them, those we’re sure did, and those we don’t know about. And the key word there is “sure.” Because other than a few admissions (Mark McGwire, AndyPettitte, etc), most of the players we’re “sure” about are really people we highly suspect used PEDs.
In some ways the decision has already been made by the failure of McGwire and Rafael Palmiero to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown.Thus I find the questioning about what will happen next year a little odd. Perhaps its the presence of Barry Bonds on the list or the knowledge that Alex Rodriguez lurks just a few years down the road that leads to the questioning. Because I do find it strange. If a decision has been made on McGwire and Palmiero then why is there a question about others? I know Palmiero got caught with his hand in the cookie jar so I can see a difference, but McGwire was being held out before he admitted anything (“I’m not here to talk about the past.”).
This isn’t an argument to keep the bums out, but to try to figure out why we’re still asking the questions. Somehow you can’t have one standard for McGwire, another for Bonds. I say that while admitting Bonds was a better player without PEDs. So that leads to the problem of what to do with quality players like Bonds and Clemens who were probable Hall of Fame inductees before they allegedly got into PEDs. Frankly, I think the one cancels out the other (using PEDs cancels out quality prior to PEDs) but others will disagree.
So maybe the solution is simple. No PED user (and here the word “suspected” must come into play) can get in on his first five tries, then maybe that’s penance enough and he can be voted in. Maybe that’s a bad idea, maybe it should be one year or two or ten (or maybe the plaques ought to mention it). But in fairness to the guys who no one believes used them there has to be some difference made. Besides the idea of being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” is so ingrained in us that to keep these players from that title is fitting. Do we really want to let their names be uttered positively in the same sentence with the likes of Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson?
I know this rambles and the solution is only vague, but that reflects how much I’m torn by this issue. I really don’t want these jerks in Cooperstown beside Musial and Robinson, but I understand the impact of the players and their numbers.
So I see that Andy Pettitte is retiring. I’m going to step away from my normal look at the past of baseball, and the current emphasis on the black experience in the sport, to comment on his departure. I’ve never been a Yankees fan, but I’m going to miss him.
Pettitte came along just as the Yankees were turning around their franchise. He was a big part of that turn around, arguably the centerpiece of the starting pitchers. Without him, I’m not sure the team would have won four championships in five years. I know it will always be considered the Torre/Jeter Yankees, but Pettitte was as important as any other player because he provided a steady, reliable starter. Frankly, there aren’t just a heck of a lot of those. He has some good stats: 240 wins, a .635 winning percentage, a WHIP of 1.357, 2251 strikeouts, 962 walks, an ERA of 3.88, and an ERA+ of 117. He also gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. In the postseason he has 19 wins (a record), a winning percentage of .655, a WHIP of 1.304, 173 strikeouts, 72 walks, an ERA of 3.83, and more hits than innings pitched. In other words, he’s almost the same pitcher in both the regular and post seasons (which is something a lot of truly great pitchers can’t say). And of course, he has five championships, starting three of the deciding games.
Then there’s the HGH moment. Now I’m not prone to believe any of these people when they start going on about “Well, I didn’t know” or “I didn’t do it” or “I only did it once” or “There must be some mistake, ” or “Who? Me?” But Pettitte’s admission to having used HGH once when he was hurt and wanted desperately to get back to his team has a ring of truth about that makes me give him the benefit of the doubt, at least a little. Maybe it just means he’s a much better actor than the others, but maybe he really meant it.
I’ve already heard the talk about the Hall of Fame, both pro and con. His winning percentage is in the same range as Jim Palmer, Mike Mussina, and Kid Nichols. But it’s also in the same range as Tex Hughson and Ed Reulbach. In strikeouts Lefty Grove and Eddie Plank straddle him. His WHIP is better than Mark Gubicza’s but worse than Steve Stone’s. His 19 playoff wins is a record, and he’s second in playoff strikeouts, but he had more rounds to get them in than Whitey Ford. He has five rings, but Red Ruffing has six and Nolan Ryan only one. So I sat down and started thinking long and hard about it. I have a basic rule of thumb that if you have to think long and hard about whether a player is a Hall of Famer or not, he probably isn’t. That’s my judgement on Pettitte, but I do hope he gets a bunch of votes the first time he shows up on the ballot. He is, at least, one of the finest pitchers in the history of the Yankees franchise.
Recently some genius’ have begun referring to four Yankees players as “The Core Four”: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. It’s supposed to be a reference to how important they have been to the Yankees winning ways in the last fifteen or so years. It’s catchy, but because it totally ignores the contributions of a number of other players, it’s utter nonsense.
The argument goes that these four players are the “core” of Yankees teams that have won five World Series. First, that’s difficult to sustain if you know that Posada played only eight games in 1996 (the first of the five World Series championships), none in the postseason, and that Rivera was the setup man, not the closer in 1996 (John Wetteland was both closer and Series MVP). It’s kind of like giving Sandy Koufax credit for the Dodgers winning in 1955 when he pitched in only 42 innings over 12 games and five starts (“Boy are we lucky we had him. We woulda never won the damned thing if he wasn’t on the roster.”) Most importantly it completely downplays the contribution of other players, a sort of second “core four” (actually five).
As Posada was no factor in the 1996 World Series championship, and Rivera’s contribution was important, but not primary, we may only consider the “core four” as winning in 1998, 1999, 2000, and after a significant break, 2009. There are another five that may be considered equally crucial in winning the 1998-2000 championships: Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, and Paul O’Neill (this without reference to pitchers). All five participated in the same three wins as the “core four” (and Williams, Martinez, and O’Neill made the 1996 Series also). I question how their contributions can be considered less than the so-called “Core Four.”
You might also argue that once Williams, Knoblauch, Martinez, Brosius, and O’Neill left, the “Core Four” were unable to secure a World Series championship until the arrival of a second four: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and Mark Teixeira. Perhaps it is those four that made the difference. In fact, following this idea to its conclusion, one could argue that the key player was Teixeira. After all the “core four” couldn’t win until he arrived. Or maybe it was Melky Cabrera. Heck, the Yanks didn’t win until he took over in center. Or maybe it’s really all about Andy Pettitte. Pettitte left after the 2003 Series loss and the Yankees failed to make a World Series until 2009. Meanwhile, Pettitte went to Houston, a team that went to the World Series in 2005 for the first time ever, then returned to New York in 2008, exactly one season prior to the last Yankees championship. So maybe Pettitte, not the “Core Four,” is the key.
Now you can rightly argue the idea that Teixeira (or Cabrera) was the crucial element is silly and I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t mind if you laughed at the idea that it was all Pettitte. Because the point is that it requires a lot of good players to win, not just a “core four.” With no loss of respect to the “Core Four”, how about a little credit to the rest of the team Yankees fans? It’s been a heck of a run and a lot of guys have been responsible for the success (several of which I didn’t name).
This is the final post in the series. I want to make a few observations about what the series is and isn’t. Let me begin by saying what prompted it.
I noted the comments about the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera in alphabetical order). I thought it was catchy, but immediately decided it was incorrect. The “Core Four” should be the core about eight or nine. Because the late 1990′s dynasty that ended in Phoenix in 2001 (the 2003 team is not, in my opinion part of that dynasty) had more than those four as significant members of the dynasy. There was Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Joe Girardi, and of course manager Joe Torre who were significant contributers to those winning teams. When I sat down and listed all the significant parts I decided to compare them with the other great Yankees dynasties of the past (1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1970s). I simply wrote down the major players from the 1996-2001 team, then listed beside them the same position players for the other teams. It became fairly obvious that all the teams were a lot alike. They were all built very much the same. So I wondered if that worked for other dynasties as well. As I’m spending a lot of time this year looking at the 1910 season, I especially wondered about the A’s team of that year. I decided to find out. I looked at a number of other teams (72-74 A’s, 29-31 A’s, 10-14 A’s, 57-59 Braves, 06-10 Cubs, 01-03 Pirates, 62-66 Dodgers). Turns out all of them had the same broad characteristics as the Yankees.
Let me emphasize these are broad characteristics and do not look at the details of the teams. In other words, I wasn’t looking at the stats so much as the quality of the players involved. This is, if you will, a macro look at the teams, not a micro look. Let me also emphasize that this is not a rigid formula to win. I don’t think there really is a good one of those (except maybe to keep your best players healthy). Back about 20 years or so I looked for the baseball stat that was the best predictor of getting to a World Series. I found it to be opponent’s runs. That was the stat the World Series contenders most frequently led their league in on a yearly basis. Don’t know if that’s still true (and there are new stats that weren’t available to check then). This current overview of mine is not meant to be something you can hang your hat on and say this is the winner this season.
Having said all that, I’ve begun to realize that a properly constituted team of stars, good players, and role players has a good chance of winning. Teams of all-stars don’t do it (Except, in the 20th Century, for the 1930s Negro League Crawfords, and even they had role players.). It also helps to have a fluke; what I call the “one year wonder” rule. You can never account ahead of time for a Shane Spencer (of the 1990s Yankees) to have a short run that will help the team to victory or a Hurricane Hazle (of the Braves) to put you over the top. But they do happen and good teams take advantage of them.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the series and will look at teams a little differently now.
Right after the Super Bowl there were all these comments to the effect that you couldn’t call the losing quarterback a true great of the game until he won and won a bunch of titles. That works in tennis, but football isn’t tennis. In tennis one player stands out there (unless you’re doing doubles) and takes on one other player. It works also in boxing where one heavyweight matches up one-on-one with another heayweight. But football isn’t boxing either. It’s a team sport and so is baseball.
You hear the same kind of comments about baseball. Barry Bonds wasn’t really very good, after all he never won one. Ernie Banks? Nice little player but he never got to a World Series, let alone won it. Again it’s a team sport and the last time I checked both Bonds and Banks played only one of the positions on the field and batted in only one of the positions in the lineup. If neither was successful in winning a World Series maybe part of the problem is that they had a bad year, but maybe it’s also that the guys around them weren’t good enough to propel a team to a championship. So lay off the stars, fellas, it’s not all their fault. I agree that a player’s primary purpose in a sport is to win. And that works in individual sport. But in a team sport like baseball you have to have a bunch of other guys around who can play a little bit or you’re going to put up great numbers and watch your team lose. Take a look at Jimmie Foxx in 1935. He leads the AL in home runs, slugging, has 118 runs, 185 hits and his A’s finish dead last 34 games out. In 1987 Andre Dawson wins the MVP with a great years an the Cubs finish dead last 18.5 games out and would have been third in the other division. You can put together a pretty decent team of players who never won a World Series. An infield of Willie McCovey, Rod Carew, Ernie Banks, and George Kell; an outfield of Ted Williams, Billy Williams, and Andre Dawson; a battery of Gabby Hartnett and Don Sutton is going to win a lot of games (they’re all in the Hall of Fame) but not one of them ever won a World Series (Sutton was on the 1988 Dodgers, but was gone before the Series). Does that make them a bunch of bums? Of course it doesn’t.
Besides if you base everything on winning a championship you end up with some startingly stupid conclusions. Did you know that Scott Brosius was a greater third baseman than both Mike Schmidt and George Brett combined? Well, he won three rings, and each of them only has one. So if winning makes greatness, he has to be greater. Bet you didn’t know that old timer Goose Goslin was a greater left fielder than either Bonds or Ted Williams. He has two rings. Their total? Zero. Paul O’Neill is greater than Hank Aaron four rings to one and Andy Pettitte is greater than Cy Young, Walter Johnson, and Lefty Grove combined five rings to four. And of course ultimately that makes Yogi Berra the greatest of all because he has 10 rings, more than anybody else.
Nonsense, you say. You’re right, it is nonsense. A player’s greatness has to be measured in conjunction with his team, but his play is only a part of the whole. Don’t confuse greatness with ultimate success if you’re dealing with a team sport.