The Hall of Fame debate usually follows the retirement of a productive high profile player, particularly one who made his name with the New York Yankees. Such is the case with Andy Pettitte, a solid if unspectacular lefty who was an integral part of multiple World Series Championship clubs.
Pettitte’s legacy and Cooperstown candidacy are bolstered immensely by his work in October and, on occasion, November. He retires with the most wins in postseason history. The fact that Pettitte appeared in the playoffs in all but three of his 16 seasons in the majors no doubt enhanced his ability to accumulate those 19 postseason victories, but that’s not the “enhancement” that will be under scrutiny.
Make no mistake, Pettitte will have to buck a recent and growing trend of this generation’s stars who put up hall worthy numbers, yet will fail to gain admission to Cooperstown because of direct ties to or even the suspicion of performance enhancing drug use.
We don’t have to debate the moral platitudes in Pettitte’s case. He admitted his use, and to his credit continued on with his life and career. Contrition may have earned points with some fans, but it’s unlikely to lessen the impact that his outright admission will have on hall voters. The next chapter appears to be Pettitte’s participation in what is sure to be the very public legal drama involving his friend Roger Clemens. We’ll table that discussion for now.
To be frank, I don’t believe Pettitte’s regular season numbers warrant his entry. I’m further more not convinced that his postseason numbers are enough to make up the difference in Hall of Fame credentials, or to erase the damage done by his admission of PED use. Coming clean to some extent, while it does not erase the transgressions against the game, afforded Pettitte an opportunity to reconcile with fans. Baseball writers will not be so forgiving when they fill out their ballots in five years.
I’d like to take this argument outside of that dreaded acronym (PED) for a bit, to look solely at Pettitte’s body of work. In other words, let’s look at the numbers and the accolades that made him a very successful pitcher for 16 seasons in the major leagues.
Pettitte is the first member of the vaunted Yankees “Core Four” – with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada – to retire. Those four players were the only men who were members of New York’s five World Series Championship Teams since 1996.
Today, pitchers who pile up postseason victories in bunches have a distinct advantage over those who pitched solely in the World Series (pre-1969). The expanded playoff format, which will likely swell again within the next two years, means that a pitcher could make between six and eight starts between LDS, LCS, and Word Series play.
Despite career numbers that are very solid by most standards, Pettitte is still not the greatest left-hander in Yankees history. Whitey Ford holds that distinction. Ron Guidry and Lefty Gomez would have to be thrown in the mix as well.
Pettitte sits high on the Yankee wins list, trailing only Ford and Red Ruffing for most victories in franchise history. In fact, Pettitte is one of just three pitchers in franchise history to reach 200 career wins. If you look up and down the Yankees pitching leaders, you’ll find that Pettitte’s name appears behind Ford numerous times.
It’s not merely the statistical comparison of the two that led me to bring Ford into the Pettitte discussion. There are some that regard the Yankee’s original lefty legend as a borderline Hall of Famer.
Perhaps it was Ford’s failure to reach the 300-win plateau, or the fact that he only had only one Cy Young Award. In fairness, Ford lost two seasons to military service and made just 16 starts combined in the final two years of his career. Ford’s career 55.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is better than Sandy Koufax (54.5), so it’s possible to make the stats – newfangled or not – say what you want them to. The Hall debate always brings out the best in statistical maneuvering.
Putting both stats and Yankee legends aside to look at awards and accomplishments, it’s pretty clear that at no time during his career was Pettitte ever considered the best pitcher in baseball. He received Cy Young votes in five different seasons. His highest finish came in just his second in the Bronx (1996), but he also finished fourth (2000), fifth on two occasions (1997, 2005), and sixth (2003) as well. It surprised me to see that he was selected to just three All-Star teams.
I’m not one who enjoys playing this game, but the number of “if-then” scenarios that would spring up in newspaper articles and in the internet community would dwarf those brought about any time that the name Bert Blyleven is mentioned.
The candidacy of Jack Morris, whose ERA of 3.90 is just .02 runs higher than Pettitte’s career mark would gain a new lease on life. In my mind, the discussion would have to expand well beyond just the Morris case, and include guys like Tommy John, Jim Kaat and Dennis Martinez. None of whom are immediately seen as Hall worthy candidates in and of themselves, and I’m not saying I support the “if-then” philosophy of awarding spots in Cooperstown for reasons other than individual merit.
One would have to look at contributions to the game, right? If so, John was on the cutting edge of a career-saving medical procedure that now carries his name. He came back better than he was before the surgery and won 288 games over 26 seasons. Kaat was a 283 game winner who claimed 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, transitioned into broadcasting and has been a distinguished member of the baseball community for five decades now. Martinez is the top winner (245) in baseball history among all Latin American pitchers.
Are those things not indicative of some high level of contribution? None of those men I just mentioned have their names attached to PED’s, which will almost certainly be enough to keep Pettitte out.
The Hall of Fame discussion often times degenerates into a Hall of Numbers debate, but the statistics aren’t everything and “fame” is a relative term. Would anyone ever say that Pete Rose is the worst player with 4,000 career hits? While it is an absolutely ridiculous argument, it is true. That Ty Cobb guy accomplished a few more things than Rose. Still, this entire line of discussion isn’t really worth pursuing any further.
What should we take away from the Pettitte Hall of Fame discussion?
Based on recent voting patterns and my gut instinct, while he was an outstanding pitcher who contributed to the success of the modern day Yankee dynasty, Pettitte will likely never receive his bronze plaque in Cooperstown. He was on multiple World Series winners and got paid quite handsomely. That may have to be all the reward baseball has to give in this case.
Who knows, maybe we haven’t seen Andy Pettitte take the mound for the last time. After all, “retirement” is another relative term these days.
The Philadelphia Phillies pounded their way to an 8-6 victory in Game 5, pushing the World Series back to New York and postponing any celebration plans the New York Yankees may have had on Monday.
Slugging second baseman Chase Utley slugged his way into the record books with his second multi-home run game of the World Series, belting two homers and driving in four runs.
Utley’s big night gave him a share of two postseason records. His five homers in this series ties Reggie Jackson for the most in a single World Series, while Utley’s seven career Fall Classic home runs are the most by any second baseman in baseball history.
Outside of Utley, the Phillies had Cliff Lee working on the hill as they stared elimination in the face and live to fight another day. Lee was not as sharp as his Game 1 masterpiece, but with eight runs of support he didn’t have to be.
The lefty was pitching well into the eighth inning before a Yankee rally forced his exit. His final line was five earned runs on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts over seven innings. Three of the runs scored in that eighth frame when the first three batters reached against Lee.
Raul Ibanez enjoyed a 2-for-4 night with a homer and two RBI’s in the winning effort. While much of the attention had been on Ryan Howard‘s struggles, Ibanez had struck out seven times in his prior 12 at-bats, so a good night for the left fielder was a welcome sign for the Philadelphia offense.
Speaking of Howard, Game 5 was yet another tough night in this series for the Phillies clean-up hitter. His futility at the plate reached record proportions when he was punched out twice on Monday to tie a World Series record with 12 strikeouts thus far in the series.
The bad news for Howard, if you want to call it that, is that he will set a record with his next strikeout, but the Yankees should be aware there is a flip side to that coin. It only takes one swing of the bat with a couple men on base for Howard to change the game. Look for the Yankees to continue feeding Howard the steady diet of breaking pitches he has seen throughout this World Series.
Howard has some elite company though, as both first basemen have struggled. Mark Teixeira is just 2-for-19, but has scored four runs, homered and knocked in two others while striking out seven times. Those are hardly big time numbers, but when compared to Howard’s 3-for-19 with two runs scored, one RBI and 12 punch-outs… well, you get the picture. It’s safe to say that each team would love to see their first baseman break out in a big way in Game 6.
Looking Ahead to Game 6:
The series shifts back to New York and a match-up of veteran hurlers will be on tap in the Bronx. All-time postseason wins leader Andy Pettitte will get the ball on three days rest against Pedro Martinez of the Phillies. It is truly a fascinating duel in the making. While Pettitte needs no postseason introduction, Pedro is still searching for a big game start that could help define his legacy in the playoffs.
As of now, most people remember October 16, 2003. Of course, that is the well documented and ill-fated night on which Boston manager Grady Little left Martinez in with a 5-3 lead with the Red Sox just five outs away from the World Series. The Yankees had other ideas.
This is a different Pedro Martinez. His high-90s fastball has long since vanished. This is a Pedro who relies on his wits, guile and a slew of off-speed pitches to get the job done. This is a Pedro who has to outthink hitters rather than blowing them away. He departed his first series start with a grin on his face, but Game 6 has much more on the line. I’d count on seeing a focused Pedro.
Looking at each hurler’s initial start in this series, Pedro had the better of the two, but it was Pettitte who put one in the win column. Martinez went six innings and allowed three runs on six hits while walking two and striking out eight in his Game 2 starting assignment. Pettitte spotted the Phillies three early runs in Game 3, but settled down to go six innings and allow four total runs on five hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts.
The Yankees will get to insert a red-hot Hideki Matsui back into the line-up as the designated hitter is back in play. It would stand to reason that the Phillies will start the right hand hitting Ben Francisco instead of Matt Stairs against the lefty Pettitte. That would give the edge in the DH department, at least on paper, to the Yankees. Mutsui is 5-for-9 with two homers, while Francisco is hitless in four World Series at-bats.
Though there are quite a few stars lining up, World Series games have a way of finding unsung heroes, so there is no guarantee that the Yankees will be able to ice the Phillies in Game 6. If Philadelphia is able to push a Game 7, then all the momentum shifts back to the defending champions. At that point, the Phillies have nothing to lose, the Yankees will have squandered a 3-1 series lead and, more than ever, the pressure to win will be squarely on hte shoulders of Joe Girardi’s club. Gotta love the drama, but winning Game 6 is all either team is thinking about as of now.
If history repeats itself, then we are in for a close game as far as the starting pitchers are concerned. However, the bullpens have had a way of making things interesting for both sides. Again, a Phillies victory would take the wind out of the Yankees sails and even things up for an exciting seventh contest. That makes Game 6 must-see TV.
Prediction: Yankees win 5-3 to take their 27th World Series Championship
Till next time,
What a difference a year makes. The Phillies were perfect at home in the 2008 World Series and Cole Hamels was named the series MVP.
The Yankees 8-6 win in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series wiped out any
notions that Philadelphia may have had about ending the Fall Classic at
home, and Hamels suffered through yet another rough start this October.
On the mound for New York, Andy Pettitte added to his postseason
legacy by gutting out six innings for his 17th career playoff victory.
The lefty even got into the action at the plate, nailing a game-tying
single as part of a three-run fifth inning.
What would the World Series be without a little instant replay?
Saturday was a fine example of New York doing what it does best. Alex Rodriguez
belted the replay reviewed two-run homer and found his way on base four
times after struggling to an 0-for-8 to start the series. The instant
replay homer gives A-Rod the distinction of not only being the first player in baseball history to have a home run awarded via review, but also the first in the history of the Fall Classic.
A total of 13 runs were scored despite the fact that the two
teams combined for just 14 hits. The Philadelphia bullpen proved
vulnerable while Yankees relievers Joba Chamberlain and Damaso Marte threw scoreless innings in back of Pettitte. Mariano Rivera did have to come in and quiet the Phillies in the ninth after Jason Werth‘s towering one-out homer against Phil Hughes. A small price to pay when it comes to securing the series lead.
wasn’t the prettiest start for Pettitte, who allowed four runs – all
earned – over six innings of work, but it was good enough to keep the
Yankees in the driver’s seat on the night.
Hamels’ night did not
offer any silver linings. The left-hander could not maintain a
three-run lead and was battered around for five runs in 4 1/3 innings.
A pair of walks and a hit batsman added to the Yankees chances, but
things really seemed to start going downhill for Hamels when the
instant replay of Rodriguez blast revealed it to be a two-run homer.
year ago, Hamels was as sure a thing as there was for the Phillies.
Last postseason saw Hamels go 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings of
work, but his ’09 record stands at just 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA and
opponents have belted seven homers over his four playoff starts.
Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel
was hoping that starting Hamels at home would make for a winning
recipe. Who could blame him based on a look over the split stats that
Hamels piled up over the regular season? Hamels went 7-5 with a 3.76
ERA in 17 starts at Citizen’s Bank as opposed to 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA in
15 road assignments. Safe to say, things did not go according to plan.
Looking ahead to Game 4
The Yankees turn to their short-rest ace CC Sabathia yet again in Game 4 as they attempt to push their series lead to 3-1. Interesting to note, Philadelphia chose not to give ace Cliff Lee his first career start on less than full rest and will instead counter with NLCS Game 4 starter Joe Blanton.
results for Blanton against the Yankees have been far from pretty – 0-3
in four starts with a 8.18 ERA in 22 innings against the Bronx Bombers.
Hardly numbers that inspire confidence, but if Blanton can find a way
to replicate his start against the Dodgers (four runs – three earned –
over six innings of work) then at least he will help take the load off
the bullpen and give the offense a chance to push the series to a 2-2
Sabathia threw seven innings of two run ball against the
Phillies in Game 1, taking his first loss this postseason thanks to
Lee’s complete game gem. It will be no easy task for Philadelphia to
beat Sabathia on two occasions in the same series.
outslugged by the Yankees last night, the Phillies are no strangers to
winning at home and scoring runs. Most nights that you score six runs,
as they did in Game 3, you’d like to find a way to have won that game.
Still, Philadelphia is perhaps the best offensively equipped National League squad to match up with the Yankees. To do that, Ryan Howard will have to find a way curb the strikeouts (nine in 13 World Series at-bats) and start producing runs. Second baseman Chase Utley
has not collected a hit since belting a pair of homers in the Game 1
win and his bat will also be necessary to get the Phillies hitting on
If Alex Rodriguez has just come alive for
the Yankees then the Phillies may be in big trouble. Erasing all memory
of his past postseason failures, A-Rod has delivered big hits in key
spots to get the Yankees into the World Series. A productive Rodriguez
may also translate into more hittable pitches for Mark Teixeira to see
ahead of A-Rod in the three slot.
A quick look at the men each pitcher will be looking to reverse their fortunes against:
Successful Yankees vs. Blanton (Career)
Mark Teixeira —- 9-for-27, 3 HR, 7 RBI
Derek Jeter —— 4-for-12, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Alex Rodriguez — 4-for-7, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Successful Phillies vs. Sabathia (Career)
Raul Ibanez —— 11-for-43, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Chase Utley —— 2-for-7, 2 HR, 2 RBI
Shane Victorino – 5-for-12, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Prediction – Yankees win 5-3
Till next time,
The Yankees have been belting home runs all season long, but none were bigger than the pair of solo shots that backed an outstanding start from A.J. Burnett in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.
Burnett gave the Phillies a dose of what the Yankees had suffered through at the hands of Cliff Lee a night earlier, pounding the strike zone and dominating the opposition.
While much of the media focus was on Pedro Martinez, it was Burnett who delivered the headlines in Game 2. There is no question that this was the kind of start the Yankees were hoping for from Burnett, who picked up his first postseason win with seven innings of one-run ball. Burnett allowed just four hits and walked just two men while striking out nine.
After scoring 915 runs in the regular season and 49 more in the playoffs prior to Game 2, the Yankees offense had to find a way to support Burnett’s effort. Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui answered with solo homers. Teixeira’s game-tying blast came in the bottom of the fourth, while Matsui stung one down the right field line to give the Yankees their first lead of the series.
Game 2 was a complete reversal of the night before as the Phillies offense struggled to start scoring rallies and find their way on base. The top four men in the line-up, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard went a combined 1-for-13 with six strikeouts – four of those K’s belonging to Howard.
Pedro Martinez turned in a “quality start” in his first outing at the new Yankee Stadium by lasting into the seventh inning before running into a New York rally that would end his night. Still, allowing only three runs over six innings to this Yankee offense was fine work by the veteran righty.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera converted a two inning save chance, but had to throw 39 pitches to do so. Friday’s off-day comes at a good time to allow the veteran reliever to recharge his batteries and be ready if needed in Game 3. Let’s not kid ourselves though, if there is a save situation in the game for New York – there will be one name asked for in the call the pen, the man they call “Mo.”
Looking ahead to Game 3
The venue changes as the Phillies play host for the next three games. Philadelphia picked up the deciding wins in last year’s World Series triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays, but it will take another three game home sweep to accomplish that feat this time around.
Andy Pettitte, who became the winningest pitcher in postseason history with ALCS victory against Los Angeles last time out, draws the start for the Yankees and will seek to put his team ahead in the series. Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels will take the ball in yet another big game situation, but he has been far from the pitcher who brought home World Series MVP honors a year ago.
In three starts against the Rockies and Dodgers, Hamels has allowed 11 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings of work. More troubling for Hamels is the pace that the ball is leaving the yard. His second start against the Dodgers in the NLCS included three homers allowed; that following his prior start in which Los Angeles belted a pair of homers.
Pettitte has been doing his usual postseason work and I expect nothing less from the Yankee lefty. Games at Citizen’s Bank Park aren’t always pretty, but one of these two big offenses is going to come out on the better end. Given they way this October has gone, I’d have to think Cole Hamels is under the most pressure to find a way to channel some vintage 2008 and keep the Phillies from falling behind in the series.
Prediction – Yankees roll over Phillies, 6-4.
TIll next time,