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Andy Pettitte and the Van Doren Gene

There’s a great line in the movie Quiz Show … well, there are a lot of great lines in Quiz Show, but the one I think of now is when investigator Dick Goodwin delivers a subpoena to the fraudulent but thoroughly likable Charles Van Doren. Goodwin has figured out that Van Doren, who had gained nationwide fame as a quiz show contestant on Twenty One, was given the answers in advance. He had also wanted to keep Van Doren out of the investigation, in part because he liked Van Doren. Then Van Doren double-crossed him, pleaded his innocence publicly, and Goodwin had no choice but to bring out the subpoena.

“I can’t decide if you think too much of me or too little,” Van Doren says.

“Charlie,” Goodwin says, “I want to think the best of you. Everybody does.”

There are some people in life — in sports, in entertainment, in politics, in your personal world — who just fit that line. Sometimes they are called “Teflon,” as if bad things just slip off them, but I don’t think that’s quite the image I see. It’s a deeper thing with some people — they have this certain kind of charisma that inspires other to think the best of them. We give them the benefit of the doubt. We emphasize their virtues and overlook their deficiencies. We see in them what we want to see.

This, I think, was what made the Bert Blyleven-Jack Morris Hall of Fame discussion so interesting. The statistics made it abundantly clear that Blyleven was not just a better pitcher than Morris but light years better. But Blyleven just doesn’t have the Van Doren Gene … and Morris does. And so the debate over which pitcher was better raged on; in some quarters it rages on still. People don’t just see Morris as a Hall of Famer. They WANT to see Morris as a Hall of Famer.

So Morris’ unassuming 3.90 ERA, which would normally be a Hall of Fame disqualifier (no pitcher with that high an ERA is in the Hall) has been sheltered inside a “Runs did not matter to Morris, winning did” blanket. His lack of a Cy Young Award — which was used to bludgeon Blyleven repeatedly, not to mention Tommy John and Jim Kaat and Luis Tiant and numerous others — was refashioned as an admirable “individual awards never meant anything to Morris” quality. His 1.78 strikeout to walk ratio — which is 161st among pitchers with 2,000-plus innings — has been buried well below his 175 complete games and the number of Opening Days he started and his Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series and other cheerier topics.

I’m not arguing Morris here — done that enough already — but merely making the point that people want to think the best of him … and if hey did not he would have gotten 3.1% of the ballot first time out and disappeared from the ballot and the conversation. Instead, he might get inducted into the Hall of Fame next year.

Andy Pettitte, it seems to me, has the Van Doren Gene. He might have two of them.

Pettitte won his 250th game the other day — a fine achievement, even for those of us who have no use for the pitcher win statistic — and so the Hall of Fame discussion cranked up again. That’s natural. But I will say that Mike Mussina was a better pitcher than Andy Pettitte and I haven’t heard one-tenth the Hall of Fame conversation about him. Maybe people are having those Mussina arguments and I’m just not hearing them. I think David Cone was also a better pitcher than Pettitte, and he got 21 votes before falling off the ballot. I think Curt Schilling was a much better pitcher than Pettitte, and he got a disappointing 38.8% of the ballot his first year.

But that’s the thing about Pettitte. You want to think the best of him. Everybody does. It comes up again and again. For instance, you have undoubtedly heard over and over that Andy Pettitte is a great postseason pitcher. The reputation is so entrenched that when some people see Pettitte’s name it is literally the first thing they think. The reputation is that when October comes around, Andy Pettitte transforms himself from good pitcher into Grittyman — he turns up the craftiness knob, takes a few gutsy pills, does some gamer calisthenics and pitches above himself.

So, it’s quite a shock when the statistics show that Andy Pettitte is EXACTLY the same pitcher in the postseason that he is in the regular season. I mean, considering the math, it’s almost impossible for these numbers to be closer.

Pettitte during season: .633 win pct., 3.85 ERA, 2.37 strikeout to walk.

Pettitte during postseason: .633 win pct. 3.81 ERA, 2.41 strikeout to walk.

We want to think the best of him. Everybody does. People seem to see Pettitte as a generally honest and minor character in baseball’s PED scandal. Ask a moderate baseball fan who was named in the Mitchell Report — Sammy Sosa or Andy Pettitte? I’m thinking most will say Sosa, which is the wrong answer. Ask any baseball fan which pitcher denied using HGH, admitted using only twice but never more, admitted later than he actually used it another time, and I suspect Pettitte will not be the first guess.

And then there’s the Hall of Fame. Pettitte certainly has a Hall of Fame case. He has pitched almost 3,200 innings with a 117 ERA+, which is pretty strong. He has had a couple of superior years — in 1997, for instance, he was brilliant (18-7, 2.88 ERA, just 7 homers allowed, 8.4 WAR). He was almost as good in 2005 in Houston. He also has thrown more postseason innings than any pitcher ever, which is a tribute to his durability, his consistency and the good fortune of playing for many good teams. It’s an interesting Hall of Fame case.

But, here’s the thing: There are numerous pitchers who are not in the Hall of Fame, who probably won’t ever go to the Hall of Fame, who were better pitchers than Andy Pettitte. I don’t see how you can look at Kevin Brown and Andy Pettitte and determine that Pettitte was the better pitcher. They threw almost the exact same number of innings, Brown’s ERA is more than a half run better, he had fewer walks, more strikeouts and allowed many fewer home runs. Brown threw 17 shutouts. Pettitte — and this is pretty astonishing — threw four. You can throw around intangibles if you like, sprinkle in some potstseason spice, but Brown was simply a better pitcher than Pettitte. And he dropped off the ballot after one year.

I think David Cone was a better pitcher than Pettitte. He threw about 300 fewer innings, but he too had a lower ERA, better overall numbers, and he had a better peak — he did win a deserved Cy Young Award and should have been in the running two or three other times. He also had some postseason heroics.

Then there are quite a few other guys … like Ron Guidry and Bill Pierce and Dave Stieb and Luis Tiant and Rick Reuschel and Tommy John and Jim Kaat who are similar to Pettitte in various ways but have been judged as non-Hall of Famers. Yes, there are also Hall of Famers who have had somewhat similar careers to Pettitte — Eppa Rixey, Ted Lyons, and so on. But I don’t that you would be want to pin a Hall of Fame case around those comps.

In any case, we won’t actually need to talk about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame for at least five years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the next Jack Morris — someone who will spark significant arguments every year. There are just certain people like that.

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70 Responses to Andy Pettitte and the Van Doren Gene

  1. Brian Klein says:

    Big Yankee fan, big Pettitte fan, don’t this he goes in. I think if anything he’s borderline with PEDs being what keeps him out. I think his place in history is set and he’ll get looked at, as you said, in higher regards than his numbers deserve.

  2. invitro says:

    I think Joe thinks the boosters of Morris and Pettitte and other similar players favor them mostly because of their core stats, like ERA / Ks / walks, or even wins. I think this is probably false. Even looking up the career numbers is too much work for most people, including the HoF voters.

    Instead, I think the voters and other boosters just think this: Morris was the #1 pitcher on a multiple-playoff team. Pettitte was the #1 pitcher on a multiple-playoff (and multiple-championship) team.

    Thus, comparing ERA, K/BB ratio, or even win totals is useless. You have to directly attack the argument that the top pitcher on a championship team must be a Hall of Famer. All else is wasted on those who don’t need convincing.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think it also goes to the fact that casual observers still see a lot of Pettite. Pettite, because he plays for the Yankees, is constantly on ESPN vs. the Red Sox (or someone else)…. and was, for years, constantly on the mound in the playoffs, often pitching well & winning games. He’s very familiar and often pitched well when he was spotlighted on TV. That’s what we’re dealing with. It kind of goes to the Bernie Williams HOF argument. There’s no way he’s a HOFer, but he was omnipresent on TV in the same way as Pettite. So, he had a lot of supporters. Pettite has a much better case than Williams, of course, but it’s the exposure (and the fact that they did well in the post season) that gets them most of their attention. The career numbers just don’t match up.

    • _ says:

      This is especially true as it relates to Mussina who went 270-153. Lefty Grove is actually the only pitcher in ML history with more wins and fewer losses than Moose, so that particular metric (outdated though it may be) will not be the one keeping him out.

    • Eric H. says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Eric H. says:

      “Pettitte was the #1 pitcher on a multiple-playoff (and multiple-championship) team.”

      You might be right that Pettitte’s boosters will THINK this, but it’s not really true. Pettitte was rarely the #1 guy, by whatever definition you choose.

      He made ONE Opening Day start for the Yankees (1998) and none with the Astros. He led his team in wins only four times (1996, 1997, 2000, 2003) and in WAR for pitchers only twice (1996, 1997). Most of the time there was CLEARLY a better pitcher on his staff, guys like David Cone, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Roy Oswalt and CC Sabathia.

      He was a really good supporting player on a number of successful teams, but he was rarely or never “The Man.”

    • Peter says:

      But Pettite wasn’t always the number 1. I think Cone, Mussina, Clemens, Sabathia all were the number #1 pitchers over Pettite. Pettite’s been the consistent number 2 or 3.

    • DJM says:

      Just to add to the above points about “number-one”, even in the playoffs, he was rarely the pitcher who started Game One of a series. In the majority (since I’m not keeping count as I go through, I’ll guess about two-thirds) of the series he pitched in he started Game Two.

      Now, that in itself is a very impressive achievement, especially for as many series he pitched in even through last season. But it does not suggest a guy the Yankees (or Astros) ever really considered their number-one starter.

    • invitro says:

      Thanks for the corrections. What I meant by “#1 pitcher” was the perception of HoF voters and fans serious enough about baseball to care about HoF voting. And what I meant about “multiple-championship team” was the Yankees’ dynasty from 1996-2003, or however that dynasty is most often perceived by voters and fans.

      Someone who will do the work to find out the actual best pitcher for the Yankees over that time period is not the kind of voter I am discussing.

      My point is a psychological one. I believe that the typical voter/fan will decide whether or not to support a candidate based on their memory, and not on any statistics that they don’t already have memorized. I very roughly guess that half the voters fit this profile. And I believe that persons of this profile will ask one question of pitchers, which is “was this pitcher the #1 pitcher for a multiple-playoff team?”

    • Rob Smith says:

      invitro: HOF voters tend to be pretty informed and the cases for and against will be mapped out for them. But, of course, they all carry their own biases. So, thanks, but I think the HOF voters have the research covered for them already.

    • halphasian says:

      Again, it’s hard to know what other people will think 5-10 years from now, so you may be right that, in the minds of some peopl, Pettitte will morph into “the Yankees’ longtime ace.” But my feeling is that he is not, and has never been, thought of that way by most voters/writers/fans.

      I think it is much more likely he will be remembered as a solid #2 guy behind a string of (different) HOF-caliber #1’s on a bunch of really good teams. That doesn’t disqualify him for the HOF, and in fact is still a pretty good argument for it, but voters are definitely going to look at his stats before deciding.

  3. Gregg says:

    Here’s the thing. In all these debates: greatest ever down to “who was better?” I need to understand the question and there needs to be some kind of agreed upon criteria.

    Is the goal to determine the better performer? More accomplished? Who you’d rather have? And how do we weigh it all? Is it more impressive that Andy Pettite has been very good (sometimes great,sometimes just good) for 18 years or that for 3 years, Dwight Gooden pitched at historically great levels? Pettite had the longer career, and got the more out of his talent, but at their best, Gooden was so much better.

    How important is longevity?

    In basketball, almost everyone seems to agree that Michael Jordan was the best ever. When did he officially claim that title? Was it when he won his first title? ANd why? Was he suddenly a better player that day, or was a ticket that needed to be punched, just to gain entry to the debate?

  4. mickey says:

    Much of Pettitte’s likability can be attributed to the fact that, at least with regard to the national steroid/HGH coverage, he was paired with the bullying blowhard Roger Clemens. In that context, Pettitte gets points for not being the self-absorbed jerk the other guy was.

    • Frank says:

      You are correct about that insofar as the comparison with Clemens is concerned. On the other hand, his and Clemens’ careers are joined at the hip by a syringe needle.

  5. Pettitte is reliable. If he was on Yankees in 2004, no way they lose to Boston in playoffs. Would have been a sweep or won in 5 games. Instead, Yankees throw out Kevin Brown in game 7. Also, putting up same numbers in playoffs vs better teams counts for something. Same thing for Jeter and Rivera.

    • _ says:

      This argument is pretty easily refuted by Pettitte getting shellacked in Game 6 in Arizona in 2001. Yanks were riding the emotional highs of walkoff wins in Games 4 and 5 before immediately ceding the momentum back to the D-Backs behind Pettitte’s 2 IP, 6 ER outing and the resulting 15-2 loss.

    • Not really. Pettitte was tipping his pitches. D’Backs admitted that later. But lets say you are right. Who would you trust more in a big game; Pettitte or Brown?

    • David Barry says:

      A 39 year old Brown versus a 32 year old Petite. Pretty close call. A 32 year old Brown versus a 32 year old Petite. Not even close.

    • David Barry says:

      A 39 year old Brown versus a 32 year old Petite. Pretty close call. A 32 year old Brown versus a 32 year old Petite. Not even close.

    • You mean the 33 year old Brown that lost to Pettitte 2x in 1998 World Series?

    • _ says:

      Pettitte only pitched one game in the ’98 Series (the clincher). Wells beat Brown in Game 1 (actually the bullpen beat the Padres bullpen; Brown was pretty good until the 7th when the Yanks put up a 7-spot behind Knoblauch and Tino). I’m a Yankee fan by the way and I love Andy Pettitte but he’s put up some serious playoff stinkers (G1 in ’96 another good example) so it’s silly to speak in terms of certainties.

    • David Barry says:

      Said 32 not 33 (Petite’s second best year but still lower than Brown 8.6 WAR versus 6.8). 1.1 as a 32 year old versus 7.0 (all B-R). You mean the 98 World Series, where David Wells started Game 1 not Petite (and the bullpen lost the game for Brown). Or do you mean Game 4 where a fresh Petite went against Brown and once again Brown pitched a good game.

    • It’s spelled Pettitte. You keep mentioning Brown but his post season numbers decline compared to his regular season numbers. Pettitte’s numbers stay the same vs the best teams/line ups in the playoffs.

      I’m not dissing Brown, he was a good pitcher. But Pettitte was a better pitcher in the playoffs than Brown was. Pettitte’s ERA in the WS is 2 full runs lower than Brown and that’s including the games he got lit up.

    • gc2332 says:

      Good stuff! Thanks.

    • rpmcsweeney says:

      Brown pitched in 4 WS games, Pettitte in 13. I’m not sure how helpful it is to compare their performances in that small a sample. Anyway, Brown did get hit pretty hard in the ’98 World Series, but then again he was facing the ’98 Yankees. They tended to do that to a lot of pitchers.

    • Daisuke says:

      Why does Pettite being on the 2004 team make a difference in Game 4 or 5 of the 2004 ALCS? It was Rivera and the bullpen that blew both leads, not the Yankee starting pitchers. Now, if you say they would have a better chance in Game 7 if they could start Pettite instead of Brown, then you might have a point.

  6. Mark Daniel says:

    I agree with this post, however Pettitte will probably reach 300 wins because some Yankees just never freaking die.

  7. Rob Smith says:

    I like the Tommy John comparison:

    Tommy John- 288-231, 3.34 ERA, 1.283 WHIP, 111 ERA+, 62.3 WAR. 4 Time All Star, 3 Top 5 Cy Young.

    Andy Pettite- 250-145, 3.85 ERA, 1.350 WHIP, 117 ERA+, 59.1 WAR. 3 Time All Star, 4 Top 5 CY.

    Now, I think Tommy John should be in the HOF, especially with the Tommy John surgery narrative thrown in. But the voters didn’t think so, not even close. But then there’s what Joe talked about…. and the fact that Tommy John was seldom on TV unless you were a fan of his team.

    • invitro says:

      “Tommy John was seldom on TV unless you were a fan of his team.”

      I am doubly flabbergasted by this statement.

      How does being a fan of a player’s team influence whether TV chooses to air his games?

      More seriously, John played for LAD and NYY for 14 seasons. I would not be surprised if he were the pitcher MOST often on TV during his career. And even when he was on CAL and CHW, he was in one of the three largest cities.

      Or are you being sarcastic?

    • Rob Smith says:

      invitro: when Tommy John pitched, most games were regional and watched only by the fans of the teams they were playing for. So, no, I’m not being sarcastic. I was even a fan when he (and I) were in Chicago in the 60s. The only fans that saw him were White Sox fans and people who went to the park. Baseball on TV was not the wall to wall viewing affair that it is today. By the time ESPN started… and mainly showing tractor pulls and SportCenter, Tommy John was already 40. So… no… he was not televised an inoordinate amount and certainly nothing like Andy Pettite or any other star in the league today.

    • Rob Smith says:

      To clarify… most games were televised only in the local area of the team, on local stations, by contract with the team…mostly on over the air stations, since cable was really just getting off the ground…. and usually only a select number of away games. The White Sox did show a lot of games, but when he was with the Dodgers, they were showing less than 30 road games a year (not home games). His viewership might have gone up slightly in the late 80s when he was with the Yankees…. but again, nothing like today.

    • invitro says:

      You know, there’s a massive gap between “seldom on TV unless you were a fan of his team” and “televised an inoordinate amount”. Obviously, I was replying to the former statement. The only comparison that matters is against his contemporaries; not against Andy Pettitte or stars of today.

      Are you suggesting that John was on TV much less than other pitchers of his era? That is the statement that I find bewildering.

      I started watching baseball as a very young fan in around 1976. Baseball was on nationally about once a week then, on Saturday afternoons. I actually recall Tommy John seeming to ALWAYS be on television, mainly because the Dodgers or Yankees seemed to be the usual choice. And that’s just the regular season. He started 13 postseason games from 1977-1982, all of which were on TV.

      I am curious if more than a handful of pitchers of John’s era were more seen than him. Maybe Sutton or Carlton. I wish I had a database of all televised baseball games and their audiences.

      (FWIW, I note that John’s lifetime ERA+ of 111 is significantly lower than Pettitte’s.)

    • Rob Smith says:

      Invitro, no idea why you think Tommy John was a contemporary of Andy Pettite (which was the comparison I was clearly making). Explain that one please. If you added up the times Tommy John and Andy Pettite were televised, do you really think it would be close? Uh, no. Note: I did not say Tommy John was never on TV. He was in the league over 20 years, and yes he was on some high profile teams. But he was on nowhere near as much as Andy Pettite. Game of the week, in John’s era, was on 26 times all year. Are you telling me that it was almost always the Yankees or Dodgers & that Tommy John’s rotational turn just happened to always come up on Saturday for those games? Seriously. And while Tommy John did start 13 postseason games, do you know how many Pettite started? That would be 44 games. 3 1/2 times as many as John, and again, all of those were televised. And, wow, that 6 point difference in ERA+ between John and Pettite is “really significant”.

    • Phil says:

      Not to burst your sarcastic bubble, but. . . . I suppose it’s a matter of perspective, but I would say an ERA “15% better than average” (17/117) is indeed significantly better than one “10% better than average.” (11/111) — but only if you consider “half again as good” as “significant.”

  8. James Smyth says:

    Funny thing is that Pettitte was often not even the #1 pitcher. In 12 of his 14 postseasons, he was the Game Two starter (1995-2003, 2007, 2010, 2012). He opened the 2005 playoffs for Houston and was the third starter on the 2009 Yankees.

    New York’s Game One starters ahead of him were David Cone (1995-97), David Wells (1998), Orlando Hernandez (1999), Roger Clemens (2000-2002), Mike Mussina (2003-2005), Chien-Ming Wang (2006-2007) and CC Sabathia (2009-2012).

    Here’s where he ranked among his team’s starters in WAR from 1995-2012:

    I know you can’t always just go by ‘who started the first game of the playoffs’ but the Yankees often clinched ahead of time and were able to set their rotation.

    This is coming from a Yankees fan and a big Pettitte fan, but I think he’s a little bit short, and the PED stuff won’t help. His contemporaries have much better cases, like Schilling, who didn’t get much love last year, and Mussina, who I don’t think will get much.

  9. Likable or not, I’d be very surprised if Pettitte got much support for the Hall of Fame, given his marginal HOF numbers and PED taint. He is a first ballot pitcher for the Hall of the Very Good though.

  10. olderholden says:

    Curt Schilling not only doesn’t have the Van Doren gene – he has the Curt Schilling gene.

  11. Jim Loomis says:

    Would any of this discussion be happening if Pettitte had played all that time for Kansas City? Amazing what those damn pinstripes can do!

    • gc2332 says:

      It’s a good thing you can only evaluate a player’s HOF chances on the careers they HAD, and not on something you invented in your imagination. (And no, I don’t think AP should get into the HOF based on the career numbers he put up.)

    • Blame Glass for that. He has more money than Steinbrenner ever did but doesn’t put best product out on field.

    • invitro says:

      My impression is that is has long been very well established that playing for the Yankees adds precisely ZERO to a player’s HoF chances, beyond what they get just for being on a frequent World Series and very-frequent playoffs competitor.

      Am I wrong?

  12. Dave Y says:

    Interested in your thoughts on Jim Rice. For years, Rice couldn’t get into the HOF, and some people thought it was because he lacked the Van Doren gene that Joe Posnanski writes about. Then, Rice finally gets in, but many people said his stats were borderline at best for the HOF. So what changed over the 14-15 years of his candidacy? To borrow the line from the Led Zeppelin song, the stats remained the same. Like certain ex-presidents who history is kinder to over time, did Rice acquire the Van Doren gene over time?

    • DJM says:

      He acquired the “played before the Steroid Era when the current crop of voters came of age and heard all about his ‘fearsome’ reputation and combined the two into a Hall of Fame case” gene.

    • clashfan says:

      And there was some re-evaluation of the stats–which ones are better at telling the value of a player’s contributions. Batting average vs. On Base Percentage is only the most obvious.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. _ says:

    Incredible how closely a lot of the Yankees pitchers of that era match up on BBRef’s similarity scores. Wells/Pettitte/Cone/Rogers/Brown/Mussina/Gooden all appear in various combinations on one another’s top-10 lists. Given the success of those teams it gives credence to the wisdom of building rotational depth at the expense of having one bona fide “ace.”

  14. JRoth says:

    Among all MLB pitchers with 3000+ IP, Pettitte is #46 in ERA- (Fangraphs’ equivalent to ERA+), and #18 (between Nolan Ryan and Chief Bender) in FIP-. That is, when you only look at Ks, BBs, and HRs, Pettitte is #18 all-time among guys with his longevity. I’m kind of surprised at how readily people are dismissing him.

    For the record, Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina come in 9 and 10 on all-time FIP-, and both have better ERA- than Pettitte. In other words, the mistake isn’t thinking that Pettitte’s worthy when he was worse than Brown and Mussina; it’s in not recognizing that Brown and Mussina were worthy.

    Before anyone yells, of course I understand that there’s more to the HoF than listing pitchers by ERA+ and batters by OPS+, but surely we need to start in that neighborhood?

    Also, in case anyone thinks these listaings are bunk, the top 7 in all-time FIP- are: Clemens, RJohnson, Schilling, WJohnson, Mathewson, Grove, & Maddux. Those guys were good, right?

    • Wilbur says:

      Apparently the HOF voters don’t think much of this, given their apparent lack of regard for Schilling.

      But to paraphrase Buckley, I’d rather be voted on by 700 baseball fans chosen at random than the HOF voters.

  15. Ian says:

    Look at Brad Radke and Pettitte’s career. Both came up in 1996 (Radke was 1 year younger). From then through 2006 they put up very similar numbers – Radke threw about 125 more innings and was worth about 1 more WAR over that span. But Radke was basically done at 33 (a standard final age for pitchers – Steib was basically done at the age. Morris only had one great season after 33). PEDitte somehow stayed healthy and effective, he managed to pitch almost another 900 innings and 15 WAR after 2006.

    I don’t know how people view PEDs but I tend to think it should be part of the discussion. I don’t think he’d have anywhere close to a HOF career if it wasn’t for PEDs.

    • Al B says:

      You say: “I don’t think he’d have anywhere close to a HOF career if it wasn’t for PEDs.”

      But of course you are assuming either (1) that HGH is much more effective than the evidence seems to suggest, or (2) that he lied and used something (steroids?) that gave him longevity. I don’t think these assumptions are particularly plausible from a medical standpoint.

  16. KHAZAD says:

    There are guys like Petitte in all phases in life. You have known them. Guys that credit, both earned and unearned, sticks to but blame slides off of them. We all went to school with a couple of them, we have worked with them in later life. They fascinate me as a species. I am not even really talking about manipulators – there are plenty of those as well – I am talking about people that just seem to have this talent naturally. Petitte is just one of those guys. He will be in the HOF despite having as much or more PED history as other better players who are vilified. It will happen while other better pitching contemporaries like Brown, Cone, and Mussina, and Schilling fall of the ballot. I am not saying he deserves it, but book it now, he is in.

  17. Phil says:

    Wanted to put in a word for Jennie Finch. She’s got the Van Doren Gene too–not the Charles one, the Mamie.

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  19. Al B says:

    It is a real shame that the whole unfair-advantage-through-medication thing gets reduced to saying “PED” as though that recites the whole narrative of the player. Pettitte was wrong — clearly — but wrong in a way that we could understand and empathize with (wanting to recover from injury). He made a pretty good confession as well. Few people blame [insert name of well-liked player in 60s] for using amphetamines — not just because the rules were different, but also because of the prevailing expectations in the culture of the game.

    So I like the point Joe is making — and think it is absolutely true. Much of Clemens’ problem is that he has it in reverse. If [insert name of well-liked player] had Clemens’ stats he would be a shoo-in, since IN FACT he was acquitted in court. Before someone writes “high-priced lawyers,” remember that all the government had to do was come up with one credible witness that could substantiate that Clemens took steroids. They did not have to prove the Brian MacNamee story. Any other event would have sufficed.

    The resources of the federal government were not able to do that. Wow.

    That makes him innocent if you have any inclination to like him.

    • Ian says:

      As Joe points out in the article, PEDitte only confessed to what was publicly known at the time and ended up changing his story three times as more info came out. Not a really good confession.

  20. marshall says:

    The poster above says that Pettitte “made a pretty good confession.” As Joe pointed out, he first denied, then got busted, so he admitted to using it on a very limited basis. Then he got busted again, so he admitted to doing just a little bit more than what he originally admitted to. Which confession was “pretty good”?

    I don’t generally care much about PED usage. However, for some reason I do find it offensive when players lie, get caught, lie some more, and get caught again, and then have the gall to say the only times he used were the times he was caught. Reason suggests that Pettitte’s second “confession” is also untruthful.

  21. Al B says:

    Yes, I know, it was the whole confession I was assessing — 2 days after the Mitchell Report, then several weeks later. To remind everyone, here is what was reported that he said:

    From ESPN, 2 days after the Mitchell Report: “In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow,” Pettitte said in the statement released to The Associated Press by agent Randy Hendricks.

    “I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.

    “This is it — two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list,” he said. “I wasn’t looking for an edge. I was looking to heal.”
    And from a different source ( “Several weeks later, Pettitte expanded on the original confession to say he’d also used HGH after being injured in 2004. He said he hadn’t revealed the second incident because he’d gotten the HGH from his father and was ashamed to drag him into the mess.”

    Maybe my standards for confessions are too low, given the normal quality of public apologies. I agree with your disgust about lying, though.

  22. I don’t think Pettitte should be in the HOF, and the point’s been made above, but I don’t think stressed enough, but putting up the exact same numbers in the postseason really IS stepping it up. When you consider the level of competition, over a big enough sample size, you’d expect everyone’s numbers in the postseason to be somewhat worse than in the regular season because there’s no opportunity to pad your postseason numbers against the Royals and Pirates of the world.

    Most players frankly don’t get enough postseason appearances for this obvious truth to be brought out. (If Carlos Beltran had made the playoffs more often, he surely wouldn’t have a 1.252 career postseason OPS.) But Andy Pettitte has thrown 276 innings in the postseason which is 36 more than he ever threw in any regular season and 62 more than his average regular season. So he has pitched the equivalent of a full season + in the postseason. Now that’s still not a huge sample size. Good pitchers have great seasons from time to time. But Pettitte’s ability to duplicate his regular season numbers against the better competition of the postseason over that large a sample size is pretty damn impressive to me.

  23. Sigh… Joe, need I remind you yet again that Jack Morris is NOT in the Hall of Fame????

    Morris did NOT coast into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, nor his second, nor his third! He’s coming up on his last chance, and he’s probably NOT going to make it, because there are just too many superior choices on the ballot now.

    Why are you constantly obsessing over Morris, who is NOT in the Hall of Fame, and probably never will be?

    Andy Pettitte, similarly, has NO chance of making the Hall of Fame. NONE! Stop worrying!

  24. Grulg says:

    Give the lets bash Jack stuff a rest, ok? We get it.

  25. Joe, since you built an entire flimsy essay around a movie quote, let’s try a different movie quote that strikes me as relevant. It comes from the cheesy vampire flick “From Dusk Til Dawn,” written by Quentin Tarantino:


    Joe, your side WON!!! Jack Morris isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Bert Blyleven is! You GOT what you said you wanted!!! You should be turning cartwheels and doing fist pumps. Instead, you keep trying to carry on the same argument. After next season, when Jack Morris is no longer eligible for the Hall of Fame, even his fans will forget about it and move on. YOU, on the other hand, WON’T move on. You’ll remain obsessed with Morris until the last ballot is cast, and then you’ll start obsessing over someone else.

    I mean, Andy Pettitte? THAT’S your new poster boy for unworthy Hall of Fame candidates? Even lifelong Yankee fans like myself aren’t suggesting he’s an all-time great!!! We know there are only two likely Hall of Famers from the most recent Yankee dynasty: Jeter and Rivera. That sounds about right to us, and we’re not pushing for anyone else.

    Joe, can’t you see that the stat geeks are WINNING? Relax. Andy Pettitte has no more chance at the Hall than I do.You’ personally have now spent more time arguing against him than all his fans combined have spent arguing for him!

  26. Catfish Hunter, HOFer (lifetime 37 WAR, 104 ERA+, 158th in JAWS) is the poster boy for Everybody thinks the best of him.

    • David says:

      Same reason, too — he was a very visible player on winning teams. Same with Morris. When you’re Floyd Bannister, bouncing around from one so-so club to another, you’re seen as fool’s gold for suckers. But when you are a desired mainstay for pennant winners, it burnishes your rep after the fact.

      This is the case in all walks of life. The guy who was a minor part of some skyrocketing company carries a nice rep the rest of his life. So the whole “Van Doren gene” thing is ridiculous, unless you think that Van Doren’s famous family and Ivy League connections give him “The Andy Pettite gene.”

  27. B says:

    Andy Pettitte is the best number 2 pitcher most of us have ever seen. I don’t know if that is worth HOF consideration, but it seemed to work for Don Drysdale. The difference between Pettitte and Mussina is that Pettitte pitched in more important games than Mussina did. Post-season has never mattered for much in HOF conversation and I don’t know why not. There is a philosophical argument that a lot of people could have been the number 2 starter for World Series after World Series. But in point-of-fact, only one person really was.

  28. clashfan says:

    Is there an opposite to this? For example, Jim Rice seems to have a poor reputation, but I’m never sure why.

    And I really don’t get the Alex Rodriguez hate. I seriously don’t. Did this guy kick everyone’s dog?

  29. Nice! I really enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

    Man And Van

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