Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
While ballot newcomer Mariano Rivera is virtually a shoo-in to gain election to the Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2019, the candidacy of his former Yankees teammate, Andy Pettitte, is more complex. It also figures to last longer.
So no Cooperstown Core Two next summer? Probably not. A second member of the Yankees famed Core Four likely won't join Rivera until Derek Jeter is eligible in 2020. Pettitte is a long-shot first-ballot Hall of Famer.
In fact, he may never gain election. Or perhaps he eventually will.
The lefty who has 256 career wins and a nifty October resume is no slam-dunk yes. But he's not an automatic no, either, unless a whiff of a performance-enhancing drug issue is a dealbreaker. Maybe the truest thing that can be said about Pettitte's chances, at least at this early point in his candidacy, is that it will spark debate.
That's no hot take, obviously. But there's a lot to unpack with Pettitte's career. It was a terrific run but does not inspire the kind of superlatives that Rivera's career does. Rivera was, after all, the greatest closer of all time; maybe the greatest postseason pitcher ever, too.
Pettitte is likely to be hurt in this election by a jam-packed ballot that includes holdovers such as Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling and Edgar Martinez, as well as newcomer Roy Halladay. Pettitte's playoff performances will help -- hey, there's something magical about October chops.
But by several systems designed to gauge how a player compares to Hall of Famers, Pettitte falls short. For example, Pettitte has a 47.2 in JAWS, a method developed by writer Jay Jaffe, who now works for FanGraphs. The average JAWS score for Hall of Fame pitchers is 61.8.
And some voters will reject Pettitte automatically because he once admitted HGH use in 2002. Voters have not been kind to players with PED links. But for whatever reason, Pettitte never took the kind of heat for his indiscretion that others have, either.
His ERA is high (3.85), though Jack Morris was inducted last summer, and his 3.90 ERA is worse.
Pettitte had 10 seasons of 200-plus innings, won 20 or more games twice. He earned votes for the Cy Young Award in five different seasons, finishing second in 1996, though he never won the trophy. He has five World Series rings.
He's the all-time leader in postseason wins (19), innings (276 2/3) and starts (44). His steely stare, only his eyes visible over his glove as he bore down before delivering a pitch, was a staple of postseason television coverage for years.
But his October ERA was 3.81, hardly Koufaxian.
Still, there were moments and he was a key cog for iconic Yankee teams. Remember Game 5 of the 1996 World Series? With the Fall Classic tied at 2 games apiece, Pettitte outdueled future Hall of Famer John Smoltz in the Yankees' 1-0 victory over Atlanta.
For years afterward, Joe Torre gushed over Pettitte's moxie because of that start. Recently, Torre said he'd pick either Pettitte or David Cone to pitch if he had one game to win and stumped for Pettitte's Hall candidacy.
"I don't think Andy's going to get as much attention as he deserves, but what he did in postseason, to me, carries," Torre said last week at the gala for his Safe at Home Foundation. "It's probably because I didn't go to the postseason as a player and it took me a long time to get there as a manager, that I put more emphasis on what happens at that time of year.
"But I'd like to see him get attention."
Will he get enough? We'll start to get the answer when the results of the voting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are revealed on Jan. 22.
One Hall of Fame voter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not bothered by Pettitte's mention in the Mitchell Report for HGH. But the voter warned that the teeming ballot might preclude casting a vote for Pettitte, at least this year.
Other big names on the ballot include Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker.
"I'm inclined to vote for (Pettitte) if there is room on a 10-man ballot because of his unique postseason accomplishments," the voter said. "And it can't all be attributed to his pitching for the Yankees. He played a major role in Houston's run.
"I'm sympathetic to the arguments against him," the voter added, "but I see him as a Hall of Famer."
Maybe Pettitte should make it to Cooperstown. Maybe he won't. The one certainty, for now, is that his chances are debatable.