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Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

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Lee Revokes Pettitte's Hall Pass

Tough break for Andy Pettitte, who pitched a fine game Monday night. Cliff Lee pitched a monster game. Monster wins. Still, nice outing for Pettitte, a very good pitcher who’s acquitted himself well in many postseason games since coming to the big leagues fifteen years ago.

But now he might not make the Hall of Fame. That’s according to Reggie Jackson by way of ESPN’s Ian O’Connor before the third game of the 2010 American League Championship Series:

“I think [beating Lee] would just make people more aware,” Jackson said, “because the media will start to single out all the great confrontations and moments he’s had. So I think if Andy beats him, he’ll be over the hump. There are guys already in the Hall of Fame he has outperformed.”

O’Connor essentially agreed, despite Pettitte rarely registering among the top pitchers in the game across his solid career. What seems to make Jackson’s and O’Connor’s case is Pettitte has won a ton of ALDS, ALCS and World Series games. He’s had more opportunities than most pitchers to win them, but winning is winning.

“It’s going to be hard to keep Andy Pettitte out of the Hall,” Jackson offered, to which O’Connor assented:

[A] win over Cliff Lee would make it harder, as in a lot.

Pettitte, a veteran of 30 different postseason series, didn’t get his 20th postseason win against the Rangers. Does that mean he’s no longer a Hall of Famer? I doubt it. Those who would make his case will still do so. He’s Andy Pettitte, after all. Just ask Harvey Araton in Sunday’s Times:

Pettitte’s team has long slept peacefully on the nights before most of his 41 postseason starts, but matchups have a way of altering perception, if not reality. The school of thought that contended Girardi should not waste Pettitte against the likes of Lee probably doubled in enrollment after Hughes was no match for the immortal Colby Lewis on Saturday.

For his part, Pettitte, a proud Texan, indicated he would show up on Monday night, his cap pulled characteristically low, staring down a challenge he sees as a career microcosm.

It’s generally worked before — not always (Pettitte has now lost 10 postseason starts, including one as an Astro), but enough to make the man with the cap and the stare believe it would work again. After coming out on the short end of the latest Leextravaganza, Pettitte said he’s used to more offensive support and the inevitable misstep by the opposing pitcher: “I just think we are going to get a guy on, and he’ll make a mistake, and we’ll pop one out. To tell you the truth, it’s just what you expect here. You just come to expect it. I hate to say that.”

Only Andy Pettitte stares like this.

I’ve come to expect the Yankeecentric media to construct thick marble pedestals for Yankees. It’s not enough to admire a Yankee. He needs to be immortalized. He needs to be enshrined. He needs to be more than he is. Andy Pettitte’s not reasonably dependable; he’s melatonin personified. He’s riding into town menacingly staring down unworthy adversaries barely worth the Bombers’ bother…not just concentrating like any pitcher might.

Pettitte’s been very good. 240-win good. Not great, not really. His career ERA is near 4, above every Hall of Fame starter to date, which O’Connor pardons because he’s pitched mostly in the “rough and tumble American League East” (which has included oodles of games against undermanned Oriole, Blue Jay and Devil Ray rosters). There’s usually been a Cone or a Wells or a Mussina or a Clemens or a Sabathia ahead of him in the pecking order in a given Yankee year. Pettitte’s been a hell of a No. 2 starter, though.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not a knock, it’s not bad at all. It’s just not necessarily the stuff of legend when you step away from it a little.

But let’s not assume too much based on the “L” that landed next to his name after Lee was invulnerable Monday. Pettitte might pitch again in this series. He might win. He might even beat Lee. If that happens, why wait for the Hall talk to reignite? Let’s get a jump on it right now.

Let’s make our bid to build our own marble pedestal for Andy Pettitte.

***

The stare. It’s not the thousand-yard stare of battle, but it is battle-hardened. This stare’s ultimate gaze measures 139 miles, the distance from the Bronx northward, clear up to the humble hamlet of Cooperstown, New York, where humility is appropriate given the quiet sincerity of the gentleman warrior who will be making his way upstate five years after his adoring public wipes away the final tear it sheds from absorbing the news that he will pitch in Pinstripes no longer (although it may require a case of Kleenex to thoroughly dry that much melancholy).

Or maybe others stare like this.

Andy Pettitte’s looking at induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s as clear as the stoic stare on the tested Texan’s face.

You may not see it in his stats, but leave his numbers where they belong, on the page. Look, instead, into Andy Pettitte’s dark, brooding eyes. It’s what opposing batters and national television audiences have been doing nearly every fifth autumn evening since 1995.

It’s been their pleasure.

Oh, those eyes. Within them you are granted entry into the soul of specialness. It’s like being on a first date with Yankee greatness, a date you wish would never end.

The good news is it won’t. There will be no awkward “will he or won’t he?” scene at the front step, no kiss-off of this superlative southpaw. The Baseball Writers Association of America, having been granted the time of its life across so many Octobers (and not a few early Novembers), will invite Andy Pettitte upstairs for coffee.

And he’ll be staying the night.

Baseball fans everywhere will sleep easier knowing Pettitte is forever snug in immortality’s embrace. He’s earned it, just as surely as Mariano Rivera has earned the soft rain of adulation.

The Captain, Derek Jeter, led them here. Jeter, who burns to win like cinnamon burns the mouth, brought Pettitte, Rivera and Jorge Posada to this core foursome, this unsurpassed quartet where the price of admission is five World Series rings and a lifetime of memories. Now they will clasp hands in Cooperstown for as long as there are fans who hold baseball — Yankee baseball (as if there is any other kind) — dear in their hearts.

It is an unbreakable bond, a chain of excellence in which Pettitte’s link is secure.

The only question that remains is when will the voting writers wake up? When will they smell the triumphant coffee and add more Yankees who are long eligible but have been thus far criminally ignored? What, for example, of spiritual leader Jim Leyritz, a Pete Rose type who never gambled on baseball but always cashed in winning bets? Surely he and others — the Knoblauchs, the Nelsons, the Neagles — are entitled to join in this menage à treméndous at once.

And how much longer will it take until The Boss — tapping his wristwatch, waiting impatiently, but inevitably glowing that warm paternal pride born of victory and, yes, love — is there to greet them? Should George Steinbrenner get the call to Cooperstown, do you doubt he’ll find a way to be there that warm, overdue summer’s day?

It’s supposed to be the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That’s what it says on the building. Yet can it really be more than a repository for a pile of used jockstraps if a Yankee — any Yankee — is ever excluded from the induction each and every one of them so richly deserves?

21 comments to Lee Revokes Pettitte’s Hall Pass

  • Bad ass!!!!! (That would be you, not Pettitte.)

  • March'62

    Pettite is the Pippen of baseball. He’s a good #2 who happened to have the best closer in history saving more than half his victories. Imagaine how many wins Santana would have with Rivera closing for him. The #2 doesn’t match up against the other team’s best which helps the victory total. Pettite was matched up against Lee only because Lee was unavailable to pitch game 1 against Sabathia. Pettite’s classic against Smoltz in the ’96 Series was also a game 3 with the Braves the only other team with as deep a starting staff at the time. I would compare Pettite to Koosman and would have no problem seeing Pettite go to the Hall if Jerry goes first.

  • Brilliant!

    Especially,

    Now they will clasp hands in Cooperstown for as long as there are fans who hold baseball — Yankee baseball (as if there is any other kind) — dear in their hearts.

    Is Filip Bondy your ghost writer?

  • Definitely a great pitcher, but I wouldn’t vote him in before Bert Blyleven. Win another 50 games, throw over 3,000 Ks and drop a point on your ERA. Oh, and maybe a couple CGs would help as well. Believe me, if Blyleven played two+ seasons in Yankeeland, he’d be in the hall by now.

  • mikeinbrooklyn

    “It’s not enough to admire a Yankee. He needs to be immortalized. He needs to be enshrined. He needs to be more than he is.”

    I was having this exact conversation the other day with my wife (ok–I was venting and my wife was pretending to listen). Except in this case, it was regarding Jeter’s defense.

    As for Pettitte: the only modern day starter with a lower WAR who is in the HOF is Catfish Hunter. His career WAR is lower than Doc’s, ferchrissakes!

    His Black Ink score is less than a quarter of an average HOFer. His Gray Ink is less than two-thirds an average HOFer. His HOF Standards test falls short of an average HOFer. His HOF monitor puts him in the “likely” HOFer category because (as your article points out) of all his post-season appearances.

    None of his Top 5 similar pitchers are in the HOF.

    I feel post-season stats should only be the deciding factor if a player is a borderline HOFer. Let them swing the final decision one way or the other. Pettitte is not even borderline.

  • Dak442

    There is an ever-so-slight chance that the HoF voters see through the magical mists of Yankee Aura and Mystique: witness the triumph of wisdom over sentimentality that has kept Donnie Baseball a paying customer at Cooperstown.

  • PS — Happy 4th anniversary, YF Molina/AF Wainwright/C Beltran…

  • Dennis

    To me, Pettite was always borderline to the side of not getting in the HOF. If he does, then Bert Blyleven or, for that matter, Jack Morris should get in before him. A very good postseason pitcher, he wasn’t as automatic as Yankee fans would lead you to believe. Take a look at this 2001 World Series line (0-2; 10.00 ERA); not exactly Koufax-like. And speaking of Lee’s masterful performance last night, it’s funny how Yankee fans are suspecting him of doctoring the ball….as if there is no other way anyone can beat the great Yankees!

  • Lenny65

    It’s not the Hall Of Very Good. Jeter, Rivera, A-Rod, sure, OK, that I can totally see. But sorry, Pettitte is no HOF’er, maybe if he puts in a few more high-caliber seasons, but as of now, no way. I’m sure they have a team HOF over there which would be perfect for him.

  • dmg

    can’t pettitte get into the HGH wing? so to speak?

  • Didn’t he admit that he was on those illegal substances?
    Shouldn’t that reason alone bar him from the hall?

    I don’t know why he and A-Rod all gets a pass on drug usage
    and treated so different than how Barry Bonds is treated by the media.

  • Andee

    Butbutbut…DON SUTTON!

    You really nailed it. If anyone asks me why the Yankees make me gag, I will refer them to this piece. I mean, Derek Jeter is very good, but comparing him to Gehrig or Mantle would be hilarious if people weren’t dead serious. Mantle and Gehrig had lifetime OPS+ over 170; Jeter is just a hair under 120. I don’t think any Mets fan would seriously compare David Wright to them, and his OPS+ lifetime is 16 points higher than Jeter’s.

  • Matt

    As blueyezn stated, Andy actually has a pretty good counter-argument, and if he pitches two more years and gets to 270, you’re kidding yourself thinking he’ll fall off ballot. If he gets to 265-270 with 20+ postseason his chances of getting in the Hall would likely be 70-75%. Yes, the HGH thing will hurt with some, but lets please call it what it was –steroids enhances performance, shoot, you could argue that greenies, which everyone was on in the 40-70’s, enhances performance more than HGH –does Andy’s story have holes, perhaps, but he was more upfront about it than anyone so far and that will help. In 15 years 270 will look great given 300 might not happen again for 20, 30, 40 years or more, if ever?

    Key people to watch — will Jack Morris get in (Mr. 3.90 ERA himself) and will a Bonds or Clemens user get in. If they do, Andy will likely get in and should. Also, earth to the blogger, Morris isn’t getting in (?), well, he has 4 more years and is over 50% –he might still get in and he;ll get play either way once the Vet committee looks at him.

    From both a traditionalist and sabermetrician perspective, if Andy plays 1-2 more years, his resume will look quite good and anyone stating otherwise just doesn’t know what they’re talking about, especially the blogger. Look at all the numbers and don’t just cherry-pick the 3.88 ERA or WHIP. Th win total, the win %, IP, championships, K’s and his personality will help him with traditionalist, and a 117 ERA+, 56-57 WAR (not counting playoffs), 26-27 WPA, Hall of Fame Monitor 130+ and Standards 45 will yield a pretty good sabermetrcian resume as well.

    As for who wrote the blog, he must be a Yankee hater. In any stat except for a Game 7 WS game, Pettitte is better than Morris hands down, and also Pettitte won the most games in baseball from both 1996-2009 and 2000-2009. The same that Morris did 1980-89.

    As what you said mikeinbrooklyn, please. Pettitte WAR is 50.2 (and still adding) and Gooden’s is 47.6. His Hall of Fame Monitor is way above likely Hall of Famer at 122 and his Hall of Standard is 8 points lower than average, but then again Smoltz, a hall of Famer is at 44 and Pettitte is at 42 and still adding. . As for his top 5 most similar, I guess you think Mr. Hall of Famer Mussina isn’t going in?

    The thing that people don’t realize with Andy, is he’s better now than he perhaps ever has been, and that’s at 38. Again, 2 more years and he’ll go in and should.

  • Matt

    The above argument I had written for another blog, and so some of it was more specific to that one — so dismiss some particulars, but overall Andy is building a solid argument and people need to get with it.

    His WAR is also almost 20 point higher than Catfish and after another year or two his WAR would be with Whitey, Early Wynn, and others. Additionally, a WAR of 56 is the median for Hall of Fame pitchers, Andy’s getting close to that. Andy would be a large Hall pick for sure, but he’d be somewhere in the 25% percentile and better than 10-15 others already in the Hall.

  • Matt

    Just for the record:

    Jack Morris

    B-R WAR: 39 (indicative of not even a borderliner)
    Baseball Gauge WAR: 53 (borderliner out)
    Fangraph WAR: 52 (borderliner out)
    B-P WARP: 36 (not even a borderliner)
    Win Shares: 221 (borderliner out)
    Wins: 254
    ERA: 3.90
    ERA+: 105
    WPA: 15.0
    7-4 postseason with 3.80 ERA. 3 Championships.

    I’m not saying Jack should go into the Hall, but I do think he’s a legitimate borderliner given what he did during some big games and his era. I get why he gets some Hall-play despite the 39 WAR. Overall though, he’s clearly a notch behind Pettitte.

    Andy Pettitte:

    B-R WAR: 50.2 (borderliner out)
    Fangraph WAR: 66.9 (borderliner in)
    Baseball Gauge WAR: 51 (borderliner out)
    B-P WARP 58.1 (borderliner just out)
    Win Shares : 210 (borderliner out)
    Wins 240 (also, he’s 102 wins above .500 and every other pitcher is in)
    ERA: 3.88
    ERA+ 117
    WPA: 23
    19-10 postseason 3.83. Since 2003 he’s been 9-3 with 2.92 ERA in postseason and overall since August 2009 he’s 22-5 with 3.20 ERA including playoffs. He’s better than ever and inching closer to the Hall-line. 5 Championships and 8 WS appearances.

    Andy actually has a better sabermetric argument than most give him credit for- he likely needs another year or two.