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.”
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).
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?