Thursday, February 3, 2011

60 wins, 1 snitch

So according to the Interwebs, 38-year-old left-handed starting pitcher Andy Pettitte is going to spurn a very profitable 2010 contract from a very desperate Yankee team -- and yes, very desperate is the only way you can describe an organization that would willingly employ Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia -- for the joys of retirement.

Now, I completely get why a 38-year-old man who has made over $123 million already, and probably wasn't in line to make more than another $5 million this year, might not want another six months of stress and fighting off the ravages of age. He was also effective last year (11-3, 3.28 ERA, but with injury issues), but not so much that more seems necessary, or that a very strong regression to the mean wasn't likely.

But I don't think the money or worries about performance are the issue here. Rather, I think it's the following two points.

1) His career won-loss record is 240-138. Which is to say, at least four, and more likely six, given health and performance issues, years away from getting to 300 and Cooperstown induction. And more importantly, I think he knows it... and that's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, really. (It also means that, unless you believe in Jamie Moyer making comebacks until age 60 to get the last 33 wins he needs, we aren't likely to see a 300-game winner for another decade at least. And it will probably require lap band surgery for CC Sabathia. But I digress.)

2) He's probably going to wind up testifying against former friend and teammate Roger Clemens this summer. And I can't imagine he's thrilled about it, or is going to be all that welcomed in the locker room after that happens. Because even though no one really like the Rocket anymore, it's also tough to like a snitch.

As for whether or not he's eligible for Hall of Fame consideration without the usual win totals for the moment... well, probably not. While the title of winningest post-season pitcher ever carries almost as much weight as that handful of rings he's got, some of that will fade over time, especially as more and more guys have a shot at loading up on wins with the ever-growing number of playoffs games. And you'd have to think that contemporaries like Mike Mussina (many more wins, better numbers), Jack Morris (more reputation, for whatever reason), John Smoltz (better numbers in a lot of ways), Kevin Brown (better peak value), Tom Glavine (300 wins) and the lack of a Cy Young Award is going to keep him from getting there. And while that's going to be hard for Yankee Fan to imagine, especially given that the prevailing memory of him is that death vulture glare in dozens of playoff starts with multiple wins, he just wasn't all that legendary.

Then, of course, there's the probable PED use. It's nice that he came clean, and that he's willing to own up to everything, but if the modern-day rule of thumb is to more or less deny admission to anyone that used... well, that's a pretty closed door, then. Yankee or not, post-season heroics or not, lifetime ERA of 3.28 in a hitter's era. He might have made things more muddled with 300 wins, but he'd have probably had to muck around AAAA to get there, and he'd still have baggage (though I suspect that will get easier to deal with in time, if for no other reason than the Hall of Fame moralists will eventually die off, and Cooperstown probably doesn't want to go 20 years without inducting anyone of note).

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