Sunday, February 6, 2011

Will baseball writers give Pettitte a Hall pass?

Judging from the glowing press this weekend, Andy Pettitte may stand a better chance at the Baseball Hall of Fame than most performance-enhancing drug users. But that doesn't mean he should get in.

Pettitte is so universally liked by baseball writers that some of them may be willing to overlook his admission of human growth hormone use. It would be easier for some of them to cast their vote for a good guy like Pettitte rather than a jerk such as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, even though their stats are more Hall-worthy than Pettitte’s. And the way Pettitte handled the HGH situation, admitting what he had done rather than fighting the truth, earned him some honesty points all around baseball. Unlike Jason Giambi, we knew exactly what Pettitte was apologizing for because he had the guts to say it. And Pettitte seemed genuinely sorry for what he had done.

But I don't think Pettitte is getting in. I think there are too many writers who, like me, believe that no one who used HGH or steroids should be allowed into the Hall. I can’t give Andy Pettitte a pass no matter how much I like him personally or appreciate everything he’s done for the New York Yankees.

Plus, he will lose votes from writers who simply don't believe his stats are good enough. No doubt he has had a wonderful career, winning about 100 more games than he lost and striking out 2,251 batters. He had the most victories in the last decade of any pitcher in baseball. But some writers will make the case that his 3.88 ERA is too high or that he never was the most dominant pitcher in his league (even though he was runner-up for the American League Cy Young award in 1996).

What Pettitte has going for him in the Hall debate is his postseason brilliance. Everyone remembers his epic Game 5 performance in the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. But I think people will find his role in clinching the 2009 title for the New York Yankees to be even more impressive, doing it at his age and finishing off three different teams on the way to the championship. Those five World Series rings will look good to some of the more traditional voters.

I don’t think Pettitte will get a Hall pass from the writers, but he might actually have a more respectable showing than some of the other PED users because he is so well-liked by the media. We’ll have to wait to see how he does, but I’m not optimistic about his chances for induction.

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