Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, and A-Rod dominated SS in the American League for quite a few seasons. I was always partially to “Nomah”, but you couldn’t go wrong with any of them.
With the Twins now in Fort Myers, FL, for Spring Training, they’ve been getting more media attention than usual due to issues like Morneau’s concussion comeback, Nathan’s Tommy John rehab, and the new Japanese SS whose name I’m too lazy to look up for spelling (probably should get on that).
However, there are three other areas I would like to comment on that perhaps slip our minds in the midst of the “bit stories”:
1. Alexi Casilla has never been an everyday player for a full season. Whenever he’s been given the opportunity to start, he’s droppped the ball (sometimes even in the literal sense). Considering Gardy’s love of guys like Matt “The Next Punto?” Tobert or the newcomer Luke Hughes, Casilla still has a lot to prove and will not be handed the job by any means.
2. Can “Valencia Mania” continue? A favorite example of mine of this case comes from 2000, when the Mets had an outfielder named Timo Perez (heck, he might be bouncing around somewhere yet) who, in August-September that year, looked like the next coming of Junior Griffey. He then made a few World Series blunders, pitchers figured him out, and he’s been a fringe player since. Pitchers now have a similar “book” on young Danny-Boy, so those fat pitches will be fewer and farther between.
3. Besides a summer (June-July) that was out of control, Delmon Young was very average at the beginning and end of 2010. What if that “Beast Mode” doesn’t occur again in ’11, or for nearly as long? He’s always been a streaky hitter.
Keep an eye on these issues, as they could be every bit as important as “the big boys”.
Andy Pettitte retired this week. Putting aside the steroid stuff for a moment, I believe he belongs in the HOF five or so years from now.
The raw stats (240 wins, high-ish 3.88 ERA) might not bear this statement out, but (at least to me) what Pettitte always signified was “winning”. This guy just, plain and simply, won ballgames. His overall winning % is .635 over 16 seasons, and if you look at the stats there are just so many seasons where he won 9-10 more games than he lost.
Plus, Pettitte was the epitomy of a big-game pitcher. Sure, he got the chance to pitch under the October lights so many times because of his Yankee pinstripes, but his career postseason #’s are 19-10, 3.83, in 263 innings. So, basically, he pitched an entire season in the postseason, and almost exactly duplicated his regular-season stats (high win percentage, highest-3′s ERA). Not bad at all on the biggest of stages for the biggest of teams. When he pitched against my Twins in a big game, I had very little hopes for pulling out a victory.
The one problem, of course…
Andy Pettitte is inside that steroid cloud based on his relationship with Roger Clemens. In fact, Pettitte admitted using HGH on multiple occasions, supposedly in order to heal an injury and help return to the team faster, not necessarily to improve performance (definitions, definitions, I know). I’m usually wary of these guys, but for whatever reason I’ll give Pettitte the benefit of the doubt. Considering that no firm anti-doping rules were in place before the mid-2000s, players in a situation like Pettitte’s WERE likely unsure what was “right” or “wrong” to do chemically and still play by the rules. While I truly believe that Clemens knew that what he was doing was wrong but did it anyway because he just didn’t care, I think that Pettitte was caught in that grey area of past steroid usage.
Thus, if I’m voting, I’m putting Mr. Pettitte in the Hall.