Results tagged ‘ Andy Pettitte ’

The Exception?

manny-ramirez.jpgAlright…with Manny Ramirez retiring suddenly this past week to avoid a second suspension for failing a drug test, it begs the question: HOF?

Taking steroids out of the equation, this guy is a first-ballot HOF-er.  I would argue that he was the greatest righthander hitter in baseball from 1995-2008, and one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history.  Sure, he was a complete spaz and couldn’t field a lick, but when you hit like that it doesn’t really matter.  During the mid-1990s he and Jim Thome provided potency to the Cleveland Indians, then he and David Ortiz teamed up as perhaps the most dominant 3-4 combination since Ruth-Gehrig.  Even his stint with the Dodgers (before the first suspension that signaled the end of his career) was incredible.

Some of the career stats: .312 BA, .411 OBP, .585 SLG, .996 OPS, 2,574 H, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI.

He was always a favorite player of mine (when not tormenting Twins pitching, of course) for just his pure hitting ability.  The guy didn’t give a lick about anything, but he was blessed with the ability to hit a baseball really, really hard with surprising frequency.

Of course, much like Andy Pettitte, the steroid issue will cloud Manny’s candidacy.  Like Pettitte and, say, A-Rod, Manny is a confirmed steroid user.  That being said, he didn’t make up ridiculous stories in his defense (e.g. Barry Bonds), didn’t become a jerk about it (e.g. Roger Clemens), didn’t refuse to speak about the past (e.g. Mark McGwire), didn’t blatently deny his usage (e.g. Rafael Palmeiro), and didn’t forget how to speak English when questioned (e.g. Sammy Sosa).  Basically, he just got caught and served his time.

My feeling on the matter right now is that I would put Manny in the Hall, but not after a few years of “punishment waiting” sitting on the ballot.  Perhaps I am being too sentimental and should be harder on the guy, but at least he didn’t deny, deny, deny and make baseball look like a bunch of guys trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Time will tell.

Andy Pettitte: HOF?

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.

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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…

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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.

Tomorrow

Okay, deep breath Twins fans.  Remember, in ’03 and ’04 we won the first game of those ALDS (and in NY no less), but still couldn’t get the job done.  Tomorrow is a new day, and we don’t know which Andy Pettitte will show up: the one who dominates us, or the one who couldn’t do anything at the end of this season.

Going into this series, I just wanted the Twins to split those first two games at Target Field.  Obviously, that can still be accomplished.

Losing the first game of a playoff series is a lot like losing the first game of the regular season in that everybody panics.  Sure, the sample size is much smaller now, but there is still a good amount of baseball to be played.

Tomorrow.

Preview: Andy Pettitte vs. Carl Pavano

Twins vs. Yankees X-Factors

Well, here it is, the night before the playoff ALDS opener against the New York Yankees at Target Field.  Here are my “x-factors” for this series:

Yankees:

The first two starters…

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andy-pettite.jpgBoth these two starters are renowned Twins-killers, capable of shutting down even our most potent bats for inning after inning.  To me, just splitting (even at home) with these guys on the mound would be the best we could hope for, as I’m confident that Duensing will beat Hughes in the Bronx for Game 3.  However, two straight losses would pretty much doom us.

For the Twins:

The big righthanded bat…

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In previous years, the Twins have never had that powerful righthanded bat in the lineup to counter-act a tough lefty on the mound. Delmon Young changes the equation.

Also, though I won’t necessarily say this is a prediction, but I think Ron Gardenhire gives the Twins a big edge…

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Not saying that Joe Girardi isn’t a quality manager as well, but you know that Gardy will have our boys ready to go for every game. Plus, this year he has some “bullets in the chamber” instead of blanks to match up with the Yanks’ firepower.

I’m too superstitious to make a prediction on this series due to the fact that my home team is in it, so about all that’s left to say is this:

 

Preview: C.C. Sabathia (0-0, 0.00) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00).  The slate is wiped clean in the postseason!

No Lee…No Problem?

world-series-new-york-yankees-philadelphia-phillies-cc-sabathia-cliff-lee.jpgWell, if the current trade buzz is accurate (and it probably is, as when the Yankees want a guy they usually get him), those two guys could be teammates in pinstripes in a few short weeks or days.

Most hard-core Twins fans should be about drowned in their soup over that news, as a Lee-Sabathia-Pettite rotation would be nearly unstoppable, but perhaps all is not yet lost.

A few weeks ago, Houston Astro Roy Oswalt announced his desire to be traded from the pathetic ‘Stros:

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Just a few years ago, this guy was considered one of the top three pitchers in the National League, until injuries and pathetic team play dropped him down a notch.  He’s healthy now, though, and putting together a solid season on the mound.

I actually like his case better than Cliff Lee’s, because likely we wouldn’t have to give up BOTH Ramos and Hicks to obtain him, and we might even have a chance to sign him next year (he might not just be a rent-a-player).

So, if the Yanks do jump off the Cliff, perhaps we can still land a solid starter in his abscence.

Evolution of A Curse

Before 2004, the year in which a staggering chain of events (begun with this)…

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…released the Boston Red Sox from their Yankee-dominant purgatory, the Sox were seemingly “cursed” by the inability to: A. Win the big game; and B. Win ANY meaningful game against the arch-rival Yankees.

After watching (in person) the Twins fall twice to the Yanks in one day today at Target Field, I now have my own little theory as to where that curse went and where it is dwelling now…

In both 2003 and 2004…

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…the Yankees defeated the Twins in the ALDS.  From that point forward, we haven’t been able to touch them.  At home, we are something like 10 games under .500 against them in the Ron Gardenhire era.  On the road, we have won (literally) a handful of games in that same time period.  Plus, the 2009 playoffs brought another ALDS defeat at their hands, this time a clean sweep.

Could it be possible that the Red Sox, free from the “1918” chants, somehow transferred the curse to us, seeing as it was us who allowed the epic 2003 and 2004 ALCS’ to transpire in the first place?

Today, the Yankee heroes were primarily three-fold:

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First, Derek Jeter provided the lone offense in the resumption game today, then proceeded to make a spectacular “jump-throw” (his trademark) to gun down a runner at first that, if safe, would have allowed the tying run to score.

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Then, Pettitte again basically shut us down for eight innings, only allowing two measly runs.

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Finally, the back-breaker came from Nick Swisher, who launched a bomb into the right field bleachers in the bottom of the eighth inning (with two outs, of course) off Jon Rauch to give the visitors a lead they would not relinquish.

Let’s just say this: Remember those old “whose your Daddy” chants that Yankees fans used to hurl at Pedro Martinez?  They now apply for a completely different reason.

Preview (26-20, 1st, 1.0 GA DET): Javier Vazquez (3-4, 6.69) vs. Nick Blackburn (5-1, 4.50)

2001: A Twins Oddity

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Why the retro pics? Well, the last time the Twins defeated Andy Pettitte, the date was April 30, the year was 2001, Brad Radke pitched a complete game to run his record to 5-0, and Doug Mientkiewicz went 2-3 with a homer to up his average to .380 on the season.  Radke is now long since retired and Minty is a 35 year old glove/walk machine.  That should tell you all you need to know about today’s lopsided affair.

Basically, Pettitte shut us down once again, and while Liriano pitched well enough to keep us in the game, the bullpen finally imploded under the pressure in the late innings.  If old Andy can do this to us, I can only imagine what would have happened had we drew Sabathia in this series (would we even need to play the game?).

When will this miserable streak end?

Notes:

-Any thoughts as to why Jesse Crain still has a major league job?

Preview (22-14, 1.5 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (3-1, 4.76) vs. Sergio Mitre (0-1, 3.86).  Don’t so much care about the Yankee Curse in this one as just scraping out a win before the Tigers catch us again.

John Sterling Must Love The Twins

Seventh inning, bases loaded, one out, A-Rod at the dish, Matty Guerrier on the mound:

 

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Preview (22-13, 1st, 2.5 GB DET): Francisco Liriano (4-1, 2.36) vs. Andy Pettitte (4-0, 2.08).

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

Boy, This Game Takes You Back Sometimes

ALCS15810260338.jpgAs I watched the Yankees record the final out of the ALCS tonight and advanced to the World Series to face the Philadelphia Phillies, I couldn’t help to be transported back a full decade (or even more) to my youth.

As a youngster in the late 1990s, my Twins were the scourge of the American League, so come playoff time I would always latch onto another team to root for.  This most often ended up being the team playing the Yankees at the time, as I despised their large-market spending and arrogant owner.  Plus, it was always that same core of guys (1996-2001) who were nearly impossible to beat.

A decade+ later, four of those same guys (well five, if you count former Yankee catcher Joe Girardi, now managing the club) are still doing their thing…Derek Jeter still gets all the clutch hits, Jorge Posada keeps chugging along, Andy Pettitte never loses a big game, and Mariano Rivera is absolutely incredible.

Thus, while I still cannot bring myself to actively root for the Yanks, I do have more than a grudging respect for those four players…guys who play the game the right way and deserve any more rings they can get on their fingers. 

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