Yankees: Sabathia Makes A Pitch For Andy Pettitte In The Hall

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Yankees players, and especially pitchers, tend to stick with one another. And today, we saw another example of that.

Yankees veteran left-hander CC Sabathia welcomed another big lefty, Andy Pettitte into Spring Training with a warm hug and an endorsement for Pettitte’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The pair have similar major league careers regarding years pitched and games won, and Sabathia’s pitch for Pettitte could easily be made for himself five years after he retires as well. But when it comes to Pettitte alone, it’s almost like looking at two different sets of qualifications for the Hall.

Pettitte’s 256 wins certainly puts him well above the cut as a pitcher with a solid major league career. But do his numbers meet the “normal” criteria for pitchers elected to Cooperstown? But on the reverse side, there’s an argument that can say, so what if the numbers don’t match up.

Pettitte is a good test case for the future and what is going to qualify as a Hall Of Fame pitcher.

Andy Pettitte matched up to opponents and was the go-to guy for the Yankees year after year as they marched through the league during “The Run” when time after time he took the ball and delivered a quality start in critical situations. Which counts more? The numbers or his reliability and ability to deliver in key games?

Pettitte is a good test case for the future and what is going to qualify as a Hall Of Fame pitcher. Because if there’s another 300 game winner on the horizon, I certainly don’t see him, and I doubt anyone else does either.

Will There Ever Be Another 300 Game Winner

To illustrate, let’s take the case of the best left-handed pitcher in baseball today (I assume with no argument), Clayton Kershaw who, by any measurement in the future has to be a shoo-in for the Hall. Kershaw currently has 126 wins in his career; He will be 29 years old when he pitches the 2017 season. He has an opt-out in his contract in 2018 and conceivably could enter the free agent market for one last kill.

Kershaw, if he says with the Dodgers until his contract fully expires after the 2020 season will be 32, and he will have earned $141 million and change. Now, let’s assume that he still wants to pitch and he signs a new four-year contract that extends him to age 36.

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That’s eight years from now. And let’s assume that Kershaw manages to average 20 wins a season over those eight years, which is a big if, adding 160 wins to his total. That still leaves him short of the “magic number” 300 wins. Unless, of course, he wants to be another Early Wynn grinding it out for another year and making six or seven tries when he was stuck on 299 to get to 300.

That’s not very likely, especially when you consider that Kershaw is earning $35 million a year and his career total will be upwards of $350 million by the time comes to make that choice. How much is enough and why bother?

But, back to Pettitte, who becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018. He will be a controversial election if he makes it. And for him to be elected, the writers who vote in these elections will need to adjust their criteria if they choose to give Pettitte the consideration he deserves.

Pettitte, much like his colleague, Pedro Martinez (with only 219 wins) belongs in the Hall, if only because they dominated in the time they pitched. The same could be said for someone like Jack Morris who was eliminated in this year’s balloting.

Teams did not want to face these guys, and that was especially when you were in a “must-win” situation. And the image of Andy Pettitte, all 6’5″ of him, standing on that mound with that black glove raised to eye level, peering in at the catcher is all you need to know about him.

Baseball writers are fickle, and many of the old guards still go by the old rules of voting. Thankfully, there is pressure underway to revamp the list of writers who are eligible to vote, and the tide may be turned towards a more common sense approach that looks at “numbers” differently.

Either way, the road to the Hall will be a difficult one for Pettitte, but he does deserve to be in the conversation. Because if Early Wynn resides in Cooperstown, surely there has to be a place for Andy Pettitte.