Ben Shpigel of the New York Times asked a handful of baseball writers that question. There is some support there. Not a lot, though: Shpigel asked nine writers if they’d vote for Pettitte. two said yes, four said no and three were undecided. I found the most interesting response to be Pete Abraham’s:
“I’d first want to walk up to Andy, tell him I have a vote and ask him whether his P.E.D. use helped him any games. His answer would help me decide what comes next.”
Interesting. Also interesting: Abraham’s explanation of his votes on this year’s ballot just this past Tuesday:
Sorry, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez. Your ties to drug use exclude you. Baseball banned non-prescription drugs in the early 1970s, period. That steroids weren’t specifically banned is meaningless. Players broke laws to obtain these drugs and that’s cheating. That many players did it doesn’t make it right.
Did McGwire, Palmiero and Gonzalez get the same opportunity to explain whether PEDs helped them before Abraham voted no on them? If not, why not? And you can’t say that it’s because Pettitte was more forthcoming about his PED use, because he didn’t say anything about it until he was outed in the Mitchell Report. And if the issue is “cheating” and “your ties to drug use,” how forthcoming one was about it shouldn’t matter anyway. Pettite used them.
I’m not trying to pick on Abraham here. I think there are tons of people who have given Andy Pettitte way more of a pass on his PED use than any other big star has been given. I suspect it’s a function of him being a pitcher and, unlike Roger Clemens, not making himself look ridiculous in the wake of being outed as a PED-user. I suppose that his deportment can legitimately color how we feel about the guy personally, but it really shouldn’t enter into his Hall of Fame case if you’re the type of voter who says things like “your ties to drug use exclude you.”
As for Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case: I’m not seeing it. Pettitte has been good — at times very good — but never great. His postseason performance helps him, but it’s easy to overstate that too. Pettitte’s regular season winning percentage, ERA and K/BB ratio is .635/3.88./2.34. Postseason? It’s .655/3.83./2.40. He’s had some big performances, but over a little more than a full regular season’s worth of playoff starts, he’s around the same pitcher he’s always been. Give him a bump because of the stronger competition in October, but it’s not like he’s been transcendent.
One thing a lot of people will say about Pettitte is that he was never even the best pitcher on his team. That’s an overstatement I think. He was the best starter on the 1996 championship team (David Cone pitched better, but he was only there for 11 starts). He was pretty close to the best in 1997 when the Yankees won 96 games (Cone was probably better, but again, he pitched 45 fewer innings than Pettitte). After that there were always one or two better Yankees starters in any given year, be it Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, Orlando Hernandez or even Chien-Ming Wang. My sense: if you’re going to go to the mat for any Yankees pitcher of that era, you should probably go to the mat for Mike Mussina, who was far superior to Pettitte over the course of his career. But let’s leave that for another day.
I think Pettitte will get a lot of support. Most of it will be based on the “fame” part of Hall of Fame. But if there was anyone for whom the Hall of Very Good should be created, it’s Andy Pettitte.