Olney on Andy Pettitte: “He would not lie”

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There are a ton of Andy Pettitte career-remembrances floating around already and more will be added to the pile today (he officially announces his retirement in less than an hour).  I thought Buster Oleny’s was particularly good.  I think you can see most of it even if you’re not an Insider subscriber.

The upshot of it all is that Pettitte was an honest guy and good teammate.  I know that sounds obvious, and I’ll grant that it’s stuff that in the wrong hands could come off treacly or cliche. But Buster does a good job with it, especially the stuff about how Pettitte was loathe to retaliate in beanball wars. I feel like I learned something new about Pettitte having read it.

There’s one passage, though, that you probably want to save and keep in the back of your mind for the next few years.  Excerpted below, I bet it’s going to be the argument-of-choice for those who really, really want to vote for Andy Pettitte for the Hall of Fame while not voting for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and the rest of the PED-associated crowd:

After Pettitte’s name appeared in the Mitchell Report, the pitcher quickly acknowledged his past use of performance-enhancing drugs. He would not lie.

Said one teammate, “Some of the guys who took that stuff did it because they wanted to be the greatest, maybe because of the money involved. But with Andy, I have no doubt he did it because he felt he could be better for teammates.”

You won’t be shocked to learn that it’s an argument that does absolutely nothing for me.  We have some evidence in “Game of Shadows” that Barry Bonds was truly driven by some notion to be The Best Ever, but I have a really, really hard time believing that megalomania was the true motivator for the guys who used PEDs.  These guys wanted to excel, stay in the lineup and all of that for all of the same reasons any ballplayer does. They wanted to win, both for themselves and their self-interest and for their teammates and all of those usual team-centric concerns.

I no sooner believe that, say, David Sequi or Larry Bigbie’s primary motivation was that they “wanted to be the greatest” than I would believe that Andy Pettitte was a monastic and altruistic soul who wouldn’t have taken PEDs if it wasn’t for the fact that he’d let his teammates down.  It was the usual mix of self-interest, self-preservation and the normal competitiveness that drives every ballplayer. The only difference is the means the PED-users employed to do so.

I don’t think that Olney is trying to start a Pettitte apology campaign here. He has always been a straight shooter when it comes to PEDs and the Hall of Fame. I think, though, that the observation he’s passing along here might be appealing to some people out there who want to treat Pettitte differently than other PED users when it comes to legacy construction.  But sorry: it won’t wash.  You either hold PED use against a guy when it comes to that stuff or you don’t.  Pettitte doesn’t get special treatment no matter how great a player he was and how great a guy he is.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.