Texas Rangers v New York Yankees, Game 3

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.

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.