Andy Pettitte and the Van Doren Gene

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That would be Charles Van Doren, the infamous game show contestent who cheated his way to stardom, in large part because everyone wanted to believe that a nice, handsome and polite guy like him would never do such a thing.

Joe Posnanski thinks that there are a lot of players in baseball like that — players people want to like and, when necessary, forgive — and that Andy Pettitte is one of them:

We want to think the best of him. Everybody does. People seem to see Pettitte as a generally honest and minor character in baseball’s PED scandal. Ask a moderate baseball fan who was named in the Mitchell Report — Sammy Sosa or Andy Pettitte? I’m thinking most will say Sosa, which is the wrong answer. Ask any baseball fan which pitcher denied using HGH, admitted using only twice but never more, admitted later than he actually used it another time, and I suspect Pettitte will not be the first guess.

Dead on. He doesn’t get any kind of heat for the PED stuff. Partially because people have chosen to forget it, partially because people liked his “aw-shucks” partial admission better than that of other players. As if the p.r. game is more important than the cheating everyone claims is the real issue.  A-Rod came clean when caught in 2009 and was instantly a pariah (and still would be even if the Biogenesis stuff never happened). Why? People want to like Pettitte. They want to hate A-Rod.

Posnanski goes way beyond the PED thing, of course, talking about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame resume too. I’ll admit I don’t know what to think about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case. The other day on HBT Daily I waxed fairly effusive. Joe’s comps, though — Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and David Cone do have better cases — give me pause. Truth is I haven’t considered it too deeply yet. Probably won’t until after he retires.

But I do know this much: no PED-connected player is going to get anywhere close to the amount of forgiveness Pettitte will get when his candidacy is up. And, apart from the Van Doren Gene, I have no idea why that is.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.