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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.