Now, look, I certainly appreciate that this headline question -- Is Pettitte greatest Yankee starter? -- was written with the intention of sparking conversation and reaction. And it worked. I reacted immediately. And, here, I’m conversing.
I’m also aware of Betteridge’s law of headlines which states that any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word, “no.”
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Still, I must admit, I am baffled by the persistence of the Andy Pettitte love out there. It runs so counter to the stringent anti-drug stance that has choked and suffocated so many of the good feelings people have toward players of the Steroid Era. Roger Clemens gets 37.6% of the Hall of Fame vote, and few seem to care. Barry Bonds gets even less, and people seem happy about it. Players like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell and even Craig Biggio find their legacy weighed down by whispers and innuendo. Heck, Chris Davis goes on a hitting tear, and doubt rings around him.
Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte -- who admitted (not exactly voluntarily) being a PED user -- has hosannas thrown at him like rice at a wedding. It’s just kind of baffling.
Of course, my own stance is that the whole PED thing has been way overblown. The rules were vague at best, testing was nonexistent, enforcement was a shrug and a wink. I feel like steroid use before testing is a black mark on a players record -- they knew it was wrong when they did it and I’m sure it had some effect on their performance -- but it should not be THE black mark, that is to say it should not entirely define the players’ career. I appreciate that others disagree.
What I don’t understand is how Andy Pettitte seems immune to all of it.
In any case, the question of Andy Pettitte’s place in Yankees history -- I figure as a starter he’s somewhere in the scrum with Red Ruffling, Lefty Gomez, Ron Guidry all behind Whitey Ford -- is not as interesting to me as the point that the Yankees, for all their astounding success, have not really had one of the 10 or 15 pitchers in baseball history. Oh, Roger Clemens stopped by for a while, but I’m talking about as a core player.
Truth is, you can -- with a semi-straight face -- talk about Pettitte as the all-time Yankee pitcher, but if he was with the Giants or Braves or Cardinals or Indians or, heck, even the crosstown Mets, even suggesting Pettitte as the best would be enough to get you committed into the sports asylum. That just kind of strange.
I went through all the teams and listed off their top pitcher according to Baseball Reference WAR. As you see, the Yankees place 15th on this list, right in the middle of the pack. Another surprising thing: The Cincinnati Reds WAR leader since 1901 is Eppa Rixey with 40.
Team, pitcher, WAR
1. Twins/Senators: Walter Johnson, 152.6
2. Giants, Christy Mathewson, 95.7
3. Braves, Warren Spahn, 92.2
4. Cardinals, Bob Gibson, 81.9
5, Red Sox, Roger Clemens, 81.2
6. Mets, Tom Seaver, 75.9
7. Athletics, Eddie Plank, 73.7
8. Phillies, Robin Roberts, 69.7
9. White Sox, Red Faber, 68.3
10. Orioles, Jim Palmer, 67.9
11. Indians, Bob Feller, 65.2
12. Dodgers, Dazzy Vance, 61.8
13. Tigers, Hal Newhouser, 59.1
14. Blue Jays, Dave Stieb, 57.2
15. Yankees, Whitey Ford, 53.9
16. Cubs, Fergie Jenkins, 53.3
17. Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson, 52.9
18. Angels, Chuck Finley, 52.2
19. Pirates, Babe Adams, 50.1
20. Royals, Kevin Appier, 47.2
21. Astros, Roy Oswalt, 45.6
22. Nationals/Espos, Steve Rogers, 45.4
23. Reds, Eppa Rixey, 40.0
24. Mariners, Randy Johnson, 39.3
25. Rangers, Charlie Hough, 32.9
26. Brewers, Teddy Higuera, 30.7
27. Marlins, Josh Johnson, 25.3
28. Padres, Jake Peavy, 24.7
29. Rays, James Shields, 19.2
30. Rockies, Ubaldo Jiminez, 18.7