Okay, let’s deal with the accident first because I’ve been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls about it since, unfortunately, I was talking on a radio show here in Washington when it occurred.
I’m fine, everyone is fine. It was a two-car fender-bender. More than anything it was annoying and, without going into boring details, let’s just say that getting into an accident when you live in Washington, DC and have a New York accent in Brunswick, Georgia is probably not a great idea.
I was en route to interview David Duval at the golf tournament on Sea Island for the new book I’m writing keyed to the 25th anniversary of ‘A Season on The Brink,’ which is next November.
(God, Sea Island is gorgeous place but for me it is jinxed: I’ve been there three times now: The first time turned out to be the last time Bruce Edwards ever caddied; the second my car broke down and now the accident. I think God is telling me something).
I’ve always liked Duval. I know he’s been prickly with the media at times through the years but he’s bright and he’s thoughtful. The fact that we agree on political issues more often than we disagree is NOT the reason I think that—Tom Watson and I couldn’t disagree more and I think he’s bright and thoughtful too and YOU BET he’s one of ‘my guys.’ For the record, I think Tiger Woods is bright too. Thoughtful is a different issue.
Anyway, I had an excellent session with Duval and we ended up watching the end of Roy Halladay’s no-hitter together. Seriously, how good is Halladay? How ridiculous has the pitching been the first two days of the playoffs? Cliff Lee gives up one run in seven innings and strikes out ten and his performance is no better than third best in the six games played, behind Halladay and Tim Lincecum and maybe ahead of C.J. Wilson. Think about this for a second: In four of the six games played so far the losing team was shut out three times and scored one run in a fourth game. Only the Twins have scored any runs at all—six in two games—in losing.
I feel for the Twins. It is amazing to look at what they’ve become after being targeted by baseball for ‘contraction,’ as they call it less than ten years ago. They rebuilt themselves as a small market franchise and now with the arrival of Target Field, they can actually afford to spend some money to compete. Five years ago, Joe Mauer would have become a free agent and signed with the Yankees. Not now.
But the Yankees clearly have something going on mentally with them. When the Twins got up 3-0 on C.C. Sabathia on Wednesday, they HAD to finish that game off; had to get a 1-0 lead and put even more pressure on Andy Pettitte in game two. Of course Pettitte thrives on pressure like perhaps no other pitcher of his generation. You can start with the 1-0 gem he threw in game five of the 1996 World Series and work forward from there. Is he a Hall of Famer? Yes and no.
The yes is his numbers: It is true that 240 wins—even 250 assuming he gets there next year which he will if healthy—doesn’t make you a Hall of Famer, especially pitching on winning teams your whole career. But how about 19 postseason wins? Yes, he’s had lots of chances, but he’s come through time and again, especially when the Yankees have been down 1-0 in series and he’s pitched game two. I think it is fair to count a postseason win as two wins on a player’s resume. That would mean Pettitte would be in the 300 range if he got to 250 in the regular season.
All that said, I wouldn’t vote for him because of the steroid use. Although he handled it better than 99 percent of the players involved through the years, he still did it and I, for one, don’t buy the story that it was just once when he was injured. That is pretty much never the way it happens. Even if you DO buy the story: he cheated and knew he was cheating in a way not accepted by baseball. This isn’t loading up the baseball or stealing a sign.
So, as much as I admire Pettitte, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer. I would love having him on my side in a battle though, that’s for sure.
It will be interesting to see where Halladay ends up in the pantheon when he’s done. He’s 33 now and has 169 career wins. Let’s say he can pitch well for five more years and average 17 wins a year. That would put him over 250 with no steroid blot on his record. It may come down to how often the Phillies make postseason the rest of the way and if he continues to pitch well in those crucible moments. I’d say he got off to a pretty good start on Wednesday. One other interesting stat: Halladay is often referred to as a ‘complete game machine’, which is not unfair because he completes more games and pitches more innings most years than anyone.
At this moment he has pitched 58 complete games—the same number as lock Hall of Famer Tom Glavine pitched. Bert Blyleven, who is not in the Hall of Fame pitched 60—SHUTOUTS. He also pitched 134 complete games. Different times I know but it isn’t as if Blyleven pitched when Cy Young and Christy Mathewson pitched. I have no axe to grind one-way or the other with Blyleven. I just think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. You can talk about how many games he lost; Nolan Ryan lost a lot of games too—like Blyleven he pitched on a number of mediocre teams. He was—deservedly—a first ballot Hall of Famer. I’m not saying Blyleven is Ryan by any stretch but I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.
And in hockey news…The season began on Thursday. Hallelujah! I am going to enjoy the next 48 hours because the Islanders, at this moment, are undefeated. (0-0). I’m guessing it won’t last long. Kyle Okposo is already hurt (out three months) and Sports Illustrated picks the Isles 14th in the Eastern Division. Sigh.
There is good news though: The Hartford Wolf Pack has renamed itself The Connecticut Whale. I have got to get to a game on The Mall sometime, somehow this season and buy a coffee mug to go with the Hartford Whalers mug I bought in 1982 when I was up there working on a piece for Sports Illustrated on Blaine Stoughton.
Stoughton’s wife Cindi, a former Playboy bunny, gave me one of the great quotes of my career for that piece. Maybe I’ll save it for the book…