Friday, October 8, 2010

I’m jinxed at Sea Island, ridiculous pitching to start these playoffs – Halladay and Pettitte talk – and the Islanders are undefeated for at least a day or two

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…


Kevin Kaczmarek said...

Geez, John...can't believe your going to leave us "hanging" for a whole year!

Anonymous said...

John - did you see that Brent Musburger went on record saying he believes they should just allow steroids, or at least it should be studied with doctors to determine the reality in a medical sense?

I like good 'ole Brent, but he's WAY off the mainstream, and his rocker, on this one.

Momus said...

Just asking, but why does it seem that the only times Duke University is in the news is either because of Coach K and his team, or some sex scandal involving athletes.

Tony said...

John --

Random personal aside question - you have written and spoken before about the gout attacks that you have suffered through - and said once that the modern medicine minimizes this for you.

As the victim of two gout attacks now (and an avid swimmer) - I'm curious as to what you take and if you are finding success with it.

Thanks in advance.

Tim said...

There are going to be a TON of close calls with the Hall of Fame in the years to come. If everyone who has touched steroids is left out, where does the history and their impact on the game go to? After all, thats what Cooperstown, Canton and Springfield provide. There is no denying the impact that a lot of these guys had, albeit sometimes a negative impact.

This baseball postseason should be interesting, and I have to admit I just want the Yankees to be gone.

Did you happen to see the Minneapolis newspaper guy ripping Mauer for bolting the clubhouse so quickly last night?

Anonymous said...

Re: Pettite- What steroid use? I've never heard of him using steroids, only HGH, which is in no way performance enhancing.

Anonymous said...


"David Duval may be a prick to others in the media, but he's nice to me [Feinstein] and validates my sense of journalisitc entitlement, therefore he's "my guy."

"Tiger Woods is mean to me, even though I've repeatedly insulted his dead father and wrote a complete hack job book earlier in the decade called "First Coming", therefore, I hate Tiger Woods and he'll never be "my guy."

Feinstein is representative of what is wrong with sports journalism nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Why was my comment pointing out that JF had already shared the quote not approved?? Bad form.

FOTB said...

Anonymous 10/17 3:51pm - I have no idea what comment you are referencing...I haven't turned down a comment in the last week or so that I can remember, and the ones that do get turned down tend to be memorable, to say the least. Feel free to re-post.


Anonymous said...

It was something to the effect of...

Spoiler alert: You already shared the quote (and it wasn't really all that great). You should take advantage of the "tags" that are used on your own site. It took less than 10 seconds to find it, since the only post tagged with "Blaine Stoughton" included it.

Nice try though.