Two weeks ago, I had fun with a little What If? scenario involving Randy Johnson in 1998. This time, at the suggestion of Hollaforskolla, I’m jumping ahead a year to the 1999 trade deadline when Andy Pettitte was nearly traded.
It is the morning of July 30, 1999, and the Yankees are right where they should be. At 61-39, the defending World Series champions are in first place with a 6.5 game lead over the Red Sox. But all is not well in Yankeeland.
Andy Pettitte, 27 and not too far away from free agency, is struggling. Two days before, Pettitte couldn’t get out of the 4th inning against a pathetic White Sox team, and the lefty finds himself 7-8 with a 5.65 ERA. The Yanks are on the hook in 1999 for $5.95 million and are facing another year of arbitration before free agency. While to us in 2008, that seems like small beans, to George Steinbrenner in 1999, Pettitte is not coming through and the Boss has made it known that Andy Pettitte is on the trading block.
The next four days bring a whirlwind of rumors and near-trades. The stories provide us with a glimpse into what could have been a very costly move. On July 30, Buster Olney, then the Yankee beat writer for The Times writes that Steinbrenner “did not order that Pettitte be traded, but the actions of his subordinates in the hours after the staff meeting in Tampa, Fla., suggested that they were working hard to formulate an acceptable deal before the deadline Saturday night.”
That day, the Yankees are rumored to be in discussions with the Phillies. A potential deal with net the Philadelphia Phillies Andy Pettitte, and the Yanks would get Adam Eaton, Anthony Shumaker and Reggie Taylor. At the time, those were three highly touted prospects. It’s funny how things work out.
Also on the table is a deal with the Giants for Shawn Estes. Olney, proving that old habits never ever die, does indeed call Estes “a better fit” for the Yankees because he’s due just $2.15 million in 2000. Imagine Andy Pettitte’s almost getting traded because of a $4 million difference.
As the clock ticks down to midnight on July 31, 1999, Pettitte’s future in pinstripes looks dim. As Olney notes, on the same day they reacquired Jim Leyrtiz, the Yanks had a deal in place with the Philadelphia Phillies. This deal however is contingent upon another deal: If the Yanks can land Arthur Rhodes or Roberto Hernandez, Pettitte is gone.
There are a few hitches. To get Rhodes, the Yanks would have to send D’Angelo Jimenez and Luis De Los Santos to the Orioles. At the time, Jimenez was a highly-regarded prospect. A terrible motorcycle accident would change his career a few years later. To give up Hernandez, the Devil Rays wanted one of two young kids: Alfonso Soriano or Nick Johnson.
Well, as we know, nothing happened, and the fallout exposed some divisions in the Yankee organization. George Steinbrenner, for one, was less than enthusiastic that Joe Torre intervened to keep Andy Pettitte. ‘Our manager seems to think things are all right,” Steinbrenner said. ”I have great confidence in my manager.”
Pettitte wasn’t too enthused by that statement, according to Olney. ”You want your owner to want you around,” he said.
The next day, George backtracked a little. ‘The manager is happy,” he said. ”That’s good by me.”
But when all was said and done, Andy Pettitte came oh so close to getting traded on that fateful night in July. But he wasn’t traded, and he responded in kind. Through August and September, Pettitte would go 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA, and he threw two stellar starts in the ALDS and ALCS before getting bounced early in game 3 of the World Series. The Yanks would eventually win that game on a home run by Chad Curtis in the 10th.
We know what happened after 1999 with Andy Pettitte. He had some stellar seasons in the Bronx, and except for a terrible start in the 2001 World Series, he pitched his heart out in the postseason. His game 6 start in the 2003 World Series against the Marlins was brilliant even though he was overshadowed by Josh Beckett.
This is one trade that the Yanks are glad they never made. Andy Pettitte has been far superior than Adam Eaton, and the money stopped being an issue for the Yanks shortly after they won again in 1999 and 2000. But eight years ago, without hourly-updated blogs and the constant surveillance of the Internet, not too many people knew that Andy Pettitte came to within a hair’s breadth of being traded. In the end, Pettitte and the Yanks were, to borrow a phrase, a good fit.
So I woke up this morning to quite the delightful bit of baseball literature: Rob Neyer actually linked to RAB. Neyer agrees with Ben’s stance on Robinson Cano’s arbitration situation, though calls the notion that Cano would be insulted by an arbitration hearing “silly.” Per Ben: “Called out by Rob Neyer. I’ll never complain about that.”
Later today, browsing Peter Gammons’s blog, I found quite an interesting paragraph:
Unfortunately, time keeps most of us from getting to those sites specific to teams. It’s amazing how many club officials read USS Mariner (Seattle), Fire Brand of the American League (Boston), Ducksnorts (San Diego), Athletics Nation (Oakland), Viva El Birdos (St. Louis), Lone Star Ball (Texas), River Ave. Blues (Yankees), MetsBlog.com, FishStripes (Florida), Dodger Thoughts, Bronx Banter (great writing), The LoHud Yankees Blog, Reds Reporter (Cincinnati), Bleed Cubbie Blue, Brew Crew Ball (Milwaukee) and more.
Needless to say, it’s a glorious day here at the RAB offices.
As we hit the three-week home stretch before pitchers and catchers finally show up, David Pinto has decided to fill the time with some offensive projections. Using his excellent Lineup Analysis Tools and the Tom Tango projections for the Yanks’ lineup, he comes to the conclusion that the Yanks should lead the league in runs scored again. That’s good news for Yankees fans, and despite the doom and gloom some folks have expressed this winter, the team is sitting pretty if the pitching can be half decent. · (6) ·
I can’t overstress how great a resource Baseball-Reference.com is. For any blogger, this site is the ultimate in statistics. If you know where to look, it has information about any non-BP, non-Sabermetric statistic from any player in any year and a few Sabermetric ones thrown in for good measure. It has World Series data, MVP and All-Star data, and historical charts. You know it; B-R.com’s got it.
Within the past year, B-R.com has unveiled a tool that makes this site the Elias Sports Bureau for the everyday fan. No longer are we confined to the stats available on sites like ESPN.com and MLB.com. With the B-R.com Play Index, you can call up those stats that used to be hard to find. Want to know, as I did recently, how a player ranks at his position through a certain age? Well, now you can.
The best part of this deal is this cost. This information is available for $28 for a year (or less if you sponsor a B-R.com page). It’s hard to turn it down, and I’m not getting anything for this glowing review.
With that wordy introduction, let’s get down to the fun. What can we find out about the Yankees using the B-R.com Play Index?
- Do the Yankees really have an 8th inning problem? The Yanks were 81-4 when leading after 7 innings last year. That’s a .953 winning percentage.
- Of all players with at least 1000 games played at short stop up to and including their age 33 season, Derek Jeter‘s 2356 hits are second only to Robin Yount’s 2602 hits. But a good majority of Yount’s hits came when he was in the outfield. It’s hard to believe how great Jeter’s been.
- On 13 occasions in 2007, the Yankees struck out to start the game. Their 117 7th inning strike outs were most of any inning.
- This one’s my personal favorite. In his career, Dere Jeter has made an out toward short stop 882 times. Twent-six of those outs began a game; 15 ended a game; 8 put the Yanks ahead; and 1 tied the game. If this even comes up in conversation, let me know.
Really, the right person could go nuts with this tool and find themselves lost in the numbers for a long time. It opens up a world of stats and game outcomes that, for a long time, hadn’t been readily available to the average fan. I love the Internet.
There’s a reason why no one plays baseball in January. About 30 minutes before kickoff, the temperatures in Green Bay are holding at zero with a windchill of -18. But that won’t stop the Giants and Packers from playing football.
A month ago, no one in New York would believe Eli Manning capable of leading the Giants beyond the first round of the playoffs, let alone to within four good quarters of the Super Bowl. But that’s where they are.
The Patriots won with their typical ruthless efficiency coming out in the fourth quarter today. So Big Blue could end up in a Week 17 rematch. Either way, Joe Buck — remember him? — will bring you the game. Feel free to discuss it here.
On Saturday, I looked at Robinson Cano’s arbitration case and decided that the Yanks should give him what he wants instead of bickering over money year after year. Today, David Pinto shares with us the news that the Rockies have locked up Troy Tulowitzki to a six-year, $30-million deal, thus buying out his arbitration years. Tulo probably would be making more if he chose arbitration every year, but the two sides believed this to be a better path. That seems to me to be a much better approach to signing long players than the Yanks’ one-and-out philosophy. · (6) ·
An MLB Trade Rumors source says the Yanks may have expressed interest in Brad Wilkerson. I’d imagine the Yanks’ interest went a little bit like this: “We already have two guys capable of putting up a sub-.800 OPS at first base and a a third who can do what you can for a fraction of the cost. But if you want to ask the Red Sox for a laughable $21-million, three-year deal, we’ll help drive up the price.” There’s no place or desire in the Bronx for a 31-year-old who couldn’t really hit in Texas. I’m sure the Yanks would have him in camp on a invite, but Wilkerson delusionally thinks he can get a multi-year deal. This one ain’t happenin’, folks. · (5) ·
My world has just been torn apart. No, wait. It hasn’t. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
First, the goods:
“They were never as close as they were made out to be,” a friend of both said on the condition of anonymity. “They just sort of went along with it in the media, because it was a good story.”
Indeed, we had one of the game’s all-time best pitchers taking a fellow Texan under his wing, a guy whose childhood bedroom featured a Clemens poster. We had the pair bolting together to the Astros and returning together (a few months apart, granted) to New York.
Though Clemens and Pettitte enjoyed working out together, their relationship didn’t extend much beyond that. Clemens is an extrovert, Pettitte an introvert. Clemens enjoyed going out after games on road trips; Pettitte almost always stayed in. Their families aren’t particularly close, although both make the Houston area their full-time residences.
When Clemens sat out the start of the 2006 season, keeping the Astros waiting for months on yet another unretirement, Pettitte joined other veteran teammates in growing annoyed by The Rocket’s prima-donna vacillating.
So not only is Pettitte, as Davidoff’s piece notes, mad at Clemens for his defense tactics concerning the Mitchell, but it seems that the two had fleeced the media. And, oh yeah, had the media bothered to report this story two years, they would have found out that Clemens and Pettitte weren’t best friends then either. But, hey, that would actually require reporting and effort.
Now, I don’t care about the facts in this story. Does it matter to me if Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are friends? No. Do I care if they’re close or not? No. It impacts my life and the Yankees about as much as that overblown story concerning the quote-unquote fight that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are in. Whatever. This is baseball, not high school.
But this story matters because it’s yet another example of how the media gets things wrong. Switching gears for one minute, if you take a peak at The New York Times’ coverage of Saturday’s Democratic caucuses in Nevada, the article leads with the fact that Senator Hillary Clinton captured more votes than her opponents, and then the reporters conveniently slip in the fact that Senator Barack Obama will actually get more national delegates. You know how one becomes a presidential candidate? By capturing more national delegates. So who really won, other than the people reporting the story and selling papers?
This story from Nevada and the Clemens-Pettitte story are from opposite sides of the news spectrum. One is about a highly-charged partisan battle for the chance to run for the White House; the other focuses on two baseball players from Texas who are dealing with accusations from a shoddy report. Yet, these stories both have one thing in common: They are complex issues with shades of gray that media insists on presenting in black and white.
Everything is win or lose. Clinton either wins the most votes or loses the most votes; forget the more important delegate count. Clemens and Pettitte either are best friends because they follow each other to Houston or not. There is absolutely no leeway for anything else. Maybe Clemens and Pettitte were friends, but the Mitchell Report strained that relationship. Maybe Davidoff is right or maybe not. How are we to judge a story when, three years later, the media basically says they covered it wrong the first time? Does anyone care what the facts are?
There is, of course, one final explanation that would get the media off the hook, at least in this one case. Roger Clemens planted this story about his non-friendship with Andy Pettitte so that when Congress questions him about Pettitte’s admitted HGH use, he can avoid answering by pointing to the “revelation” that the two aren’t that close. I wouldn’t put that past the Rocket; would you?
Nothing in this post is an endorsement of any political candidate or party. I don’t care for whom you choose to vote. Please leave the partisan politics outside of the comments.