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Andy Pettitte deserves more Hall of Fame consideration

The old lefty is no slam dunk Cooperstown candidate, but in a more just world, he would poll higher.

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After Derek Jeter’s totally unsurprising selection as a first ballot Hall of Fame player, the next Yankee to enter Cooperstown is up in the air. Two players on the 2022 ballot would would obviously enter as Yankees, if selected: Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod, based purely on his stats, is a slam dunk selection, but of course his admittance to using performance-enhancing drugs and related suspensions may keep him out, as it has for the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. And while Pettitte is a beloved Yankee with his number retired by the franchise, his vote totals so far look like Cooperstown will be out of reach.

in 2021, his third season on the ballot, Pettitte was checked on 13.7 percent of the ballots cast, a far cry from the 75 percent needed for enshrinement. That seems like too big of a gap for him to make up, even over seven more years. However, I’d argue that Pettitte deserves more votes and consideration than he’s received so far.

Over 3,316 career innings pitched, Pettitte pitched to a 3.85 ERA, 3.70 FIP, and garnered 68.2 fWAR. In fact, by fWAR, he sits comfortably among the top 10 pitchers to take the mound since his debut in 1995. Of those other nine, four are Hall of Famers, three are future Hall of Famers, and the other two are, well, Clemens and Curt Schilling. All those numbers go along with his Pettitte’s World Series rings, the 2001 ALCS MVP award, and nigh-countless big playoff moments.

One reason to put Pettitte in the Hall is that, quite simply, the bar for entry for a pitcher has already been put below him. Jack Morris was inducted in 2018, and while he pitched about 500 more innings than Pettitte over the length of his career, his finished with only 55.8 fWAR. When Morris was inducted, his postseason heroics were cited by some as a reason — surely the same could be said to bump Pettitte up further.

Another (imperfect) example — when Clayton Kershaw retires, he’s pretty obviously going to get elected to the Hall. If he retired right now, which is not outside the realm of possibility, he would finish with only 1.3 more fWAR than Pettitte did. Now, obviously, Kershaw was able to build up that number in 862 fewer innings, but longevity is also frequently brought up as a point in favor of candidates too. I certainly don’t think Pettitte was the best pitcher of his generation, like Kershaw was — I’m simply pointing out, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly voter shaking my fist at the clouds, that it does count for something to pitch successfully for a long time.

It’s also possible that Pettitte’s admitted HGH use is knocking him off some ballots. It could (probably) just be his lower numbers overall. Unlike Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod, he was known to be a nice guy who didn’t alienate others, so that would perhaps keep some voters from declining to vote for him just for that. However, it’s obvious that drug use affects the ballot; otherwise the all-time home run leader would have had a plaque a long time ago.

But the ballots for the 2022 vote are trickling in, and it seems like Bonds, Clemens, and Sammy Sosa entering their last years of eligibility might be testing the voters’ adherence to PED use. Per Ryan Thibodaux’s Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker, Bonds, Clemens, and David Ortiz are all on track for entry — albeit with more than 60 percent of the ballots to be counted and likely drops ahead once the less-friendly private ballots are counted. Thus far, A-Rod has been on 46 percent of the ballots, which might be surprisingly high considering his absolutely brazen steroid use and the fact that people, to put it simply, do not like him. In the event that the dam breaks though and Bonds and Clemens are inducted, perhaps Pettitte’s annual numbers will start to rise in 2023.

Pettitte has only appeared on 11.7 percent of the ballots collected in 2022, so it’s pretty safe to say that the Hall isn’t calling this year, or likely ever in the eyes of the BBWAA. It’s unfortunate to see him polling so lowly, though. He’s been rightly honored by the Yankees for his contributions to the franchise, but the Hall of Fame itself would certainly not be sullied by his presence.