There are four Yankees fans who write for Sports Unbiased (Rich Stowe, Adam Solowiei, Mike Santangelo, and Mike Tursi) so we decided to ask those four some questions about the Yankees in 2013 and 2014, some questions about Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, and to finally decide who the greatest Yankees of all-time are.
This article deals with some questions for each player – Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera. There are also polls after every question that you can vote on as well to let your opinions be known.
With Andy Pettitte retiring, do you believe he is a Hall of Fame pitcher?
Rich Stowe: No, he’s not. Even without bringing HGH into the discussion, Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher. There are many pitchers with better cases not in the Hall currently (Mussina for example) and even though he has the most post-season wins in MLB history, his numbers in the post-season were “average” – 3.80 ERA etc. He was a “gamer” and if the Yankees had a big game and needed a big start, Pettitte was the man for the job, but that doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer.
Mike Santangelo: I am really on the fence about this. As a Yankees fan I, of course, think Andy Pettitte is the next thing to a god. The numbers Pettitte has for his career are compelling. 256 regular season wins with a 3.85 ERA playing mostly during the steroid era is an impressive tally. I don’t think we see another 300 game winner in baseball, so 250 may be the next plateau. Of course, the postseason is where Andy made his name with 19 wins and a reputation for always coming through in the big game.
There are two factors that might hold Andy back however. In reality, his career compares pretty closely to guys like Mike Mussina and David Wells, two pitchers who I don’t think will go in the Hall or really belong there. Neither of them have the postseason resume of Pettitte, but otherwise the careers are very close. Secondly is the PED admission. Pettitte is one of the few people involved with all of the PED stuff who handled it correctly. He admitted it, explained himself, said I’m sorry, and he moved on. Consequently, he became perhaps even more beloved afterwards. But, how that will affect him when it’s time for the writers to vote? I don’t know. I do know that guys like Clemens and Bonds are not in yet, and both of them were found innocent of any wrongdoing (Bonds obstruction of justice notwithstanding).
Mike Tursi: It’s a tough call even without the PED discussion, but yes, I believe he’s a Hall of Famer. Biggest reasons are he’s the only pitcher to play 15 seasons and never have a losing record. Also, compared to his peers (in the years he played), his ERA is 14% lower than the league average. Most postseason wins (19), second most World Series starts (22).
Adam Solowiei: This is very tough for me or other voters to decide depending on opinion. Pettitte has multiple World Series titles and more wins (256) than Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, and Sandy Koufax just to name a few current HOF members. He has a career winning percentage of .626 and a career ERA of 3.85 in the juiced ball/Steroid era. He has the most post-season wins all time (19) and started 44 post-season games. He took the ball in many deciding games and came through. But…he did use HGH (although he says only two times) and if I am going to punish other users for PED use than it would be hypocritical of me not to levy the same penalty. Do I think he is a HOF player? Yes but that mistake might just keep him out for a very long time.
Where does Andy Pettitte rank among Yankees starting pitchers of all-time?
Rich Stowe: I would rank him 4th behind Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, and Ron Guidry. There’s no denying what Pettitte meant to the Yankees of the late-90s. Ford is one of the best starting pitchers in MLB history, Gomez is a Hall of Famer and is underrated, and Guidry is very underrated as a pitcher so that’s why I would put Pettitte just behind those two pitchers. Plus, you can’t deny the HGH use even though “he used solely to get healthy,” that has to drop him in any all-time rankings.
Mike Santangelo: I think I would have to put Pettitte fourth among all starting pitchers. I almost wanted to say fifth, I grew up watching Louisiana Lightning (Ron Guidry) pitch, and I was contemplating him at fourth. However, in just four years more, Pettitte has 86 more wins than Guidry. Without even including the postseason stats, that was enough for me to change my mind. Ahead of Pettitte, in third, would be Red Ruffing with far more longevity, more wins, and while his postseason statistics don’t have the volume of Pettitte’s, the quality is about the same. In second I would have to put Lefty Gomez. Less longevity than Pettite, but a higher win percentage and a truly spectacular 6-0 record in the postseason. In first I think is no real surprise. The Chairman of the Board (Whitey Ford) was not only the best pitcher in Yankee history, but one of the best pitchers of all time.
Mike Tursi: He is 2nd behind Whitey Ford. Ford was the best, there is no doubt. But Pettitte isn’t far behind. His postseason dominance and regular season consistency are a credit to his durability and greatness. I don’t have the stats in front of be, but I believe that Pettitte has the best record amount Yankees in games he has started following a loss.
Adam Solowiei: To me it was ranking Andy with Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, and Red Ruffing. It was tougher than I thought as I peeled back the onion. Pettitte trails only Ford in WAR. He trails Ford and Ruffing in total wins and so on. In short I have Andy ranked third all-time behind Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing but ahead of Left Gomez. When you look at wins, games played, innings pitched, and strikeouts it is close. Ruffing’s 17 win average over 13 seasons and the Chairman of the Board’s shutouts, rings, and starts are the deciding factors between two and four. An incredible career puts Andy third on my all-time list.
Is Mariano Rivera the greatest pitcher (not just closer but among all pitchers) in MLB post-season history?
Rich Stowe: Yes. While some other starters might have a case (Bob Gibson for example), Mariano was simply untouchable in October (for the most part). An ERA of 0.70 in the post-season and only gave up two home runs. Yes, he only pitched one (or two or three) innings at a time, but each time he did, the game was on the line and if the Yankees won or lost was all on his shoulders. He was as automatic as you can be in the most pressure-filled situations a ballplayer can experience.
Mike Santangelo: Yes. I’ve seen all the arguments about how a relief pitcher cannot possibly compare to a starting pitcher in value, especially in the postseason. I even understand the argument being made – without the innings and effort of the starter, the relief pitcher never gets to even do his thing. I get all of that. But, there is no more pressure packed moment in a game, regular or postseason, than the 8th/9th inning with a slim lead. You are playing the best teams in the game, facing some of the best hitters, and you have to stop them from scoring one or two runs when they are desperate and fully focused to not lose. 141 IP, a microscopic .70 ERA, 8 -1 record, and 42 saves. That is 50 postseason games won directly because of the prowess of Mariano Rivera. Quick side note here, as much as I would have loved to see Mo pitch for one last year in the postseason, ending his career with 42 (his jersey number) postseason saves is nothing short of awesome.
Mike Tursi: Yes. His postseason dominance speaks for itself. Maybe he’s not a starter, but when he comes into the game, it is the highest of pressure situations. There’s no “rest of the game” to settle down, and he’s done it against the best in the game.
Adam Solowiei: While there are other pitchers in the conversation the answer is YES. Mariano Rivera has appeared in 96 career post season games, saving 42 with an ERA of .70, and a WHIP of.759! Mariano also carries an 8-1 record in the post season. Yes he has a loss but think about it, one loss (on a blooper) in 96 career post-season games. Obviously playing in NY in this era allowed him to play in so many post-season games but part of that reason is Rivera himself. The Yankees would not have won their five World Series without the greatest closer ever.
Who was more important to the Yankees five World Series titles from 1996-2009 – Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter?
Rich Stowe: Mariano Rivera. While Jeter was an everyday player, if he had an “off” game, one of the other many superstars could make it up (Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez etc). If Rivera failed, the game was over and the Yankees lost – plain and simple. If Jeter went 0-5 the Yankees still could win the game, if Rivera made one bad pitch the game was over.
Mike Santangelo: I hate this argument, I truly do. Obviously Mariano and the ice in his veins were as important as it got in closing out all five of those World Series titles. His ability to come in and shut down the best team in the NL time and time again (and sometimes for two or even three innings) was nothing short of amazing. It’s the reason that, in the last question, I stated he was the best pitcher in postseason history, starting or relief. However, Derek Jeter has basically played a full season of postseason games in his career. 158 games in total for Jeter. In that time he has batted .308 with an OBP of .374. Basically, Jeter has been the exact same guy in the postseason he has been throughout his career in the regular season where he boasts a lifetime .312 Batting Average with a .381 On Base Percentage. The ability to be consistent and play exactly as he plays in every other game is always what set Jeter apart in the postseason. It wasn’t that he was “clutch” so much as that he was NOT scared, or pressured, or nervous. He did the same thing he always did, game in – game out, postseason or regular season. Of course, that same sentiment can not be said about Mariano, whose postseason stats were actually elevated from his regular season stats fairly substantially. In the end, I refuse to choose one. I don’t think the Yankees win five titles without both of them there doing their thing – Jeter with the bat and the signature plays, Mariano sawing off bats and entering to Metallica. Without either, the titles just don’t happen.
Mike Tursi: Rivera. Yes, Jeter has more chances to affect a game. But Mo ends the game in the tensest situations. And he is nearly flawless. Jeter, as great as he is, isn’t flawless.
Adam Solowiei: How great for an organization is it to discuss which first ballot Hall of Famer is more important during the same era? Both started as full time players in NY in 1996 so it provides a great sample window. Jeter is the all-time leader in NY in hits and is over 3K for his career, 13 All-Star games and is seen as clutch when the big hit was needed. He is the face of the Yankees and no athlete has been under his scrutiny for such a long period and stayed squeaky clean. But at the end of the day Rivera is the greatest closer the game has ever known in both the regular and post-seasons. The simple fact that the Yankee mentality for almost two decades was to get the ball to Mo says it all. It was all but guaranteed or the closest you could get to a guarantee when he took the mound. No pitcher has been this dominant for this length of time EVER. In a debate that is fun to think about the answer is Rivera, flat out!
How many more seasons will Derek Jeter be a member of the Yankees and will he retire as a Yankee or will he try to continue his career elsewhere?
Rich Stowe: I think he has two more left. 2014 is a player option so I know he’ll decide to stay and I do think he’ll do well enough that the Yankees offer him one more year and give him a shot at 3700 career hits (he currently sits at 3316). He will not be the starting shortstop though, he will be a 3B/DH. I don’t believe Jeter will ever play anywhere else so he’ll retire with his entire career in pinstripes.
Mike Santangelo: I think Jeter only has a few years left in him. Especially if he can never get himself right from the most recent injuries. His chances of catching Pete Rose for the all time hits lead (and perhaps even getting to the 4000 hit mark) are virtually gone with the loss of this year, so he has no real other reason to keep going (aside from more championships). I’m not sure how much longer he has on his current contract, but I’d imagine that, however long it is, that will be it for him. At least, I hope that’s the case. I would like to see Jeter retire as a Yankee, and I think that’s what he wants as well. He’s watched the other three of the “core four” do it, now it’s his turn. If he decides to keep playing after this contract, I’m not sure the Yankees will want to pay him to do so, and seeing him in any other uniform just would not be right. I think both sides want the same thing though, to let Jeter do his victory lap just like Mo did this year, and then retire gracefully.
Mike Tursi: Jeter will play for the Yankees for three more season and he will retire a Yankee.
Adam Solowiei: 2014 will be his final year in the Bronx. I would like to believe he would want to retire in NY but I think Jeter will believe he can still play and sign with a “contender” for another run. The Yankees cannot pay him what he will ask to be the caliber of player he will become. It is just not logical. I would expect a five day contract at some point to retire a Yankee. That being said if the Yankees and Jeter can agree to a position change and a reduction in salary (below 10M) than there is a chance he stays in NY for a couple of more years.
About the Author: Rich Stowe
Rich Stowe has written for many sports-based websites over the years including Informative Sports.com, Sports Nickel.com, Dugout Report.com and was a Featured Columnist for MLB and the New York Yankees for Bleacher Report. Rich is a Lifetime member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). He is also a self-published author - his book "From Abused Puppy to Beloved Family Member: The Life Story of Jacob the Rottweiler" can be found for the Kindle and in print through amazon.com. Rich is currently serving as the Managing Editor of Sports Unbiased.com