The Week That Was in Baseball: January 31-February 6, 2011
Andy Pettitte Closes Shop • The Mostand LeastImproved Teams for 2011
Desert Deadball in Phoenix? • The Passing of Woodie Fryman
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This Yankee Rests
A quiet and religious man, Pettitte pitched 16 seasons and accumulated a terrific 240-138 record and finished 2010 with an 11-3 mark and 3.28 ERA in 21 starts. He twice won over 20 games, was named to three All-Star Games (including last year in Anaheim), and was masterful at picking off opposing baserunners. Performing during the heart of the steroid eraa time in which he would later painfully admit he was not entirely cleanPettitte’s ERA figures were never overly wowing, usually finishing with marks above 4.00; his most stifling campaign came outside of the Yankees, during the 2005 pennant-winning run for the Houston Astros, where he joined former Yankee teammate, friendand current legal foeRoger Clemens to produce a personal-best 2.39 ERA to go with a 17-9 record.Because of the increased postseason format after 1994 and the Yankees’ annual ability to make the playoffs, Pettitte holds numerous postseason records including wins (19, against ten losses), innings pitched (263) and starts (42). But does he belong in the Hall of Fame? That’s a tough call. Pettitte’s knack for winning undoubtedly stands out, but as he never suffered from a losing record, neither did any team that he played for. Who made it possible for the other to win? Does Pettitte get supported with 5.3 runs per start if he plays the majority of his career with Toronto or Seattle or the Chicago White Sox? We may not agree, but Pettitte’s case for Cooperstown will likely be one where affiliation trumps true efficiency.
Hold the Humidor
Forbes Poll of the Week
Hope Springs EternalEven in Pittsburgh
The Last Shot?
Blowin' in the Wind
Woodie Fryman, 1940-2011
A year later, Fryman won a career-high 14 games for the Tigers but soon found himself in Montreal, where he would spend most of the rest of his career, including an effective stint after turning 40 as a part-time closer. Fryman is so well remembered by Expo fans that he is in the team’s Hall of Fame (if one actually, physically exists); despite what some think, he was not the father of 1990s infielder Travis Fryman, who was also born in Kentucky and played as well for the Tigers.
The Winners and Losers of Winter
The Most Improved:
The Boston Red Sox. The additions of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (via trade) and outfielder Carl Crawford (via free agency) give the Red Sox a powerful lineup that’s almost an embarrassment of riches. They also shored up the bullpen when it appeared it would evolve into a weakness. All this, while the other AL East teams have slipped a notch or worse. Boston was something of an afterthought last season; this is now their division to lose.
The Oakland A’s. Sensing that the AL West is ripe for the taking, general manager Billy Beane has gone somewhat for broke with the limited funds given to him by owner Lou Wolff. The A’s have added Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus and Josh Willingham to the lineup and added Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes to an already strong bullpen. But perhaps the most important addition of all will be the new trainer, who will try to keep the habitually beat-up A’s healthy.
The Milwaukee Brewers. With Prince Fielder contracted for one more year, the Brewers have bulked up in a roll of the dice to take the NL Central. The major moment in the offseason came when the Brewers traded for former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, and the shrewd addition of Shaun Marcum from Toronto gives the team further strength in the rotation and provides solid balance for an offense that’s already postseason-ready.
The Detroit Tigers. The Tigers felt they needed an extra kick to keep up with the Joneses of the AL Central, and so they snatched catcher Victor Martinez and shortstop Jhonny Peralta off the free agent market to beef up an already sound offense. They also acquired set-up reliever Joaquin Benoit, so good for Tampa Bay last year, and made a cross-your-fingers move by replacing the departed Armando Galarraga with veteran starter Brad Penny.
The Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes, the Dodgersthe dysfunctional, divorce-ridden Dodgers. There were no major moves made here, but the Dodgers did accomplish mid-level upgrades at second base (Juan Uribe), with the rotation (Jon Garland) and the bullpen (Matt Guerrier, from Minnesota). More important is that they didn’t suffer any major departures, outside of Manny Ramirezwho was mentally gone for most of 2010, anyway.
The Least Improved:
The Tampa Bay Rays. An expected exodus took place with the payroll-challenged Rays, as the team bid farewell to Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, Matt Garza and Joaquin Benoit. Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon have signed on as veteran replacements, and that’s great if this was 2001, not 2011. With much talent left over, the new season will not be a first-to-worst campaign in St. Petersburg, but the drop-off threatens to be telling.
The New York Yankees. Almost nothing was done to improve on a team that’s aging before everyone’s eyes. Yes, closer Rafael Soriano was added from Tampa Bayas a set-up manbut that’s a move that won’t make a major impact unless Mariano Rivera goes AWOL. The biggest headache for the Yankees was their utter failure to land a solid starting pitcher, so there’s extra pressure on Ivan Nova and Andrew Brackman to grow up fast.
The New York Mets. Here’s one thing the Yankees won’t have to worry about: Limelight theft from their crosstown rivals. The best the Mets could do this winter was to land former San Diego pitcher Chris Young, who could break down again at any moment. Beyond that, the Mets threaten to become an even bigger horror show than last season, with overpaid talent, an ownership in financial crisis and the return of (yikes!) Francisco Rodriguez and Oliver Perez.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels did snag Vernon Wells from Toronto, but Wells and his annual $20 million price tag do not come off as an agreeable offset for the loss of catcher Mike Napoli (last year’s team leader in home runs), outfielder Juan Rivera and designated hitter Hideki Matsui; the team also did not seriously address replacing closer Brian Fuentes, given away late last year. This is still a talented team, but on paper it hasn’t advanced from last year’s dismal showing.The Toronto Blue Jays. Not too many tears were shed north of the border when Wells was dealt on to the Angels since it relieved the Blue Jays of that daunting contract, but a lighter wallet means trouble in the beast known as the AL East. Futhermore, the Jays let go of catcher John Buck (who had a mild breakout last season), pitcher Shaun Marcum, outfielder Fred Lewis and closer Kevin Gregg. They’ve bulked up their bullpen with Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, but the gains hardly outweigh the pains of loss within the roster.
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