Two great baseball players wrapped up their careers late last month. Andy Pettitte, the pitcher with the most postseason wins in major league history, and Todd Helton, a three time Gold Glove winner and National League (NL) Batting Champion played at the highest level for 18 years and 17 years respectively.
Although Pettitte spent three seasons with the Houston Astros, he will always be known for his career as a New York Yankee. His record of 256 wins and 153 losses does not seem that impressive until you compute his winning percentage of .626; which ranks him 16th ahead of Hall of Famers Tom Seaver, Carl Hubbell, Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson, and even the great Walter Johnson (Pouliot, 2013). Many baseball fans would argue that this awesome winning percentage has more to do with the fact that Pettitte was a New York Yankee during an incredible run than him being a great pitcher.
Todd Helton spent his entire 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies, which by itself is an amazing fact in this day of free agency and what seems to be constant movement of ball players.
The 2000 NL batting champion (.372), Helton hit over .300 in 11 other seasons and finished with a career batting average of .316. Combined with a career .414 on-base percentage and a .539 slugging percentage, he is in some pretty exclusive company.
“Only eight players in major-league history . . . The others: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams” (Saunders, 2013). Skeptics point to the fact that Helton played half of his career games in the thin air of Denver, a hitter’s paradise.
With the retirement of great players, like Andy Pettitte and Todd Helton, comes the inevitable question, is he a Hall of Famer? I would argue that if you have to ask the question, the answer is always NO! Sure the numbers for both put them on lists with Hall of Famers. Any time you are on a list that includes Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that is extremely impressive.
Here’s my point, though: Do you think anyone ever asked the question, “Is Babe Ruth a Hall of Famer?”
The Hall of Fame is the shrine of baseball and should be reserved for the no-brainers of the sport. Both Andy Pettitte and Todd Helton were great players, but there are hundreds of great players in the Major Leagues every year. Of these hundreds of great players, only a select few deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I truly believe if you have to ask the question, the answer must be no.
Another great player retired this year: Mariano Rivera. I challenge you to find anyone who asked this question about the Greatest Closer of All Time. There should be no need for questions or discussions; it should be simple: Mariano Rivera retired – see you in Cooperstown in five years, Mariano!
Pouliot, M. (2013). Andy Pettitte’s complicated Hall of Fame case. Retrieved from hardballtalk.nbccports.com/2013/09/20/andy-pettittes-comp;icated hal-of-fame-case/
Saunders, P. (2013). Is Todd Helton headed to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame? Retrieved from www.denverpost.com/rockies/ci_24203070/is-helton-headed-cooperstown
Stephen L. Butler, Ed.D., the Dean of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Butler has been a huge baseball fan for over 50 years.