FanDuel - WFBC

March 20, 2006

Leiter calls it quits: One of baseball's best big game pitchers, an enthusiatic competitor, and one of the game's really good guys is moving on.

posted by BullpenPro to baseball at 07:09 AM - 46 comments

Some may be inclined to jump at the "best big game pitchers" claim, particularly with an all-time 2-3 record in the post-season, so I'll back it up: 1997 World Series, Game 7: with everything on the line, Leiter starts and holds an Indians club that had scored 42 runs in the first six games to only 2 runs over 6 innings. He left down 2-0, but he kept his team well within reach, and... well, you know how that turned out. October 4, 1999: The Mets have a one-game playoff against the Reds to determine the NL's Wild Card. Leiter pitches a complete game shutout to send the Mets to the post-season. Huge. 1999 NLDS, Game 4: With the Mets up 2 games to 1 and trying to move on, Leiter had given up only 1 run to the D-backs in 7 innings. In the eighth he was removed with 2 outs and 2 on. Benitez blew the save in a game the Mets went on to win anyway. 1999 NLCS, Game 3: With the Mets down 2 games to none against the Braves, Leiter gives up 1 unearned run (throwing error on a double steal by Piazza) in seven innings. He is pinch-hit for in the seventh, the Mets never manage to score against Tom Glavine, and they lose 1-0. (Admittedly, Leiter would go on to get rocked in the decisive Game 6 of this series, unable to make it out of the 1st inning, but in his defense he was going on short rest.) 2000 NLDS, Game 2: The Mets had lost Game 1 and were trying to avoid going down two in a best-of-five. Leiter gives up a single run to the Giants through eight innings. In the ninth, leading 4-1, Leiter gives up a leadoff double to Barry Bonds, then gives way to Benitez, who AGAIN blows the save. The Mets win in extra innings. 2000 World Series, Game 1: Facing the indomitable Yankees, Leiter gives up just two sixth inning runs to the Yankees and leaves after seven with a 3-2 lead. Benitez AGAIN blows the lead in the ninth and the Yanks win in 10 innings. 2000 World Series, Game 5: In the decisive game, Leiter gives up just two runs through eight innings and enters the ninth in a 2-2 deadlock. He strikes out the first two Yankees he faces, but a tired warrior starts to slip. With the Mets having lost faith in their bullpen, and with the help of an error by Jay Payton, Leiter gives up two runs (only one earned) and loses. This was kind of a 2003 Pedro situation, but few people complained about leaving Leiter in there after what he had done for the club. He was a freakin' horse. Throw in that the guy pitched a no-hitter, saved the Yankees rotation in July of 2005 when he was picked up off the scrap heap, winning a pivotal game against the Red Sox, appeared in each of the first four games of the 2005 ALDS against the Angels and won a crucial Game 4 to send the series back to Anaheim, and this is a much better career than his raw numbers dictate. I personally love this guy (as you can probably tell). I wish him well.

posted by BullpenPro at 08:11 AM on March 20

Seems like he was a good guy, for sure. So... do they Yankees have plans to replace him?

posted by jerseygirl at 08:23 AM on March 20

So... do they Yankees have plans to replace him? Leiter saw the handwriting on the wall -- he had already been replaced. The Yanks definitely didn't have a rotation slot for him, so his role, if any, was likely to be as a lefty specialist out of the pen. Given that the Yanks had signed Mike Myers and Ron Villone as lefties in the off-season, Leiter was quite likely on his way to an invitation to Columbus at best. It's too bad, but with Johnson, Mussina, Wang, Pavano, Wright, Chacon, and Small all seemingly ahead of him he just had nowhere to go, and I don't think he just wanted to hang on with a Tampa Bay or Kansas City. Good for him that he took the graceful exit instead of pitching until the phone stopped ringing. His intellect and sense of humor will certainly land him in the broadcast booth if he doesn't decide to switch to politics.

posted by BullpenPro at 08:34 AM on March 20

I've always liked Leiter- a class act for sure. All of a sudden, for some reason, I'm feeling a little queasy about having Benitez on one of my fantasy teams!

posted by Bury Bonds at 08:45 AM on March 20

I never realized how different Leiter's record would have been if Benitez wasn't such a mess in big games. Anyway, I'm sure people will disagree, but I thought Leiter was pretty good in the broadcast booth when he did playoff games on Fox. He always seemed excited to be there and to drop little tidbits that the others (I can't even remember who they stuck him with) weren't privy to.

posted by Jugwine at 08:45 AM on March 20

Leiter was always tough-as-nails on the mound and, in his prime, a great big-game pitcher. Baseball (and sports in general) could use as many Al Leiter's as possible.

posted by dyams at 09:00 AM on March 20

Al "the Ingrate" Leiter -- a class act?? "The cloud of unpredictability hovering over Leiter isn't limited to the playing field. "When Leiter jumped ship from the Blue Jays to sign with the Marlins before the 1996 season, then-Jays president Paul Beeston criticized him for being disloyal to a Toronto organization that had been patient with him through several injury-plagued years. "So when Leiter returned to the SkyDome to face the Jays in August during interleague play, he addressed that lingering issue by referring to himself as "Paul Revere" while talking to reporters. "Don't you mean Benedict Arnold?" he was asked. "Oh, I guess I do," came the reply." Paul Beeston is one of the most respected men in MLB the past two decades. He never said anything bad publicly about any player -- except Al Leiter. If it hadn't been for the patience of Beeston and Gillick, Leiter would have been thrown to the wolves. They carried him for years. Sure, a professional athlete can do whatever the rules allow him. But while the rest of y'all can go on fantasizing about Al Leiter being a "class act," there's a few of us out here that believe he was an ingrate prick, and to Leiter I say good riddance, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

posted by the red terror at 09:59 AM on March 20

red terror.....YOU ARE BANG ON....what a selfish, self-centred prick......we called him MR BLISTER when he was a blue jay. always had great stuff...but what a lack of loyalty. selfish and miserable with the fans. good riddance to bad rubbish....this is me....buh-bye

posted by tommytrump at 10:37 AM on March 20

Beeston? The guy who said, "I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get any major accounting firm in the country to agree with me. All I need is a sharp pencil and a good eraser." (In fairness, Beeston was trying to make a point, not a confession.) Leiter's move to Florida included a $2 million leap in salary (from $700-some-thousand). I don't know what the Jays offered him, but it certainly wasn't the opportunity to be near his Fort Lauderdale home. And, after several years of injury-riddled seasons, you might begin to wonder how well your team is taking care of you. At the very least, you may be eager for any change of scenery. As to Leiter's class, he won both the Branch Rickey Award and the Roberto Clemente Award. I'm sure you can win both of them and still be a first-rate jerk, but that hasn't been my experience with Leiter, nor that of many people I know who have spent any time with him. And as to loyalty, it's a two-way street. For Beeston to go public on Leiter sounds like a rare moment of sour grapes from someone who should certainly know that his is a business that does not foster and rarely rewards loyalty at any level.

posted by BullpenPro at 10:50 AM on March 20

paul beeston is one of the most respected men in baseball. the blue jays were more than fair with MR BLISTER. they waited SEVEN years for his blister to heal. maybe if he did some physical labour his fingers would have been a little tougher...what's the matter al??? are you soaking in the palmolive??? he is the only player beeston ever was disappointed in for leaving the blue jays. and by the way. there are nice homes in the toronto area that al could have moved his family to. and far fewer murders and shootings. so....get back in the bullpen PRO! you're OUT OF THE ROTATION! and the jays offered as much money as the firesales...oooops...i mean marlins

posted by tommytrump at 11:02 AM on March 20

Leiter comes into the majors in 1987, and in 18-plus years, that's the only public knock on him? I agree with Bullpen's last statement above about Beeston. There are also no lack of reasons to want to get out of Canada, whether your an entire organization, or an individual who wants to have your contract where the dollar is worth more. Loyalty IS a two-way street. When Andy Petitte left New York, the team in which he grew up and was on several championship teams, did he feel a loyalty to stick around? No. Should he have? Maybe, maybe not. He went for a better offer, and nobody blames him. I don't think one problem which was made public defines Leiter's whole career. Players come, players go in sports these days. Team loyalty basically went out of style in the '70s.

posted by dyams at 11:07 AM on March 20

or an individual who wants to have your contract where the dollar is worth more. Just a quick note: all of the Toronto Blue Jays contracts are in American dollars. They do not pay them in Canadian dollars.

posted by grum@work at 11:16 AM on March 20

it's too easy dyams........i'd have a battle of wits with you...but i won't take on an unarmed man. so...u think MR BLISTER should leave toronto...one of the great cities of the world...because he wants to go where the dollar is worth more???? what a putz. all baseball contracts are in american dollars....so.....by living in toronto....his contract would be worth more...as the canadian dollar was worth less at that point. his yankee bucks would go EVEN FURTHER! as far as loyalty being a 2 way street...what does seven yrs of patience waiting for his finger to feel better constitute?>?????????? the blue jays have a reputation in baseball as being one of the PREMIER organizations in so far as taking care of their employees. by the way.....every now and then...american teams move to canada as well.

posted by tommytrump at 11:16 AM on March 20

Loyalty in professional sports???? While I know Toronto is a wonderful city why all the talk of over paying for their most recent acquisitions? You assume that Leiter would live full time in Canada? Would he have to pay income taxes twice or at a higher rate? I believe Florida does not have a state income tax.

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 11:43 AM on March 20

what does seven yrs of patience waiting for his finger to feel better constitute? It constitutes a really, really inexpensive opportunity to hope for the best -- that Leiter will deliver what he eventually did after he left the Jays (and maybe save a little face after essentially handing Jesse Barfield to the Yanks, though in retrospect that deal was a lot of nothing). I can understand why Jays fans might be bitter about Leiter's career path and not want to hear anything good about him. Tommytrump, you seem to have dug in your heels, and I'm not going to even try to brow beat you into thinking otherwise. Every fan has that player (or list of players) that they will just never forgive for leaving their team, and that kind of passion is a good thing. I'll let dyams address your excessively personal comments himself, as he is quite well equipped to do, whether you want to concede it or not. /heading back to the "bullpen," out of the "rotation," taking my own warm rememberances of post-Toronto Leiter with me...

posted by BullpenPro at 11:48 AM on March 20

I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss, and I can get any major accounting firm in the country to agree with me. All I need is a sharp pencil and a good eraser." The success and size of professional athletics in the United States is do to this very fact. If it weren't for Bill Veeck and some creative accounting, sports would be a much smaller enterprise that still had some player-owners.

posted by yerfatma at 12:01 PM on March 20

There's only room for only so many selfish, self- centered pricks on any one team. With the addition of Damon maybe the Yankees were above the limit.

posted by INOALOSER at 12:02 PM on March 20

Goin' on nine years now, tommytrump. Get over it. Leiter left, and for a guy with so many blisters and problems it didn't keep Florida from offering him 2 million more than he was making his last year in Toronto. Showing so much rage over a guy who left almost a decade ago, and wasn't much more than a .500 pitcher, shows the real "putz" is staring back at you when you look in the mirror. I'll remember Leiter's great performance (in a losing effort) against the Mets in the World Series. You can fixate on blisters. Plus, Mr. Wits, easy on the excessive question marks and punctuation.

posted by dyams at 12:31 PM on March 20

who are you dyams?? the grammar police? i'll use whatever punctuation marks i want...and easy on the redundancy...as in....question marks ARE punctuation marks. interesting that you remember as leiters' "GREAT" performance a LOSING EFFORT. that's poetic. by the way a 2-3 post season record with a 4.63 ERA hardly constitutes a GREAT BIG GAME TOUGH AS NAILS pitcher.

posted by tommytrump at 01:11 PM on March 20

I don't know if I would classify Leiter as an all time big game pitcher. He had his moments to be sure but I think the real 'Leiter Lesson' is that if you can throw 80+mile an hour strikes left handed you can play for a long time and make big bucks.

posted by stofer71 at 01:19 PM on March 20

Hey, tommytrump. Way to stick up for your right to use 20 question marks at the end of a sentence. I just wanted to save you a little time that could be better used for you to tend to the world's blister problem. You've been on this site what, about 15 minutes, and you start getting personal and cocky? Go back to the ESPN message boards where other angry nitwits post. Just a few comments on the American dollar/Canadian contract issue. While the contracts are paid in American dollars, that doesn't impact what a Canadian team can offer a player. Each cent of fluctuation between the value of the Canadian and U.S. dollar means a $400,000 swing. When you have 80 percent of a team's expenses (payroll, farm system, travel and scouting) in U.S. dollars and 70 percent of your revenues (ticket sales, local television rights and sponsorship) in Canadian dollars, you're behind from the start and always operating near a loss. The Blue Jays have endured some of the highest operating losses in all of baseball at more than $50 million per year in recent seasons. A player like Leiter wanting to go from that difficult situation to Florida, especially when it's his home, isn't too difficult to comprehend.

posted by dyams at 01:36 PM on March 20

Al The Ingrate Leiter spent a full 4 seasons being pampered and accomodated by the Blue Jays before he even won a game for them. The Yanks traded The Ingrate to the Toronto Blue Jays early in the 1989 season, and shortly after being traded The Ingrate went on the DL and underwent arthroscopic surgery in September. From 1990-92, The Ingrate appeared in only eight games with the Blue Jays, thanks to arthroscopic surgery, an irritated nerve in his left elbow, tendinitis, and recurring blisters where The Ingrate complained that he had to keep his fingers soaked in pickle brine. In fact, The Ingrate didn't record his first win in a Toronto uniform until 1993. No player was ever treated with more patience than Al Leiter, and Leiter repaid that patience by getting himself inducted into the Major League Hall of Ingrates. To call him a class act is a total nosestretcher. Having said all that, I'm glad The Ingrate went elsewhere, because baseball teams require chemistry, not selfish whiny-ass titty-babies like Al Leiter.

posted by the red terror at 01:38 PM on March 20

who are you dyams?? the grammar police? i'll use whatever punctuation marks i want Perhaps, but not here. Consider the concept of a Social Contract before you decide what you will and will not do in a public forum. F'r instance, I might call you any number of names or assume you half a sped due to your lack of familiarity with the standards of punctuation in English (and I'm willing to accept conventions from either side of The Pond, though I remain . . . sceptical, if you will, that you're aware of any body of water larger than the business end of an outhouse). But I won't. Social Contract and all that, my good chap.

posted by yerfatma at 01:49 PM on March 20

dyams....i NEVER used 20 question marks at the end of a sentence. the most was ten. i have been on this site for a long time, and besides which, even if i was a 'rookie' i believe i'm still entitled to my opinions, you really need to work on your math skills. every penny fluctuation in the exchange rate between wankee bucks and the canuck loonie represents about 150000, not 400000. sticks and stones may break my bones...but names will never hurt me. angry nitwit??? wow....that's clever...is that the best you got? ya gotta love livin' in florida.....no state income tax...and the opportunity to get shot at almost every day.....mmmmmm sounds like paradise to me!

posted by tommytrump at 01:53 PM on March 20

even if i was a 'rookie' i believe i'm still entitled to my opinions Yes, but we'll respect your opinions only if they're written in clear and proper English. C'est la vie.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 02:14 PM on March 20

ya gotta love livin' in florida.....no state income tax...and the opportunity to get shot at almost every day.....mmmmmm sounds like paradise to me! Tommy- you should change that to no state income tax and an opportunity to drink shots almost every day. It is paradise

posted by TOASTY POSTY at 02:18 PM on March 20

all of my opinions have been written in clear and proper english. if your biggest problem is that someone used a couple extra punctuation points you have a pretty good and easy life. N'EST PAS?

posted by tommytrump at 02:20 PM on March 20

all of my opinions have been written in clear and proper english Must have been in some other thread then. Or are you claiming all the gibberish in this thread was straight facts, homey?

posted by yerfatma at 03:14 PM on March 20

not CLAIMING anything home boy......no gibberish coming from me...just from the syncophant supporters of one of the biggest jerks and cry babies of the major leagues in the last 20 years. word to yo' momma

posted by tommytrump at 03:20 PM on March 20

sorry...i misspelled there...sycophant

posted by tommytrump at 03:25 PM on March 20

As the disembodied spirit of Babe Ruth is my witness, I never thought that the retirement of Al Leiter would generate more than 5 comments. I mean, come on people. It's Al Leiter. This is like getting worked up about Andy Benes or Rick Sutcliffe. Jeez.

posted by grum@work at 03:29 PM on March 20

Grum, I think that little bit of wisdom pretty much ended this thread.

posted by RScannix at 03:50 PM on March 20

My name is Jerseygo Girltoya and you have insulted Rick Sutcliffe. Prepare to die.

posted by jerseygirl at 03:51 PM on March 20

What about Alan Benes? I always pulled for the lesser of two talents.

posted by yerfatma at 04:10 PM on March 20

you have insulted Rick Sutcliffe. Prepare to die. Yeah, leave the Red Baron out of this.

posted by willthrill72 at 04:31 PM on March 20

My name is Jerseygo Girltoya and you have insulted Rick Sutcliffe. Prepare to die. But I only have 5 fingers on each hand! Five! Ahhhh! I would have chosen Kevin Appier instead of Sutcliffe, but I've always liked him and he's still kicking at the can (as a minor-league invite with Seattle), so I went to options #2 and #3.

posted by grum@work at 04:44 PM on March 20

Jerseygo Girltoya That is so going to be my next alter ego, once the Dr. retires.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 06:20 PM on March 20

My name is Jerseygo Girltoya and you have insulted Rick Sutcliffe. Prepare to die. I think you're looking for Antonio Alfonseca. no gibberish coming from me...just from the syncophant supporters I'd rather be a syncophant supporter than an athletic supporter. Really, is syncophant even a sport? This is like getting worked up about Andy Benes or Rick Sutcliffe. Jeez. Boo. I thought this comment was funny until you revealed that you were just going down the "Similar Players" list. Much more impressive if you just pulled this kind of mediocrity out of the air. I don't know if I would classify Leiter as an all time big game pitcher. Quiz: name five better big game pitchers of the last twenty years.

posted by BullpenPro at 08:59 PM on March 20

5 better pitchers ...here ya go...jack morris, roger clemens, mariano rivera, pedro martinez, and curt shilling, if u don't accept rivera because he's a reliever, randy johnson is a fine substitute. gee that took about 25 seconds i'm sure i could list ten more if you wanted.

posted by tommytrump at 10:24 PM on March 20

He said five better "big game" pitchers, which isn't the same as five "better" pitchers (he already gave a list of big game performances by Leiter).

posted by justgary at 11:17 PM on March 20

Quiz: name five better big game pitchers of the last twenty years. Dave Stewart - the only blemish is the last two games he pitched in the playoffs. This is countered by his miraculous performance against Chicago in the 6th inning of this game. Bases loaded, nobody out, and he escapes without giving up a run. Mariano Rivera - even if he's "just" a reliever, he's still insanely great in the post season and the big games. He's one of the few pitchers I'd let into the HOF based on his playoff performances alone. 0.81 ERA in over 100IP? That's just crazy. Orlando Hernandez - 9-3, 2.55 ERA in the post season, plus he always seemed to come up big when they needed him to. Curt Schilling - great numbers (even with the 2004 ALCS) plus he's got historic performances in 1993 and 2004 World Series as well. I can only think of 4 off the top of my head (and then investigating if they were, in fact, money). Randy Johnson and Jack Morris don't really have that great numbers in the post season, and are really just floating on one or two legendary appearances. Martinez and Clemens are also fantastic regular season performers (two of the best in the past 100 years), but their post-season histories are a bit sketchy in comparison.

posted by grum@work at 12:47 AM on March 21

Boo. I thought this comment was funny until you revealed that you were just going down the "Similar Players" list. Much more impressive if you just pulled this kind of mediocrity out of the air. Meh. I just wanted to make a point that we weren't exactly talking about a legendary pitcher. To be fair, I originally chose Jeff Fassero and Frank Viola (off the top of my head), but when I saw the similar players list, I liked those options better. (even though Viola appears on the Leiter's list)

posted by grum@work at 12:51 AM on March 21

I like Al Leiter and wish him well. And Jerseygo Girltoya is the coolest name ever.

posted by fenriq at 12:52 AM on March 21

Really, is syncophant even a sport? Oh, great. Open up that can of worms, why don'tcha?

posted by The_Black_Hand at 04:54 AM on March 21

g@w: David Cone

posted by yerfatma at 05:47 AM on March 21

Just a few comments on the American dollar/Canadian contract issue. While the contracts are paid in American dollars, that doesn't impact what a Canadian team can offer a player. Each cent of fluctuation between the value of the Canadian and U.S. dollar means a $400,000 swing. When you have 80 percent of a team's expenses (payroll, farm system, travel and scouting) in U.S. dollars and 70 percent of your revenues (ticket sales, local television rights and sponsorship) in Canadian dollars, you're behind from the start and always operating near a loss. The Blue Jays have endured some of the highest operating losses in all of baseball at more than $50 million per year in recent seasons. A player like Leiter wanting to go from that difficult situation to Florida, especially when it's his home, isn't too difficult to comprehend. Sorry, while more true of the team for the last ten years, your statement is not exactly accurate about the time in question. Leiter left the Jays along with three other prominent free agents after the strike season of 1994 along with Roberto Alomar, Devon White and (I forget but I think it was) Paul Molitor. This was exactly one year removed from Toronto's back-to-back World Series victories. Leiter was the guy the Jays wanted to hang onto, but no team seemed to be as hurt financially as the Jays were coming out of the strike. Prior to the strike, the Jays in 1992 and 1993 had one of the highest payrolls in the majors and no trouble attracting free agents to play in front of 4 million fans in what was then the most state-of-the-art facility in MLB. The strike lost them half their fans and a huge chunk of their revenue. The spectre of Canadian taxes and an undervalued dollar never seemed to be an issue. So while Leiter was correct in leaving a winning team that had its day (after all, a big chunk of the team was leaving with him), he had yet to experience this "difficult situation" that you speak of.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:06 PM on March 21

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