Andy Pettitte's return could increase his chances of getting in...

Andy Pettitte's return could increase his chances of getting in the Hall of Fame. Credit: Getty Images

I believe Andy Pettitte when he says he's back for the love of the game. His modest salary of $2.5 million, assuming he returns to the majors, reflects that.

Yet Pettitte could benefit personally beyond a few more bucks or even another World Series candidate. As a bubble Hall of Fame candidate, this second act could get him into Cooperstown.

When I looked at Pettitte's career after the 2010 season, I saw a player who probably would fall just short on my personal ballot. Especially when I anticipate the traffic jam that figures to form as players such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens become eligible and, presumably, receive the 5 percent support necessary to stick around but not the 75 percent required for induction.

The same issue likely to keep out Bonds and Clemens, illegal performance-enhancing drugs, could impact Pettitte, who confirmed the Mitchell Report's dish on him back in 2008. Not for me, though. I'm concerned primarily with his numbers, and right now, his numbers make me think "close, but not quite."

Now that he's pitching again, however, Pettitte -- with 49.9 career wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference.com's count, plus 263 very good postseason innings -- could put himself in my "very likely yes" column with a duplicate of his solid 2010 season.

Oswalt lurking

If Pettitte were more of a mercenary, he could've made things more interesting, set himself up for a midseason return and signed with the highest bidder. Then again, that role already has been filled this season by Pettitte's old Astros pal, Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt is planning to return to the major leagues sometime in June, which would give teams sufficient time to assess their current options and then decide how badly they need an upgrade. The Cardinals already are candidates, given that Oswalt prefers them and that ace Chris Carpenter is battling neck issues. You know that the Phillies will spend to bring Oswalt aboard if one of their current starters gets injured, and Detroit was very interested in the offseason.

One other club on which you should keep an eye: The Angels. They reached out to Oswalt once he made clear his intention to hold out for a midseason return. They also tried to acquire A.J. Burnett from the Yankees, remember.

Cohen's turnaround

Last May, a sense of happiness swept through Major League Baseball headquarters. The beleaguered Mets ownership, in need of a cash infusion, seemed to find a match in David Einhorn, who appealed to the powers both because of what he had (oodles of cash) and what he didn't have (skeletons in his closet).

That distinguished him from Steven A. Cohen, a hedge-fund magnate like Einhorn who came under scrutiny last year when United States attorneys -- as reported by The Wall Street Journal -- examined trades made in an account overseen by Cohen. The trades were suggested by two of Cohen's former fund managers who pleaded guilty to insider trading.

Now Einhorn is out of the Mets' picture and Cohen -- having purchased a $20-million minority share in the Mets -- is a leading candidate to acquire the Dodgers from their beleaguered owner, Frank McCourt.

So what happened? The lack of bad news from Cohen's world has made MLB more confident about the Great Neck native's viability as an owner. No sport is going to turn down owners based on what might happen, particularly when the owner's net worth is about $9 billion.

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