During a negotiation that seemed to unnecessarily stretch out longer than Lord of the Rings III, there were many occasions where all hope was lost for reuniting Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees.
It all started in late September, when the Yankees ordered Andy to receive a medical exam on his ailing pitching arm. The results came back surprisingly positive, determining that rest would heal all of his shoulder troubles. It was also vital that his elbow problems had never resurfaced. The Yankees now knew that 2008 may not be Pettitte’s swan song.
Andy stuck to his word throughout the entire process. He never truly flirted with any other team but the Yankees, even when the perception of larger offers was floated through media outlets. It was going to work out in NY and result in a chance to pitch in the new stadium, or it wasn’t going to happen at all.
It was clear that Pettitte’s agents (The Hendricks brothers) were clouding his head throughout the process, making him feel slighted and under-appreciated by the Yankees' offer. Egos were playing a large role. It was not apparent if Andy was thinking independently, or was driven to value his own ego over a fair and balanced contract offer.
If the final decision was to retire and walk away from the game he loves, there could not have been a much better ending. Andy was able to pitch the final baseball game ever played at The House that Ruth Built, and walked off the mound a winner. If it was his last immortal Yankee memory, September 21st would have been a perfect farewell.
Thankfully for the Yankees organization and its fans, Pettitte chose one more chance at a playoff run deep into October. He finally seemed to approach Brian Cashman as Andy Pettitte, and not as Randy and Allen Hendricks’ client. It was not that he came crawling back with his tail tucked between his legs. He simply returned to the negotiating table with the class and level-headedness we are accustomed to seeing.
Able to earn up to $12 million if he remains healthy enough to hit a reasonable innings limit, Andy accepted a deal that makes business sense for both sides. It is a riskier deal than the original $10.5 million guaranteed due to performance incentives, but he is confident that he can remain healthy and perform at a high level.
Following the onset of elbow issues in years past, Andy had dedicated himself to an extraordinary workout routine. Due to the Mitchell report mentioning Pettitte’s name and the countless hours and days spent defending himself, his offseason training was largely affected.
By his own admission, he headed into spring training far behind schedule, and it resulted in his arm breaking down in the second half. With a full offseason to prepare for the upcoming year, it is anticipated that he will return much closer to the 15-9 and 4.05 form from 2007.
After all, he started last season 12-7 with a 3.76 ERA before his shoulder troubles began in early August. There will be no better fourth or fifth starter in all of baseball if Andy can even come close to that performance for an entire season.
It remains to be seen if Pettitte will be close to the same crafty left-hander that has more wins than any active pitcher in baseball since his rookie year. Either way, it would not have seemed right to open the new stadium without hearing Andy’s southern drawl in a pregame interview.
It felt good to hear it again on Monday.
“With every singing that we did, for me it was, ‘OK, I’m coming back, I want to be a part of this.’ I wanted to play for the New York Yankees. I wanted to play in that new stadium.”
I think it is safe to say that the Yankees Universe is glad that you will be.