The news no New York Yankee fan wanted to hear came today, as pitcher Andy Pettitte is hanging up his pinstripes.
Not only is this a sad day because Pettitte is a legend, but it marks the end of an era, as fans will never see the Yankees' “Core Four” play together again.
Where does this leave the Yankees heading into the 2011 season?
Without Pettitte in the rotation, there is no doubt the pressure is on.
In his 16-year career, Pettitte has 240 career wins, 203 of which were won during his 13 seasons in pinstripes. He has made 42 playoff starts, winning 19 of them, making Pettitte the winningest pitcher in postseason history.
So how could a 38-year-old southpaw be such a season-changer?
In 2010, after winning the World Series in 2009, Pettitte was having a career year and was named to the All-Star team.
Prior to a groin injury that put Pettitte on the DL on July 19, 2010, he had made a total of 18 starts. Pettitte’s record was 11-3, but the team went 15-3 in his starts. Pettitte didn’t return for two months, and he did struggle for his first two starts back, but he won his final regular season start and once again was dominant in the postseason.
Pettitte was a rock in the Yankees' rotation with a cemented reputation to come through when the team couldn’t. He provided a sigh of a relief when on the mound, because Pettitte was unswerving and reliable.
If anyone thinks that this is not a major blow to the Yankees, don’t listen because it is a complete lie. Pettitte’s absence will affect everything, from making the postseason to winning, if the team can qualify in the first place.
It puts a mandatory need to win on A.J. Burnett, which is the last thing he needs. It also leaves not one, but two holes to fill at the back end of the rotation.
The guys auditioning for these spots include Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre (I am completely against this), Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and a few promising prospects.
Honestly, looking at this group since the Pettitte news, which is still so fresh, is only providing me with abundant discomfort.
I would rather have Nick Swisher pitch than see Mitre start. Colon went AWOL in Boston and don’t think that can’t happen just because it’s New York. Nova can pitch well enough, as we saw last season, and he should be improved since he knew what to work on in the offseason. I hope the Yankees take a chance on a prospect, specifically Manny Banuelos, and just let him pitch.
Can the Yankees win without Pettitte?
With Pettitte, life would certainly be easier in the Bronx, but I believe the Yankees can still win without the southpaw. Here are a few things that now cannot happen:
Burnett’s role just went from critical to vital, and that is a tough spot to handle for anyone trying to prove himself again.
CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira cannot afford slow starts, as both tend to struggle in April, especially Tex, because last season it wasn’t until well into June until he showed any consistency.
Alex Rodriguez should be back to normal, unless the jet-setting partying with girlfriend Cameron Diaz has gotten in the way.
Joe Girardi has to break it off with Mitre; Mitre is NOT a starter, has never been productive and is injury prone. Mitre as a long man is the only spot where he has displayed any worth.
Girardi has to be on his game, because getting off to a hot start will help the team’s confidence sans Pettitte.
Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman will get a solid starter before the trade deadline, and New York is fit for a King.
I like the idea of letting a prospect fill the fifth spot.
The reigning World Champion San Francisco Giants had a 21-year-old in the rotation, Madison Bumgarner, who posted a 3.00 ERA in the regular season and won all his three of his postseason starts. Bumgarner turned 21 last August.
This will all be figured out as time goes on, but getting back to Pettitte, I have a few things left to say.
As a fan, it breaks my heart to know I will never see one of my favorite players on the field again.
I grew up with Pettitte and have seen him pitch in the Bronx countless times, including going to Philly to cheer him on in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series. Pettitte also had a clutch hit that game in a performance I will never forget.
The only feeling I have is that it has been an absolute honor to have Pettitte represent my hometown of New York City.
I wish him all the best in his future endeavors and hope to see him on Old Timers Day!