Well, Andy Pettitte wants to pitch for the Yankees again and the Yankees want him back. This seems sensible after the way the season ended with Pettitte scoring the last victory ever at Yankee Stadium and given the need for the Yankees to have a left-handed pitcher in their rotation.
Andy Pettitte has been a great Yankee for many of years. Pettitte at times in the 2008 season (especially towards the end of the year) looked like a pitcher on his last leg. The real question remains: Is Pettitte worth bringing back? The very fact that we’re having this conversation of whether he should stay or go is really conflicting to a lot of Yankees fans.
First of all, very few Yankees have been as loved and as celebrated as Pettitte. He has been with the organization for his entire career (except for the three years that he spent in Houston.) Both he and the Yankees realized at the end of the 2006 season how much they needed one another. And Andy was embraced with open arms by George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre, Brian Cashman and the Yankees faithful. Exactly what the team needed: A True Yankee was coming home!
All in all, 2007 was a successful campaign. Pettitte should have won around 17-19 games. The bullpen blew a few games and he worked like a true ace in the playoffs allowing no runs in his start against Cleveland. Poor run support and an invasion of midges on Joba Chamberlain’s neck derailed Pettitte from another playoff victory in a career loaded with big wins.
But October of 2007 is where things started to change for the worse for Pettitte. Pettitte knew he was going to be a featured player in the Mitchell Report (the Bible for MLB steroids user—no matter how biased and incomplete it was) and he still exercised his 16 million dollar option to pitch the next year a day before the report was released. Pettitte an honest and simple man looked slightly dubious for his timing to say the least.
Granted, Pettitte handled everything pretty professionally for the way he owned up to using PEDs to recover from an injury. What also is an incomplete part of this whole saga is the notion that he may have to testify against Roger Clemens one day. Pettitte literally could be all that separates Roger Clemens from prison. (Imagine how agonizing it would be to know you could send your idol to jail.)
But now we must examine why the Yankees would bring back a .500 pitcher with a plus 4.50 ERA back into the mix. This seems like it could be a recipe for disaster if Pettitte doesn’t pitch well or gets hurt.
But here’s why he’ll most likely be back.
First of all, the Yankees don’t have the cold, calculating ownership that Boston has. If Pettitte were in Boston he simply wouldn’t be back because Theo Epstein doesn’t let emotion get involved in his decision making. He’s cold-blooded!
Don’t believe me; ask Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, two ridiculously popular Red Sox players that were shipped out of town when they were causing trouble for Boston. Johnny Damon wasn't brought back after all he did for Boston.
This is also the same guy that let Pedro Martinez walk after their 2004 World Series win! Hell, he might even let Curt Schilling walk after paying 8 million dollars to blow out his shoulder and he helped Boston get two World Series victories.
Also, it goes without saying, but I will say it anyways: Theo Epstein is making Cashman look like a moron quite a bit these days!
Secondly, the Yankees simply don’t have the depth in their farm system and team to be able to not resign him Pettitte. It’s more out of necessity that the Yankees will bring Pettitte back (if they do of course.)
The Yankees will also rely heavily on Mike Mussina who managed to turn his career around this season and win 20 games for the first time in his career.
It’s also why they gave an overrated Roger Clemens a pro-rated 28 million dollar contract to win 6 games for them last year. The Yankees are paying heavily for their poor drafts and the mistakes they’ve made because of the Steinbrenner paradigm that stripped the farm system bare for years.
If Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy had stepped up the way Brian Cashman thought they would (and the way he staked his reputation that they would) Pettitte would be expendable if both of these pitchers had thrown about 140-150 innings and won 13-15 games.
Also, what should scare Yankees fans is that they had a horrible draft this year not nailing down their 1st and 3rd round picks (who were both pitchers) to any deal whatsoever. (I wonder when Damon Oppenheimer will start feeling the heat from Cashman for some of the choices he made.)
So, realistically, here’s the possible rotation for New York next year: Pettitte, Mussina, Hughes, Wang, Chamberlain, Burnett and Sabathia. And Kennedy could sneak in there at some point. It could be any mix of those five. And with injuries the way they are, especially to the Yankees, they could need all of those starters just to plow through the regular season. Even with all of those players, they may not make the playoffs!
Lastly, many Yankees fans don’t want to part with Pettitte yet. He did win the last game in Yankee Stadium ever. He’s been a beloved fixture on this team for quite some time now. If her were to go, it would be another jarring example of how long ago the Yankees were dominant and how far gone the late 1990’s are.
It’s sad in a way that Yankees fans feel this way, but they do. Pettitte will always have a special place in the hearts of Yankees fans for his gem that he pitched against Smoltz in the 1996 World Series. He’ll always be remembered for the way that he won Game 2 of the 2003 ALCS and the way that he was professional and accountable.
But more than anything: The Yankees should know that bringing Pettitte back is no slam-dunk to be successful. The wheels looked like they were falling off at the end of the season.
Maybe he comes back rejuvenated because he doesn’t have to answer for the Mitchell Report and he can have a whole off-season to train, prepare and get ready and not have the mental burden of what happened last off-season. Or maybe, midway through the year the Yankees realize they made a mistake bringing him back. It could really go either way!