"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

In a Sentimental Mood

Well, I’m not taking this very well.

I’ve written a lot about Andy Pettitte this winter, and of course by now, with spring training less than two weeks away, it’s not exactly a shock that he’s retiring. It’s bad news for the Yankees, whose rotation is not exactly AL East-ready, but I’m more bummed that I just won’t get to see Pettitte pitch anymore. More than any other current player he appeals to the lizard-brain part of my fandom, formed when I was still more or less a kid, and went to the Stadium for the first time, and had my mind blown. Andy Pettitte was on the mound when I fell in love with baseball, and I don’t think I can really be objective about him, even after all these years.

The is-he-a-Hall-of-Famer discussion has already broken out, and I think the answer to that is probably no. But he was certainly a pleasure to watch. Even more so in his later years, when he relied less on stuff and more on control and, for lack of a better phrase, know-how. The stat-head in me hates using wishy washy phrases like that — he had grit! he was gutty! — but like I said, when it comes to Pettitte I really can’t help myself. As I’ve written in this space so many times over the last few years, Pettitte just knew what the hell he was doing out there.

It’s interesting how little his admitted PED use seems to have affected his reputation. I’m not someone who gets particularly exercised about steroids in general, but even so, it’s usually a factor I take into account when looking at someone’s career. And I’m as cynical about athletes as the next person. Yet, when Pettitte says he only used it two times when he was injured once and then stopped, I do find myself believing him. I don’t know why and it’s probably not intellectually justifiable. I got to talk to Pettitte only a couple of times back in 2006 and 2007 when I was writing for the Village Voice, and yes, he was remarkably nice and seemingly sincere, though perhaps not the world’s deepest thinker. He didn’t seem annoyed to have to answer questions, he looked you in the eye and thought about his answers. That may not sound like much but for a star player, it kind of is.

But anybody can play nice in the clubhouse for a few minutes. I think more than that, what endeared Pettitte to fans is how we all saw him react to games: he was harder on himself than anybody else ever was. Paul O’Neill-style, but without the rage. When he pitched poorly he excoriated himself afterwards; when he pitched well, he always focused on his lucky breaks or the things he could have done better; and when he pitched excellently he praised his catcher. Every time. No wonder that, per Jon Heyman, “Pettiite is telling people he is feeling good but he just couldn’t get up for the grind of the season.”

Anyway, forgive me for the uncharacteristically sentimental post, but Andy Pettitte just has that effect on me. Maybe that’s why I’ll miss him so much, and why I regret that the fans won’t have a chance to say a proper goodbye, embarrassing the heck out of him on the mound.


1 Start Spreading the News   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:25 pm

He will be missed. I don't think he comes back to baseball as a coach or manager. So this is it. Good luck to him.

I think part of his decision is that he never really was a big city guy so part of that grind was playing here in NYC. If he played his whole career closer to home in Houston, maybe he pitches this year.

2 rbj   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:27 pm

Me too Emma.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:30 pm

an all-time yankee great. the HOF is great for certain things, but as yankee fans, we don't need

i know i'm biased, but for me having your number retired by the yanks is the greatest honor in baseball - and andy deserves that honor, no doubt.

4 thelarmis   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:42 pm

anybody heard from weeping? i hope he's okay!

[3] yeah, no more donovan osbourne's wearing #46!

5 RIYank   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:48 pm

Damn it.

6 thelarmis   ~  Feb 3, 2011 3:57 pm

[5]...all to hell. and back again...

7 BobbyB   ~  Feb 3, 2011 4:01 pm

Just like those years he was playing for Houston it's going to be weird not to see him every fifth game. I'm sure he made the right decision, though. The time you have with your family and your children is terribly short and he's earned the right to spend as much time with them as he can.

8 edoubletrouble   ~  Feb 3, 2011 4:13 pm

Big loss of the heart of our team

9 Shaun P.   ~  Feb 3, 2011 4:17 pm

"and why I regret that the fans won’t have a chance to say a proper goodbye"

Yeah, me too. Something tells me Pettitte prefers it this way.

It still sucks.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 3, 2011 5:04 pm

As much as it really hurts the team in 2011, simply having to say goodbye to Andy Pettitte is what hurts the most. In a way, I am glad he got the chance to go out on top before fans started calling for him to be jettisoned after a bad season, but I do lament that he is probably leaving too early, and perhaps forfeiting a chance at bolstering his Hall of Fame case. I don't think that means much to Pettitte, of course, which is what made him so special.

Yankees fans are going to have more of this farewells in the near future, so we'd better get used to them. However, the consolation is Old Timer's Day in about 10 years is really going to be a lot of fun.

As for the PEDs, I can't more emphatically say who cares. That's pretty much my general position toward them, but in Pettitte's case I don't for a second doubt that his use of them was as benign as he stated.

11 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2011 5:12 pm

Excellent post, Emma. Andy was an easy guy to root for, and be proud of. I loved watching him work.
He was a tough competitor, and a smart pitcher. More than the prototypical crafty lefty, he was a horse, a guy you could always count on. If he failed, you knew he gave it his best, and you knew there weren't too many other guys, if any you'd rather give the ball to next time.
He gave us a lot of great games, and huge wins. He might not get to Cooperstown, but he'll be forever honored in the Yankees Hall of Champions in our hearts and memories.

12 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2011 5:20 pm

[10] exactly how I feel about the HGH admission. I believe he did it to heal, and not to add mph to his fastball, or to gain any other advantage. But his drug use doesn't matter to me mostly because he admitted it was a wrong, and stupid thing to do, and apologized. I require nothing more from him on that subject.

13 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 3, 2011 6:28 pm

You know, my one feeling all winter was Pettitte wasn't going to leave us in the lurch,

He did, but I can't get too angry as long as he stays retired. Family really should take precedent over baseball.

14 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 3, 2011 6:31 pm

[10] I always thought Pettitte used his "aw shucks" reputation to his advantage. I'll always believe that he and Roger planned to go to Houston in 2004 from the very beginning and that Roger's retirement was nonsense.

I also never bought Pettitte's story on HGH. I think if anyone else said it we'd all be calling it ludicrous.

15 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:02 pm

[13] He didn't leave the Yankees in the lurch. He didn't commit to coming back, and then change his mind. That would be leaving the team in the lurch. He said all along that retirement was a possibility. I didn't think he was coming back in October, and I'm not the least bit surprised he's retiring. Since he started working out a few weeks ago, I thought there was a chance he'd try to play part of the season, but he didn't give anybody any reason to be counting on him this year.

[14] Pettitte's HGH explanation might be ludicrous if it came from another player, say Bonds, or Clemens, but I believe him, and my belief has nothing to do with him being a Yankee great. Not all players used the same PEDs for the same reasons, at the same frequency.
But again, I really don't care what he took, or why. He admitted it, and apologized. That's 100% more respectable than most players who used, or still are.

16 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:07 pm

[15] change that last sentence to:
That makes Pettitte 100% more respectable than 99% percent of the players who used, or still are.

17 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:13 pm

With Andy's retirement, and excluding the rehabbing (!) Jamie Moyer, who is NOW the active leader in wins in the majors?

Answer later.

18 monkeypants   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:19 pm

[14] i agree with you on this. I never bought his absurd and changing story at all, which ( as you say) he got away with. The one thing that I am glab about is that no one (yet) has dredged up the everyone-believes-andy-because-he's-white argument.

Anyway, as much as I have enjoyed watching him pitch, including watching him in AAA during my days in Columbus---and as much as I was a huge fan at the time of the Yankees being forced to to use one of their prospects and having it pan out---i have never really been a particularly huge Pettitte fan. In all honesty I am not all that broken up over his retirement.

Lastly, i don't really hink this will hurt the team all that much because even if Andy had come back, 1) i doubt he would have been as effective as last year, and 2) he was almost certain to miss major time, againwith injury. It's a blow, but not critical.

That said, Sergio Mitre is smiling.

19 monkeypants   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:20 pm

17) CC or Wakefield???

20 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:21 pm

[18] I think no one believing Roger or Big Mac threw that argument out.

21 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:22 pm

[19] Im gonna guess Oswalt.

22 monkeypants   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:27 pm

20) oh i agree, in theory... but just as the sun comes up in he morning, stories like this inevitably bring out the racism argument.

23 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 3, 2011 7:55 pm

how can you guys say Pettitte got away with anything? Some people believe him, many others don't, and either way, his admitted use is going to dog him the rest of his life. He's labeled forever. It's his own fault, of course, but to suggest his "aw shucks" demeanor helped him get away with MLBs "Crime of The Century"(tm), now that's ludicrous. He's just not as hated as the cheats who won't admit it.

24 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:01 pm

[23] Agreed...I am not sure where the smoking gun is with Pettitte. Regardless of whether you believe his story or not, the bottom line is HGH isn't a performance enhanced anyway. Pettitte has no link to anabolic steroids, and for that reason more than any other, I think you can completely dismiss any notion that he was unfairly aided by an illegal substance.

25 monkeypants   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:03 pm

[23] He only admitted to anything and sort of apologized ("If I did something wrong...") because he got caught, and even then (as I recall) he changed his story. And the story he came up with is preposterous. So, in the end, I feel that he lied, lied some more, and grudgingly gave a half-apology over something was going to dog him forever anyway because he got caught. And I definitely believe that has gotten less flak than others who kinda-sorta admitted and sorta-kinda apologized (e.g. Mark McGwire) largely because of his aw shucks reputation. Whatever. It doesn't matter all that much to me.

26 byebyebalboni   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:06 pm

[22] Sure, because there has never been any documented racism in the sports media in the last 20 years. Alla figment of those tree hugging lefties imagination, damn them! Nope, nothing to see here folks, no racism in sports media at all, move along.

So long Andy P, I will miss you dearly! :__(

27 monkeypants   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:06 pm

[24] The issue is not whether he was aided or not, but whether his "admission and apology" was sincere, since it is his sincerely that seemed to earn him so much respect/forgiveness/etc. I have never believed the sincerity of his (multiple) explanation(s); I think his story is so absurd that it must be a flat lie, which undermines any thought that his kinda-sorta apologize was heartfelt. In the end, he pulled a snow job on everyone who thought "wow, what a man for admitting his mistake and apologizing."

28 RIYank   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:15 pm

My bet is that HGH for recovery does more for a player's career than anabolic steroids. The evidence isn't all in yet, but so far that's how it looks. Returning earlier from an injury adds counting stats. Steroid induced muscle mass may not add anything to performance at all.

But I don't care about this either. He broke a rule. He shouldn't have. And when he felt forced to hold a press conference about it, he hedged a little. Small deal.

29 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:17 pm

[24] well Pettitte's stated reason for using HGH, if one is to take him at his word, was to come back from an injury. So in that case the idea of "performance enhancement" is relative to what the expectations of using the HGH was. He didn't use it to "throw harder" per se, but to get back onto the field.

Either way, was his excuse a croc? Eh, maybe. If it was said by, lets say, Curt Schilling as opposed to Andy, would I give it as much creedence? No, probably not. Its all a moot point anyway, seeing as how when I think of Andy the whole HGH saga is somewhere around 47th down on the list of things I think of, right behind a no-decision vs. Kansas City on a Tuesday in May in 1999.

30 Diane Firstman   ~  Feb 3, 2011 8:27 pm


Tim Wakefield [193]

31 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 3, 2011 9:04 pm

after having a few hours to digest is anyone else in a REALLY reflective mood, not just about Andy but about basically the last 15 years of your life as a whole?

32 byebyebalboni   ~  Feb 3, 2011 9:07 pm

(31) Yes , I would agree. Although this is nothing compared to when Mariano retires. I imagine thousands of cyber tears will be shed that day.

33 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 3, 2011 9:28 pm

I know I've been resigning myself to this for months now but I just can't deal.

I'm going to cry.

34 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 3, 2011 9:38 pm

I feel fucking sick.

35 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 3, 2011 9:41 pm

I wanted one more year.

Just to say goodbye.

36 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:11 pm

35) and that is why we'll appreciate the final days for posada and jetes and mo! Go yanks

37 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:19 pm

[25] I disagree completely. I found his story to be very plausible. If you think he lied so completely, then I guess I can understand your position. I just happen to think he dabbled in something about which he knew little, realized it wasn't a good idea and once it became exposed decided to own up to it. It wasn't a heroic deed, but compared to the reactions of some others, I can see why some viewed his admission as an expression of nobility.

38 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:24 pm

[28] The "best" science wouldn't agree: http://tinyurl.com/ybrwuju

39 RagingTartabull   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:32 pm

[37] I don't think plausibility is the issue, sure what he said was plausible. Rafael Palmeiro also thinking he was taking Vitamin B is plausible, that doesn't make it likely.

I think what it comes down to is WHY as fans did/do we decide to give Andy the benefit of the doubt? Mostly because we "know" him for years and we want to believe him. And thats ok, I fall into that category myself. But looking from it objectively, there really is no reason to believe his story other than "I like Andy, therefore I will believe Andy"

40 byebyebalboni   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:36 pm

[39] That makes sense. Also, there are many of us who don't care at all about steroids or PED usage. I see no difference between them and Tommy John surgery.

41 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 3, 2011 10:50 pm

I think it will be time to confront my mortality when Jeter retires. He's a couple of years younger than I am, and I remember having a casual interest in his career from when he was picked in 1992; hearing the talk that he was a shaky defender, but thinking for no reason at all that he might be someone I'd wanna root for. Glad that worked out.

As for Andy, I feel bad for ya, Weep (I guess you should modify your name for the upcoming season as tribute), but as I might have stated earlier, I'm glad he made a decision and didn't let this turn into a soap opera. The local media alone would have loved to have made this into a derisive moment in Yankee history akin to LeBron's Decision, but thankfully the opportunity has passed and we can honor him for his finer contributions as a Yankee and move on.

[20] well um, since you brought it up... :)

42 thelarmis   ~  Feb 3, 2011 11:00 pm

[33] oh good. i was wondering where you were...

[31] yeah, i just had time to think about all this. now that i've digested it...

this f**cking sucks ass. i already miss Andy a ton. hasn't made reflect on the past 15 years as much as it's making ponder the next 5, as we say goodbye to the rest of the "core." i mean, it's not possible to say goodbye to Jeter or Mo. just isn't...

43 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 3, 2011 11:10 pm

[39] I'm no lawyer, but I'd like to play one on TV. And I agree with you; from what we've been presented with Pettitte, there's not much reason to suspect that he means what he says, although his admission pokes holes in his veracity in general. But given the evidence (totally different from what he does outside of the public eye), I would suspect his demeanor is genuine; in fact, I believe it would be giving him too much credit to suggest that his public persona is calculated for effect. I suspect other players have done and continue to do so that, but there are not a lot of accounts of Andy being anything other than what he presents himself to be.

An interesting game would be to rank the perceived sincerity of these five Yanks:

In order of which is most believable and sincere to you as a fan and perhaps why you feel that way. My bet is there are certain behaviors that sway us to believe one person over another that a calculating person either has great control over or stumbles with, while a sincere person can't help but be that way. I chose these five because their personas have been in my opinion the most dynamic and longest tenured.

44 thelarmis   ~  Feb 3, 2011 11:14 pm

[43] not only am i a lawyer, but i also play one on tv. that's just how i roll.

but i did just have a root beer with dinner. i toasted one Andrew Eugene Pettitte.

i can't believe i won't ever get to watch our Golden God pitch live again... : (

45 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 3, 2011 11:23 pm

[44] I'll take a sip of that and pour some on the floor for ol' boy. Well done, Mr. Pettitte. And, if nothing else, I'm glad you go out on your own terms.

46 thelarmis   ~  Feb 3, 2011 11:31 pm

i couldn't ever imagine retiring. never in a million lifetimes would i ever choose that route. and not just out of necessity. it is a major difference in occupations. if i "retired," i would seize to breathe...

47 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 4, 2011 12:00 am

Guys in your profession don't retire, they just drop dead. There's one difference >;)

Me, I'd just turn into a consultant and get paid more for less work...

48 monkeypants   ~  Feb 4, 2011 8:03 am

[37] He undermined his own credibility by giving multiple explanations, each time after he was forced when more evidence was revealed. His initial "admission" was shown within two months to be a lie. That makes me a lot less likely to believe his second admission.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver