Because, as Brian Cashman told reporters at the Winter Meetings yesterday, “this is what he always does,” I’ve half-assumed that Andy Pettitte would come back for another year. And if I had to put money down, I’d still guess that he will… but I also sort of conveniently forgot that he was now 38 years old and coming off a groin injury. Anyway, that Cashman line prompted my to look up the excellent Sports Illustrated lunch conversation between Tom Verducci and Musketeers Pettitte, Jeter, Posada and Rivera from just before spring training last season:
SI: How about when the season ends? You talk? Text?
Pettitte: We text.
Posada: We stay in touch. We try to get Andy to come back. ‘Andy, please come back. Please come back.’
SI: You guys took a picture together after the last game at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Do you guys do that every year?
Posada: Yeah, it’s Andy’s idea.
Rivera: Yeah, and it’s great because you don’t know how long we’re going to be together.
Jeter: We’ve done it other years because we did it when Bernie [Williams...] was there, too, right?
Posada: We’ve done it since ’03 because Andy’s been retiring since ’03.
Yesterday Andy Pettitte made a very Andy Pettitte-like call to Brian Cashman, and Chad Jennings at LoHud has the rather heartwarming details:
Andy Pettitte called Brian Cashman today. The message was vague and uncertain, but the purpose was direct and to the point. Pettitte still hasn’t decided whether he’s going to retire, but he had to make sure his indecision wasn’t negatively affecting the Yankees offseason.
“If I had to bet at some point, I think he’ll play,” Cashman said. “But he’s telling me right now he’s leaning the other way. He just doesn’t want to hold us up.”
Cashman said there was nothing Pettitte said that gave him reason for optimism, he simply believes — because “this is what he always does” — that Pettitte will eventually have a change of heart and decide to pitch one more year. For now, though, it’s completely up in the air.
This is a little gesture, but it’s one that a lot of players wouldn’t bother to make, and it’s things like this that give Pettitte his aw-shucks good guy reputation. When he finally does retire he will be hugely missed, and as always I just hope it isn’t this year. Aside from the fact that, especially in light of recent Red Sox developments, the Yanks could really, REALLY use a solid lefty this season, I want Pettitte to come back so that the fans can get a chance to say a proper goodbye. I remember someone pointing out, in Pettitte’s final 2010 playoff appearance, that it could be his last time in a Yankee uniform, but he hadn’t said anything yet, and the moment went almost entirely unacknowledged.
I have never really cried over baseball, but the closest I came was probably the 2001 World Series – those miraculous comebacks and, especially, the crowd chanting Paul O’Neill’s name. Of course the fall of 2001 was highly emotional for other, much more significant reasons, but that moment really got to me — and to O’Neill, who got awkward and embarrassed and teared up himself. It was Yankee fans at their best (the Bombers were losing at the time, after all), and the old Stadium at its most alive. That particular moment won’t ever be recreated, but Andy Pettitte deserves his own sendoff. He started, and won, the very first game I ever attended at Yankee Stadium – in 1995; I was 13 – and I would very much like to be there for his last. When all’s said and done I suppose you have to evaluate Andy Pettitte as a very good pitcher rather than, on the whole, a truly great one, but he had so many great and big and gutty games over the course of his career, and no player features in more of my Yankee memories.