No alarms and no surprises, please.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Today, a mistake will be undone.

I couldn't be happier about this. Today, Andy Pettitte returns to the New York Yankees. He never should have left. Intellectually, I understood it. The Yankees were afraid of his elbow. As it happened, they were right. Pettitte missed time to elbow surgery in his first season away from the Yanks. But after that lost season, Andy has been his typically durable self, pitching more than 200 innings in each of the last two seasons. Despite their well-founded concerns about his elbow, the Yanks offered Pettitte more money to stay in New York and he instead took less and went home to Houston. I understood.

Still, it hurt. See, to me, that was the true end of the Yankee Dynasty. Losing Paul O'Neill and Tino was one thing. They were older and declining. Tino later returned and Paulie went to the booth. But Pettitte was there at the start of all of this run and left to go somewhere else. I couldn't stand seeing him in Houston. To me, he's as much a Yankee as Jeter, Mattingly or Mantle. Those guys aren't supposed to leave their teams in their primes (32) and play somewhere else. Those guys stay in pinstripes their whole careers.

He came up in the summer of '95 when I had just graduated from RPI for the second time (long story) and had decided to blow off my nice new shiny mechanical engineering degree and open a bar with my Dad (another long story). So, while I waited that summer for the SBA to approve our loan and the complicated transaction to purchase our bar to go through, pretty much all I had was the Yankees and their rookie pitcher Andy Pettitte.

I loved the guy instantly. My Dad? He didn't see it (he has since come around). He'd say, "That guy you like tonight is pitching. What's his name? No control." I'd say, "I dunno why I like him. He just battles." He just battles. That is the essence of Andy Pettitte. Stat heads sneer at Pettitte and his legion of fans. The look at his career of giving up more hits than innings, walking too many batters and striking out too few and they chuckle. "Stupid Yankee homers! Andy Pettitte is soooo overrated. People just think that he's good because he plays for the Yankees."

Those people are wrong. He's not just good because he plays the Yankees. The Yankees were also good because of him. Many players have put on the pinstripes. Many of those have been chewed up and spit out despite the back of their baseball cards (see, Rodriguez, Alex). Not Andy Pettitte. He just battles. To me there's just one set of stats that truly represents the dude. 186 Wins, 104 Losses in the majors. 43 wins and 20 losses in the minors. The man is a winner (see?'s above photoshop even says so). Again, Stat Heads shrug their shoulders about how meaningful wins are, as there are obviously many factors that lead to a pitcher's victory. This, of course, is true. I'd also say though, that when your professional baseball record is 16 years long (minors and majors) and your record is 229-124, that is also statistically significant. And there are enough Jeff Weavers, Jose Contrerases and Kenny Rogerses in baseball to show that it's not as simple as just putting on the pinstripes.

The signature moment for Pettitte came in 1996 in Game 5 of the World Series. He started game 1 against the Braves at Yankee Stadium. He was terrible, gave up 8 runs and the Yanks never had a chance in that game. They lost game 2 in similar fashion. Things were not going well. A clutch performance from David Cone in game 3 followed by a miracle Jim Leyritz homer in game 4 tied the series. In Game 5, a rematch of Game 1 Smoltz and Pettitte. Smoltz was simply too much for the Yankees. He had won 24 games that year and would later receive the Cy Young award. Andy Pettitte had completely fallen apart in Game 1. Smoltz would not let his team down. He strikes out 10 Yankees and gives up only one unearned run due to a error by Marquis Grissom. In all, he should have been the World Series MVP, but to do that your team needs to win. They didn't. That's because Andy Pettitte put the Yankees on his back that night and was just one unearned run better than John Smoltz. For 8 and 1/3 innings, he shut out the Braves to beat them for the third straight time in their park. A truly herculean performance. He battled. He entered the Yankee fans hearts and never left.

Welcome back Andy.

Updated: Rain out. D'oh! Should have just entitled the post "a mistake will be undone".