Multiple sources on Friday reported that New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte will retire at season’s end. The 41-year-old Pettitte is the oldest starting pitcher in the Major Leagues and this season has a 10-10 record with a 103 ERA+ and 1.394 WHIP. What we as baseball fans should ponder, is what we’ll remember most about him.
In terms of what his legacy should be, or what it is, seems very puzzling. In 2007, he was named in the Mitchell Report and afterwards, profusely apologized for using Human Growth Hormone. Despite the fact that such actions cannot be undone, Pettitte has not been crucified by fans and the media in the same way players like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun have been scrutinized. He basically has just gone about his business since the whole incident.
It seems because of this, Pettitte will more than likely never get a plaque in Cooperstown and there is debate if he has achieved enough to merit induction in the first place. Pettitte has been an All-Star just three times in his career, but then again so was Robin Yount, and Bert Blyleven was a two-time All-Star.
He had four top five Cy Young finishes in his career and was runner up to Pat Hentgen for the prize in 1996. In terms of World Series rings, Pettitte has five.
Pettitte was a winner. Some may criticize wins and losses, but at 255-152, he is 103 games over .500 and that usually is a good sign for pitchers looking to get into the Hall of Fame. Pettitte is the winningest pitcher in postseason history with 19 victories, has started more games than any playoff pitcher with 44, and nobody has thrown more innings in postseason play than Pettitte has, hurling 276.2 of them.
His name up there ranks among one of the greatest Yankee pitchers ever. Just two months ago, he placed his name above Hall of Famer Whitey Ford for most strikeouts in franchise history. In addition, only Ford and fellow Hall of Famer Red Ruffing have more victories in a Yankee uniform than Pettitte does.
However, critics could argue Pettitte was a compiler. In terms of WAR, he had three seasons that stand out with 5.6 in 1996, 8.4 in 1997 and 6.8 in 2005, but nothing besides those three seasons are overly impressive. His career ERA is 3.86; the highest ERA of a Hall of Fame pitcher is Ruffing with 3.80. His WHIP is 1.354, which isn’t anything to really write home about.
15 of Pettitte’s 18 seasons were in Pinstripes, while he pitched from 2004-2006 as a member of the Houston Astros. They went to the NLCS in 2004 and the World Series in 2005 while he pitched for them. He rejoined the Yankees in 2007 and he originally retired after the 2010 season, but came back in 2012 and 2013.
The Yankees have retired 15 numbers in honor of 16 players, as #8 is co-retired for Hall of Fame catchers Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Pettitte just may be the last Yankee to wear the #46 for the Yanks, but it is unknown if they’ll actually retire it. Keep in mind that the Yankees have not officially retired some numbers, but they haven’t reissued them to anybody either. Nobody has worn #6 since Joe Torre left. Jorge Posada retired in 2011 and a Yankee has yet to wear #20 since that time. Paul O’Neill wore #21 and it’s been 12 years (he retired in 2001) and counting since anyone wore that number. Bernie Williams last played in 2006 with the #51; no one has worn the same number since. Ichiro, who wore #51 with the Seattle Mariners, is #31 for the Yankees.
For all we know, Andy Pettitte’s retirement may not even be final. His first one wasn’t. Plus, with Jamie Moyer making a comeback for the Colorado Rockies in 2012 as a 49-year-old, anything seems possible.
If, however, 2013 is the last we’ll ever see of Pettitte, then he’s an interesting case. Steroids or not, he does have a Hall of Fame argument, albeit not the greatest one. If he is a Hall of Famer based on everything he has done, then steroids may have cost him, especially with how unkind voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America have been to known steroid users. People would say Kevin Brown had a nice argument for the Hall of Fame but he was named in the Mitchell Report like Pettitte was and as a result was one and done by getting less than 5% of the vote in 2011.
Pettitte may have a hard time staying on the ballot. In my personal opinion, I don’t think he’ll be one and done. He may fail to get 5% of the vote one year, but he’ll appear on more than one ballot. He may be a 10-15% type of vote-getter and I would say he’d get no more than 20% because of how strict the voters are on Performance Enhancing Drugs.
I won’t exactly say he’ll never get in, but if Bonds and Clemens ever get in (and it may take many years for that to happen), my anticipation is Pettitte would have an extraordinarily long wait and perhaps his only shot at ever getting in is through the Veterans Committee.
Or perhaps history won’t judge with the whole steroid thing as harshly. Maybe he isn’t a Hall of Famer, but people may remember his postseason brilliance, all his franchise records and the championships he won and can forgive his use of Human Growth Hormone.
In any event, let the debate begin.