Capping off a tumultuous offseason in which the Yankees seemed to have been denied every player they really wanted, Andy Pettitte has decided to retire. While we can hold out hope that Andy changes his mind at some point and joins the club for the second half ala Roger Clemens, this leaves the Yankees with very little margin for error in their rotation. They need CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and AJ Burnett to pitch well, and have to get decent production from at least one of their young pitchers or reclamation projects. They still project to win about 90 games and to be better than the other wild card contenders, but the gap between them and their closest competitors is very slim, such that one injury to a top 3 starter could really hurt their chances of making the postseason. There is no way to spin this as anything other than a blow to the Yankees championship hopes.
As for Andy, he is a fan favorite here in New York, and rightfully so. For many of us, watching him blossom from a prospect into a rotation stalwart was an important element of the beginning of our Yankee fandom, as Ben Kabak eloquently notes:
I grew up with Andy Pettitte. I was 12 and he was 23 when he came up to pitch in the Majors. I saw him morph from a prospect to a team leader and a stalwart in the rotation. I’ll certainly miss his stare, his familiar leg kick, his pick-off move and the fact that he would pitch every five days and give it his all. We’re all growing up and getting older, and it just won’t be the same in the Bronx without him.
There will be a lot of eulogizing done over the next few days, both for Andy’s career and for the Yankees 2011 season. Discussions of Andy’s Hall of Fame worthiness are likely to dominate the former, while gratuitous shots at Brian Cashman and the Yankee front office are likely to characterize the latter. We will address these issues over the next few days. For now, let’s just tip our caps to a great Yankee. Andy Pettitte will be missed.