In New York circles, the Andy Pettitte retirement watch has taken on an almost Brett Favre-like quality. Perhaps because the Yankees have had such a quiet offseason, “no news” on the matter has been reported with grave seriousness. The latest example occurred last night when the Daily News reported that Brian Cashman said Pettitte would not start the season in 2011. That story quickly made the rounds around the baseball world, setting off a Twitter firestorm and causing great panic in Yankeeland.
Well, not so fast.
Almost immediately after the original report was circulated, Cashman rebutted the inferences that were made from his comments and reiterated that nothing further had developed. In other words, Pettitte has still not made up his mind.
Pettitte’s indecision, the Yankees pressing need for his services, and the local media’s overreaction to the smallest developments are all direct parallels to the annual Brett Favre circus that has occurred over the past three years. Thankfully, however, the similarities stop there. For one thing, you can be sure that Pettitte’s holdout is not based on ego, but rather a genuine uncertainty about whether or not he still wants to play. What’s more, Pettitte has not been giving conflicted accounts of his intentions, nor has he been leaking his thoughts to favored members of the media. Finally, contrary to some Yankees’ fans insistence, he is not holding up the team’s preparation for 2011. Andy Pettitte is no Brett Favre.
Although losing Pettitte would be a blow to the Yankees, the urgency of his decision is not really as great as it may seem. After all, just look at Pettitte’s last three seasons in pinstripes. He pitched through an injury in 2008, had several starts skipped in 2009 and then missed two months in 2010. Based on that progression, it seems likely that even if Pettitte was already signed to a contract and working out like a devil, he would still miss a significant portion of 2011.
The Yankees don’t need Pettitte to make a decision about pitching the entire season because it’s likely that he can’t anyway. Just because the Yankees’ rotation has been weakened doesn’t mean the veteran lefty can turn back the hands of time. So, instead of trying to force Pettitte into returning by April, the Yankees might actually be better off if he settled on a mid-season start.
If Pettitte is going to miss a couple of months, it might as well be the first two of the season. Even though the division seems like a tall order with two-thirds of the opening day rotation still undecided, the Yankees remain a good bet for the wild card. Having a healthy Pettitte in October would be a vital part of another championship run, so that end game is ultimately what must dictate both Pettitte’s and the Yankees’ motivations. That’s why the if, and not the when, is the important question to answer.
Although it’s hard not fret at the notion of Pettitte actually retiring, that bridge doesn’t need to be crossed until the summer. In the meantime, the Yankees just need to hope that Pettitte will soon resume his offseason workouts…and, just to be safe, it might be a good idea if he avoided sending pictures from his cell phone.