Thank You, Andy Pettitte

    Monday, February 7, 2011, 11:53 AM [General]

    It’s taken me three days since Andy Pettitte announced his retirement to write a piece on the man that I consider to be one of the greatest Yankees of the past two decades. I did not know how emotional I would become on word of his decision, and so it has been a somewhat dismaying process for me to get my thoughts together, or for the very least write a piece deserving of my feelings toward Andy.

    Although for weeks it seemed as though his decision to walk away from the game of baseball seemed inevitable, there was still hope, always hope, that the competitor in Andy would show itself, just one more time, and Yankees fanatics could rejoice in knowing they’d see #46 stare down batters for one more season.

    But that’s not going to happen. Andy gave his “not so” final farewell this past Friday in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. I say “not so” final farewell because, although he was more than adamant that he would not pitch this season, he wouldn’t discount a possibility of a comeback afterward.

    “I believe I’m done.” Andy said. “I don’t know what I’m gonna feel like…two months from now; three months from now.  I am not gonna play this season; I can tell you that 100%. But, I guess you can never say never; I don’t think I would be scared if I literally went through this whole season, and I just had a hurtin’ in my stomach saying ‘I wanted to pitch;’ that ‘maybe I would try it again.’”

    And so there still lies hope. But as he continued to address the media, you could feel in his words as he reflected on his career and as he spoke of his dear family whom he has walked away from baseball to be with, that his final game on October 18, 2010, a loss to the Texas Rangers in game 2 of the ALCS, was his final game. Thus, the end to a storied career.

    For many fanatics, Pettitte’s retirement came with anxiety. On Thursday, minutes after YES Network’s Michael Kay tweeted that Andy was indeed going to announce his decision the next day, the twitter boards lit up with talk of how, now, there was no way to save the Yankees rotation. That, with Andy out of the equation, the Yankees hopes of a title run were slim to none. We don’t know how true that is, of course, as the season has yet to get underway, and it could very well end up being the case toward season’s end. But I didn’t care about any of that. For me, all that talk and speculation could have been, and should have been, an afterthought to the reality that Andy Pettitte was retiring from baseball.

    What has Andy meant in the grand scheme of our national pastime? The stats tell it all:

    16 MLB seasons

    240-138 career record

    3.88 career ERA

    3rd amongst Yankee pitchers all time with 203 wins (Whitey Ford - 236, Red Ruffing – 231)

    2nd amongst Yankee pitchers all time with 1823 (Whitey Ford – 1956)

    2nd in starts among Yankee pitchers all time with 396 (Whitey Ford – 438)

    Career WHIP of 1.36

    Career OPP of .270

    Two 20+ win seasons (1996, 2003)

    5-time World Series Champion

    3-time All-Star (1996, 2001, 2010)

    2001 ALCS MVP (2-0, 2.51 ERA, .90 WHIP)

    Postseason career: 19-10, 3.83 ERA, 173 SO in 43 starts

    Most postseason wins in MLB history with 19 (John Smoltz – 15, Tom Glavine – 14, Roger Clemens – 12)

    Most postseason career starts with 43

    Winning-est pitcher from 1995-2010 with 240

    The stats don’t lie. They reveal the greatness of a man whose contribution not only to the Yankees, but to baseball, will be remembered, compared, analyzed and argued for as long as fanatics and the gatekeepers of the greatest team in all sports keep his legacy alive. But stats don’t even begin to tell the whole story of who Andy Pettitte is, was and always will be to his fans, teammates, friends and the family whom he loves more than the sport that made him so beloved.

    Pettitte as a player was gritty, fierce and unrelenting. He gave his all every time he stepped out on the mound, peering just above the rim of his pitching glove—formidably—at his opponent. His only cause: to win the game. It wasn’t to be admired by the tens of thousands of fans in attendance watching the game, or by the millions of others tuning in at home; it wasn’t to hear fans at the stadium cheer him on as the Bleacher Creatures gave their roll call; it wasn’t simply for the sake of adding another game to his starts stats, or in the hopes that another win could put him closer to Cooperstown. It was always about the moment for Andy, to win that game and put his team closer to winning a championship. That was his job. That’s all he ever wanted to do.

    As a man, ok, I’ve never met him. But I’m a pretty good judge of character. I’ve heard enough sounds bites from Pettitte himself, I’ve read enough articles from sportswriters who’ve had the pleasure of talking with Pettitte and from bloggers who follow the Yankees and have gotten to know Pettitte, to make an assessment of what kind of man I believe Andy Pettitte is.

    Andy, is a humble man. He’s never taken the game of baseball for granted, believing that his successes were owed and not earned. Coming from a small Texas town and rising so brightly to the top of an exceptional career, Andy never forgot his beginnings and never once made it seem as though his job, to pitch, was just some talent that was rightfully bestowed upon him so that he could bask in the glory of wins and domination.

    It was exactly the opposite. It was a grind. It was a struggle. It was a fight every year for him to prepare himself both mentally and physically to compromise his arm in order to give his team and his fans everything he had. But it was what he loved and he was the best at it for the last 15 years. Yet, I bet if you told Andy that, actually gave him the numbers to prove it, he’d blush—partly in disbelief of his greatness, partly in embarrassment that any deal would be made of it.

    I believe he was a teammate’s teammate. The kind of guy that wouldn’t get in your face when the team was losing, but would perhaps address a situation or struggle with encouragement and assurance that if you needed him, he’d have your back. CC Sabathia, who affectionately called Andy the “Godfather” of the pitch staff, has spoken many times of Andy’s kindness to his brethren and his willingness to lend himself in whatever capacity necessary. Mariano Rivera said that “Andy was a great teammate…and was respected by every person in the clubhouse.”  And Mo would know a thing or two about respect, wouldn’t he.

    But even more important than who he was in connection with baseball, he is a loving family man, whose greatest accomplishments are his relationship with his wife, Lauren, and their three beautiful children. I don’t recall ever hearing any player in any sport that I follow, be as open and as honest about how being away from his family for the sake of his career, was harder than any challenge his sport could present him. Here is a quote taken from Andy back in 2001:

    "If God took baseball away today, I don't know exactly what I'd do. But I know one thing—I'd be perfectly content, and I can honestly say that from the bottom of my heart. I've got a wife who loves me and whom I love to death. I've got my three kids. I'd be ready to shut it down right now and watch them grow up if I had to. I feel that everything that's done in my life, God has planned. So if I happened to blow my arm out or whatever, I'd know that He was doing things for a certain reason, and I really think I could live with that."

    I told a friend on twitter Thursday that Andy Pettitte was a hero. Another friend questioned that, I’m assuming not believing that Andy had ever done anything so great to be labeled a hero. Or perhaps his definition of hero just differs from mine. Not all heroes exhibit the extraordinary or have to personally make a difference in one’s life to be given such a title, although I could easily make the argument that Andy has been an extraordinary player and human being. For me, heroes inspire others with actions that are to be commended and replicated. Would you not wish to be someone who gave your all for what and who you loved? Do you not view humility--which has become very rare in today’s society—as a virtue to aspire to? Can you not appreciate a father who knows, nurtures and makes personal sacrifices for his children? Show me a handful of dads like Andy Pettitte, and I’ll show you two handfuls of deadbeat fathers whom half probably don’t even know where their children are and don’t care.

    I remember being at the last game at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008. It was a bittersweet night for me as I knew that the Yankees were playing their last game there, both for the season and forever, yet I was happy to see Andy pitch that night; I always marveled at the contortion of his body when he releases his pitch. An older woman sitting next to me talked about all the games she had been to at the stadium and how she loved to see Andy pitch.

    “That’s my boy,” she said.

    Yes, Andy is our “boy.” We fanatics watched him grow up in pinstripes from a young man, to becoming THE man. And although he left us for a few years to take on another challenge, he lived on in our minds and our hearts. When he returned to us, I’m sure he’d say that he was fortunate to be back home, in the Bronx where he belonged, but the truth is we were fortunate to have another chance to bear witness to his greatness and heart. We are better fans today because for the better part of the last two decades, Andy Pettitte reminded us of what the game is really about: hard work, selflessness, sacrifice and winning.

    Thank you, Andy Pettitte. Thank you for 16 seasons of dedication and inspiration. You truly are and always will be, a Yankee.

    4.1 (2 Ratings)

    Did He Really Say That?

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010, 1:43 PM [General]

    Take one.

    Ok, so by now most of us are familiar with the buzz surrounding the alleged spitting and beer throwing incident involving Cliff Lee's wife, Kristen, at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS. For those of you who've been hiding under a rock, Kristen Lee, as reported by the Bleacher Report and other sources, told USA Today that she was taunted by Yankees fans who shouted obscenities, spit on and threw beer at her and other family members of the Texas Rangers.

    Of course this story is getting major play because although it hasn't been formally announced yet, the Yankees are going to pursue Cliff Lee to join their ranks once he officially becomes a free-agent. The media have jumped all over this criticizing fans, even going as far as referring to them as "thugs" and blaming them if Lee doesn't take the Yankees up on what will certainly be a lucrative offer (see Spitgate).

    Take two.

    Yesterday morning, adding more fuel to the fire was Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg who spoke about the incident on 103.3 KESN radio's Ben and Skin Show. Here's what ol' Chuck had to say:

    "I think our fans have been great. I think particularly in Game 3 of the World Series they just blew away anything I've seen in any venue during the postseason. I thought Yankee fans, frankly, were awful. They were either violent or apathetic, neither of which is good. So I thought Yankee fans were by far the worst of any I've seen in the postseason. I thought they were an embarrassment."

    So to recap, we're awful, violent, apathetic, the worst of any in the postseason and embarassing. Wow.

    What makes this statement by Greenberg so irreconcilable is that it attacks an entire fan base. I could understand him referring his rants to whatever fans actually did this because let's be real, Yankees fans are extremely passionate about their team and you know it when you come to the stadium; they don't hide it. So yeah, this incident probably did happen. But maybe what Greenberg should have said was:

    "I thought the acts of those Yankee fans who did this, frankly, were awful. The fans in question were in my opinion either violent or apathetic in their actions, neither of which is good. So I thought the actions of Yankee fans guilty of this were by far the worst of any I've seen in the postseason. I thought their actions were an embarrassment."

    We know that Greenberg is a rookie owner. For this reason, maybe some of the Bomber faithful can give him a small pass on his comments, which clearly violates an unwritten rule amongst owners: you do not attack a fan base. If you feel obligated to make comments on a particular incident, you speak specifically to the incident. Better yet, just say "no comment." Negative generalizations towards fans, cities, etc., will get you a swift kick in the you-know-where.

    Greenberg soon learned this after receiving an immediate call from MLB commish, Bud Selig. That call lead to another call from Greenberg to Yankees President Randy Levine and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner. And that conversation lead to this statement:

    “Earlier today, in the course of praising the extraordinary support and enthusiasm of Texas Rangers fans, I unfairly and inaccurately disparaged fans of the New York Yankees. Those remarks were inappropriate. Yankees fans are among the most passionate and supportive in all of baseball. I have spoken directly to Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to apologize for my intemperate comments. I would like to express again how proud we are of our fans and how remarkably they have supported the Rangers throughout lean times and now during this magical season.”

    Hmmm. Maybe what he should have said was:

    “Earlier today, in the course of being an idiot and praising the extraordinary support and enthusiasm of Texas Rangers fans, I unfairly, inaccurately and stupidly disparaged fans of the New York Yankees. Those remarks were inappropriate and typical of someone like me who doesn't know what he's doing, obviously. Yankees fans are the most passionate and supportive in all of baseball. I have spoken directly to Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine to apologize for my intemperate comments because I should have known better than to mess with the big boys and their fans. I would like to express again how proud we are of our fans and how remarkably they have supported the Rangers throughout lean times and now during this magical season.”


    I would now like to address Chuckie and anyone who supports him by saying that I am a proud and honorable Yankees fanatic. I live for the pinstripes and bear no shame in letting supporters of the opposition know firsthand my dedication when they come to the stadium. I in no way condone the actions of those who may be guilty of this incident, but I also will not condone being labeled as a violent, awful, embarrassing thug. And apathetic? To suggest indifference toward the Bomber faithful is probably the biggest insult of all. You, Mr. Greenberg, clearly don't know who we are. We are passionate, enthusiastic, and attentive fans to our team, always. We are the gatekeepers for the greatest franchise in the history of all sports: The New York Yankees. Recognize.

    It's been reported that the Yankees organization chose not to immediately comment on Greenberg's statement out of respect for Selig and the World Series. But with the San Francisco Giants winning it all last night, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Yankees PR machine isn't already in motion to dispatch a respectful acceptance of the Texas owner's pathetic apology, laced with a subliminal warning. It would behoove Chuckie to pay close attention.

    And to the fan base, fret not. The best revenge may be yet to come. These words will surely haunt Greenberg if and when the Yankees sign Cliff Lee.

    Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Eiland Out as Pitching Coach

    Monday, October 25, 2010, 1:41 PM [General]

    Brian Cashman announced today the firing of Dave Eiland as Yankees' pitching coach. He refused to give specifics on the decision, other than to say it was a "private" one.

    Speculation is swirling that the combination of AJ Burnett's performance and Eiland's personal time off in June may have been part of the deciding factors of his release.

    When asked if Joe Girardi's take on the move would have made any difference on his decision, Cashman simply replied, "no."

    What do you think, fanatics? 



    0 (0 Ratings)

    It's On to Texas. So What?!

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 3:13 PM [General]

    The Texas Rangers advanced to the ALCS for the first time in their history last night by defeating the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, behind what could only be described as an all-out assault by pitcher Cliff Lee.

    Lee pitched a complete game, striking out eleven without allowing a walk. He befuddled Rays batters with an array of fastballs, cutters and an unbelievable curveball. When it was all said done, Lee had pitched a complete game on 120 pitches; lifting his postseason record to 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA. Impressive.

    Too bad for Texas, he won't be their savior in game 1 against the Yankees and CC Sabathia.

    The fact that Texas allowed the series against Tampa to get to game 5 was assurance that Cliff Lee would not be available for game 1 in the ALCS. A plus for the Yankees, who could be dealing with another not-so "CC-like" start from Sabathia--if history repeats itself--due to the extra days of rest. The Yankees will face CJ Wilson who in their last meeting, gave up 6 hits, allowed 4 runs and walked 3 batters in only 3 innings pitched. In his last 3 starts for the regular season, he posted a 1-1 record with a 7.20 ERA. And he's only pitched 1 postseason game in his career.

    The odds are certainly in favor of the Yankees.

    You have to believe that if the Rangers allow the Bombers to take one game of the first two in Texas, they're playoff run might well be over. Without throwing Lee into the mix for the first 2 games, the Yankees are certainly the better team, offensively and defensively. And as far as pitching goes, you'll have Wilson vs. Sabathia and veteran Andy "Dandy" Pettitte more than likely facing Colby Lewis, another postseason rookie.

    Sure, Texas goes into the series with more momentum with only two days between games, but the Yankees enter this series well rested both mentally and physically, and with a lineup that has played on the big stage before. The fact that this will be the first time the majority of the Rangers players have ever been in an ALCS could be a huge factor in who takes this series.

    And the Yankees not having to face Lee in the first 2 games ain't too bad a deal, either.

    Here's to what I predict should be a short series. Yankees in 5.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Note to the Naysayers: This Ain't 2004

    Sunday, October 10, 2010, 1:41 PM [General]

    Talking to fans before the start of the game at the stadium last night, I got the sense that reports by some sports reporters suggesting that the Yankees could "crash and burn" in this ALDS series like they did in the 2004 ALCS to the Boston Red Sox, had really riled them up.

    "Are they kidding me?," a young woman sitting three rows down from me asked. "This isn't the same team that played back then. And, uhh, this [opposing team] is Minnesota."

    An older gentlemen sitting in my row, who jokingly claimed to have uttered the word "Yankees" at birth, shared the young woman's sentiment. "You can't compare the '04 team to this one. This is a better team and they play better together. We own Minnesota, but maybe these media hacks haven't noticed that. It's stupid."

    Maybe we should all just take a moment and try to give the reporters the benefit of the doubt on this one.


    Nah, that didn't work.

    What more do the Yankees have to do to convince the naysayers who still hold on to 2004, that this is a different team? How much more would they have to bear witness to in order to recognize that the caliber of this team, the cohesiveness of this team and the drive of this team are in stark contrast to the team in '04? 

    And the irony of it, is that the loss in '04 is why this team is a far better team.

    TheYankees slept on the Red Sox in that ALCS series. After pummeling Boston with a 19-8 win in game 3, the Yankees thought they had the series in the bag. They played with no sense of urgency, their hitting sputtered and they committed costly errors in 3 of those last 4 games.  

    What the Yankees did last year once they had the Minnesota Twins on the ropes, and what they've done again this year, is to play each deciding game knowing that being ahead in the series is no guarantee of taking it all. In yesterday's deciding game 3, the Yankees attacked early, getting things started with a triple off the bat of Sir Robinson Cano in the 2nd inning, who would eventually score on an RBI single from Jorge Posada. In the 3rd, Nick "Swishalicious" Swisher doubled to left and scored on a laser off the left field wall from Mark Teixera, putting the Yankees up 2-0. And then in the 4th, Marcus Thames sealed Minnesota's fate with a 2-run blast to right field, giving the Yankees a 4-0 edge.

    And Phil Hughes pitched like a madman on a mission. His "stuff" was as good or maybe even better than it was at the beginning of the regular season. He dominated Twins' batters for seven innings with a sharp cut fastball and nasty changeup, changing speeds on all his pitches. As Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley joked on the TBS postgame show: "He had that wristy cheese!"

    Different team. Different year. Different approach. Same winning results.

    Yankees fans are probably already prepared for the naysayers to come out in full force for the ALCS. Here's to hoping that once again, we can all collectively shout out: "We told you so!"


    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Puttin' Some Good Wood On It

    Friday, October 8, 2010, 11:24 AM [General]

    When it was clear that Andy Pettitte would not be returning to the mound for the eighth inning in last night's game 2 of the ALDS, I must admit that I was a little disappointed. As I had predicted the day before, Andy sparkled once again, mind you with a few hitches in his giddyup, but he sparkled nonetheless. It would have been pretty cool to see him pitch through the eighth, thus handing the ball to Mariano Rivera to close. So, yeah, I was a little disappointed.

     But like this ALDS series for the Minnesota Twins, my disappointment didn't last very long.

    Kerry Wood proved to be the right call for Joe Girardi in choosing his eighth inning guy. In game 1, Wood pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing one hit, no runs, and one strikeout. In last night's game, he upped the ante by striking out two Minnesota batters and allowing no hits, pitching a full inning. He now sports a .167 ERA with two holds in this ALDS series.

    In his postseason career as both a starter and reliever, Woods boasts a 3.52 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 38.1 innings over 10 games. Not too shabby for a guy who seemingly faded into obscurity following Tommy John surgery while a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs, after having been the toast of Chi-Town during his "lights out" rookie season in 1998.

    Wood has clearly tapped in to his old self, baffling Twins batters with a fastball that seemed to disappear once it reached the plate. He has a distinct "across-the-body" delivery which allows for great depth of his pitches and deception of his breaking ball.

    Three months ago, the Yankees' biggest issue was their bullpen. But since coming to the team, Wood has provided the depth and experience that makes this bullpen a force to be reckoned with down this stretch in these playoffs.

    Ahhh...I'm smellin' victory on Saturday.





    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    What to Expect Tonight In Game 2

    Thursday, October 7, 2010, 1:41 PM [General]

    Don't be suprised if you see the Minnesota Twins head back into their clubhouse after the final out tonight with looks of gloom and doom. Minnesota pretty much sealed their fate last night by squandering a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning of game 1 in the ALDS to the Yankees.

    Tonight in game 2 should be no different unless perhaps the Yankees take the lead first and keep it.

    The Yankees continue to baffle Minnesota in what is becoming an embarrassing, continuous scenario. Expect that to continue tonight when Andy Petitte takes the mound in what I'm betting will be his record 19th postseason win. Yankees fan have to be a little squeamish about Andy's performance tonight having lost his last two games during the regular season. But true fans also know that somehow, some way, Andy will grind it out and lead the squad to a 2-0 lead against the Twins.

    Carl Pavano gets the start for Minnesota tonight having yet to win a game against the Yankees since leaving the team in 2008. He's pitched well against them, but not well enough.

    The way the ALDS has gone between the Yankees and Twins in recent years, you can almost taste series victory on Saturday in game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

    Pull out the hankies Twins fans. That's if you aren't already holding on to 'em.





    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Taking Back ARod

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 2:51 PM [General]

    We've waited seven years Yankees fans, and now the real Alex Rodriguez has undoubtedly shown up.

    I remember back before Alex signed with the Yankees, reading about him being revered as a hero in Seattle and Texas. He had become the young face of both franchises and had dominated sports pages and magazine covers for all the right reasons: his play, humility and love of baseball.

    When Alex came to the Yankees in '04, he seemed to show those same positive attributes in the beginning. His willingness to play at third base particularly made him seem like the kind of guy that was all about the team and winning. Yet somehow, things got all screwed up in A-Rod world, and this humble son of baseball became a tool for fodder and hatred by fans and the media.

    One could point to the everyday questions by the media regarding his once-close relationship with Derek Jeter. Some would argue that perhaps the pressures of playing in New York were getting to Alex. Others might even hypothesize that maybe he just never was the humble gentleman he had been perceived to be. How could he be with stories floating around of his demands for special perks in the clubhouse? Or the speculation that his real goal for joining the team was to de-throne Jeter as the face of the franchise? 

    And. let's not forgot the announcement during the 2007 ALCS in which the Yankees weren't playing, that Alex would be going into the free agent market. Although according to Alex, he never wanted his then-agent Scott Boras to make the announcement when he did, people were still turned off by the fact that Alex sought free agency instead of securing a contract extension with the Yankees.

    In the midst of all this were great games played and 2 AL MVP awards. But it was never enough for fans to embrace Alex; the man and clutch player they thought the Yankees had signed in 2004, was a fraud.

    All that has long been forgotten. The real Alex Rodriguez has finally showed up.

    What fans and the media have been a witness to since Alex rejoined the team in Baltimore last year, following his hip surgery, can only be described as the rebirth of A-Rod. Humbled by the surgery that could have kept him out for the season, and an embarassing admission of steroid use while playing for the Texas Rangers, Alex has emerged as a renaissance man. The endgame having completely changed, life for Alex is no longer about stats, but about helping the team win and having fun doing it.

    And its showing. He has become the clutch player of years past, getting key hits and bigtime home runs in late innings. Young teammates like Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher have embraced Alex as a leader and model of the greatness they aspire to achieve. Most notably, he wears the crown of playoff hero; an accomplishment he could have only dreamed of before 2009.

    Now, with the Yankees heading into another ALDS against the Minnesota Twins, Alex leads the charge having won the AL Player of the Month for September. And make no mistake, the fans and the media are expecting Alex to lead a now limping Yankees team back to the promised land.

    Expecting him to.

    Yes Yankees fans. We've finally gotten the player and the man we all hoped in 2003 Santa would send us for Christmas. We've finally gotten A-Rod. He's ours and we ain't lettin' him go.


    3.7 (1 Ratings)