Saturday, February 5, 2011

From Pettitte: "Heart not where it needs to be"

I am so disappointed by Andy Pettitte's retirement. In case you didn't know, Pettitte has always been one of my favorite Yankees, so much so that I followed him even when he went to the Astros for a few years. He was one of the original players who got me watching baseball back in 1997 - I came because I thought he was cute and I stayed because I loved watching him play.

It's the beginning of the end of an era - he, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada are the Core Four, the four players who have been around since the awesome Yankee run of championships in the late '90s, all still around to win another championship in 2009. I can't fault him. He's 38, which is practically ancient in the sports world. He's still a reliable pitcher for the most part but he's not as good as he used to be, and how sad is it to watch a once-great player stay around too long, only to fade and disappear with a whimper? (::cough:: Brett Favre ::cough::) But it just hits home that all the Core Four are in their late 30s now. I don't know a Yankee team without Mo or Derek Jeter. I don't know what I'm going to do when they retire. I mean, I have my rising stars and new, younger good players that I love - Mark Texeira, Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano - but I think when the others leave, especially Jeter, I'm going to be a little lost.

My only consolation is that at least, on tv and in person at the stadium, I got to watch them play.


Andy Pettitte answered the big question early at his retirement press conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday: Why did he decide to quit at age 38?

Simple: He just didn't feel like he had the desire to continue playing even though two weeks ago he had told his wife Laura he was going to come back.

"Two weeks ago, I told her I was playing," Pettitte said. "I said, 'I'm just going to play.' I mean, I can torture myself, I'll get through it, have an opportunity to win another championship maybe. Obviously, have an opportunity to make a lot of money, obviously anybody who has followed me knows that's not anything that drives me."

But, Pettitte said, he just felt like he didn't have the desire to play and to leave his family for spring training. So the lefthander decided to hang up his spikes after a 240-win career, most of it with the Yankees.

"The drive that I felt like I had, the desire to compete like I feel like I want to compete [I didn't have]," he said. "And then also when I thought about packing my bags and leaving, just didn't feel right in my stomach. That's just what it was."

Pettitte said he told Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Jan. 9, " 'I'll seriously start considering this.' That was the point. I started working about right around Christmas.

"Laura actually around that time when I talked to Cash said, 'Why don't you see and make sure that you're done and you don't want to do this no more?' And so when she tells me that, I have to seriously start considering it. I started training extremely hard then to see if I could get my body in shape. I can put myself here - even though I'm still in Texas - I know exactly what it feels like to be here and it just didn't feel right for me anymore. I didn't have the hunger, the drive that I felt like I needed. I don't know how to explain it, but I just knew that it was different."

Pettitte said his arm feels great. But the groin injury that cost him two months last season and hampered him in the playoffs took a long time to heal. And, more importantly, he did not rehab the injury after the season like he would have if he were planning to play.

Pettitte leaves the Yankees with a gaping hole in their rotation. But he told them not to count on him. Now they know why.

"This was not an easy decision for me," Pettitte said. "I feel like it kind of was an easy decision, but it wasn't an easy decision ... When I left Arlington stadium at the end of last season, I felt like I was done. Some of the teammates I spoke with towards the end of the season knew that I was probably heading in that direction. Over the course of this offseason, just felt like I should maybe make sure that I'm done and try to get ready. I'm ready. I'm ready to go pitch in spring training right now if I had to. My arm feels great. My body feels great. I've been working out extremely hard for about the last three and a half weeks. I know that my body would get where it needs to be, but my heart's not where it needs to be."

Laura Pettitte, who sat next to her husband on the podium, said, "Gosh, he had a really hard time making this decision final."

Pettitte also touched on some other topics during the lengthy press conference:

-- On whether he might change his mind: "I've been thinking about that too. I believe I'm done. I can promise you I would not be doing what I'm doing right now if I didn't think I was done. And I don't know what I'm going to feel like two months from now, three months from now. I can tell you one thing: I am not going to play this season. I can tell you that 100 percent. But I guess you can never say never. I don't think I would literally be scared if I went through this whole season and I just had a hurt in my stomach saying I just wanted to pitch that maybe I wouldn't try it again, but I will not pitch this season. I can assure you of that. And I do not plan on pitching again. I think me pitching every fifth day is over and I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life and figuring out what that is."

-- On whether the Roger Clemens trial and the likelihood he will have to testify in it during the season had any impact on his decision: "That has not any effect on my decision - zero."

-- On the Hall of Fame: "I've never considered myself a Hall of Famer. I feel honored that people are talking about it. Never dreamed that I would be talked about as far as the Hall of Fame."

-- On whether the Yankees getting or not getting Cliff Lee affected him: "I don't think it would have mattered ... There's no doubt when they didn't get him, I felt a huge obligation. That was why I started working out ... I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to come back after they didn't get him."

-- On the other members of the "Core Four" (Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera): "I called them and told them before it was announced. I wanted them to hear it from me. I don't think they were shocked."

-- On Yankees fans: "There's nothing better than just being embraced. They've embraced me. It's just been special."

Pettitte finishes his career 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 seasons - 13 with the Yankees - and likely will be remembered for his performances when the pressure was most intense. He went 19-10 in the postseason, winning all three series-clinching games in the Yankees' run to the 2009 World Series title. His 19 postseason wins in a major-league record.

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