Pettitte’s Return—A Realistic Assessment

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Now after all the rushing to be first with the story, relentless typos, factual missteps, and analytical idiocy, how about some sanity regarding Andy Pettitte’s return to the Yankees?

Let’s take a look.

Do the Yankees need him?

Not really.

It’s nice that they can bolster their starting rotation with Pettitte if Pettitte is able to contribute, but they don’t really need him.

After getting past the over-the-top excitement, squealing and blatant Yankees propaganda from would-be reporters, Pettitte is creating a logjam of starters even if Freddy Garcia is (as expected) the odd-man out.

Was this a baseball decision?

No.

Of course there’s no risk with signing Pettitte to a 1-year, $2.5 million minor league contract with no incentives once he’s recalled, but for them to re-sign him at this late date is more of a stroll down memory lane for one of their heroes from the dynasty years than a pure baseball decision.

If Pettitte wanted to come back, the Yankees had to sign him, but at age 39 (40 in June) he’s not a guarantee to be anything close to what he was.

There’s no room for sentimentality when putting a team together and this is a sentimental/ticket sales/partial baseball maneuver.

How does this affect the young pitchers?

Pushing aside Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes is unfair and potentially destructive.

No matter how much the Yankees dismiss his contribution or clearly decry his abilities with their actions if not their words, Nova has earned a spot in the starting rotation. That Nova pitched well without the constraints that hindered the other Yankees’ young starters has made the organizational edicts regarding pitch counts and innings look paranoid, foolish and debilitating to their development.

As shaky as Hughes has been, much of it has been due to the way the Yankees have straitjacketed him. They know how to find talented starting pitchers but not how to make them into significant big league contributors until they’re out of pinstripes. This is understood throughout baseball and there are teams waiting for the Yankees to lose their patience with Nova and Hughes—or for the surplus of starters to become a problem—and trade one or both of them so the pitchers can pitch and maximize themselves in ways they won’t as Yankees.

Pettitte will be with the Yankees for 2012. If they’re forced to deal either Hughes or Nova and one becomes a significant contributor for another club over several seasons, then the Yankees will have made a mistake.

And what of Pettitte?

Pettitte’s three years with the Astros have been conveniently blocked out by Yankees-colored glasses.

Even when it’s discussed how he left, the caveats start popping up: “the Yankees disrespected him and he took less money to be closer to home.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Now the conquering warhorse has returned again.

I doubt this was planned. What I believe happened is that Pettitte came to spring training to see his friends and help out with the young pitchers and got the bug to play again.

There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s no one to blame, but had the Yankees known about this being a possibility, they could’ve saved the money and the roster spot they’ve wasted with Garcia and, more importantly, they wouldn’t have made the trade of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

This becomes a series of “if this, then that” speculations and a domino effect. If they felt Noesi wasn’t ready to provide the innings the further along Pineda will, Pettitte’s presence would’ve let them keep Noesi in Triple-A for a full season. They’d still have Montero, wouldn’t have signed Raul Ibanez and still could’ve signed Hiroki Kuroda.

Reality.

It’s a nice enough story. Everyone likes Pettitte. The Yankees can use him. But in the long run, it’s probably going to do more harm than good given the past and future ramifications of Pettitte’s decision to come back and that the Yankees are jumping right back into letting him do it with what appears to be a guaranteed spot in the big league rotation when he deems himself ready.

They might regret it in a year or two if Montero becomes a star; if Pineda pitches poorly; if they deal Hughes or Nova; if Pettitte isn’t what he was.

There are many ways for this to go wrong.

And bet some of them will.

//

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2 thoughts on “Pettitte’s Return—A Realistic Assessment

    1. I’ll send you a message on Facebook of what I think Michael Kay was up to when it came out. It’s not for a family-oriented site.

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