On December 13, 2007, Andy Pettitte's life changed forever. That was the date that the Mitchell Report went public and the veteran southpaw's name was included as a user of performance-enhancing drugs.
By the time it was all said and done, Pettitte had admitted and apologized for using human growth hormone on four separate occasions - two times each in 2002 and 2004. While many people questioned that at the time and still do today, the Texas native was basically exonerated in the court of public opinion. He seemed genuine in "jumping on the sword," and went the opposite direction than his close friend and two-time teammate Roger Clemens.
The Rocket has denied using any steroids or HGH and while that case is still yet to be determined, Pettitte has clearly put it all behind him and continued on with his career.
His second stint in pinstripes has been a positive experience, even with some disagreements during this past offseason. The Yankees offered him a one-year, $10.5 million contract that Pettitte and his agent Randy Hendricks balked at, stating that it was too much of a drop off from the previous season's $16 million. After negotiations in which Pettitte clearly wanted to stay with the Bombers and pitch in the new Yankee Stadium, he inked an incentive-laden, $5.5 million dollar deal that can be bumped up to $12 million if certain incentives are met.
He came into Spring Training as the number four starter behind CC Sabathia, A. J. Burnett and Chien Ming Wang and has been impressive. At press time, the 37-year-old was tied for the team lead with Sabathia with five wins against only two losses and a 4.33 ERA.
Although he was thrilled to pitch in the beautiful new ballpark in the Bronx, Pettitte has pitched better on the road, allowing six less home runs and an ERA that is practically double at home. "It's all about winning ballgames, that's it," he said to reporters. "I believe as long as I can keep my team close, like I always try to, that we're going to win an awful lot of games here."
Although there is no official word out of either the Yankees or Pettitte's camps, this will in all likelihood be the crafty lefty's last season. He has been mulling retirement for a few years now and especially if the Yankees make the postseason, it may be a perfect ending to a 15-year career. The two-time All Star and 2001 American League Championship Series MVP has been one of the most popular Yankees of this era and was welcomed back with open arms after a three-year stay with his hometown Houston Astros.
When he went 14-14 in 2008, it was the first time that Pettitte did not finish over .500. He has won over 20 games twice in his career (1996 and 2003, both for the Yankees) and started at least 20 games in all but one season, 2004 when he injured his elbow checking his swing for the Astros.
By no means is he 'too old' to come back in 2010, but that remains to be seen. Pettitte has been a steady influence on and off the field, regardless of his one slip up. We should savor this summer if it turns out to be his last playing a boy's game.