This is not a good day. I have known for a while that Pettitte, 38, might be calling it quits. Word kept filtering out that Pettitte had told the Yankees not to count on him, that he wasn't going to start the season. There was word, though, that Pettitte was still throwing, giving hope to Yankees management and fans that he would eventually decided to return to pinstripes for one final season.
Pettitte has flirted with retirement for years, seemingly talking every offseason about how the pull of staying home with his family in Texas was getting stronger. Yet, he kept coming back for more. And he kept performing well, as evidenced by last season's 11-3 record and 3.28 ERA in 21 starts.
I just always assumed Pettitte would keep coming back until he just could not physically do it anymore. I can scarcely believe that I won't get to watch the big, classy lefty every five days once the 2011 season starts. I am going to miss watching Pettitte work, watching an unshaven and unshaken Petittte peer over his glove and under his cap for the signals with that "I mean business" stare. Watching him compete. Watching him succeed for more often than fail, even though countless major league pitchers have had better repertoires to work with.
It was always Pettitte's heart, his guts and determination, that separated him from lesser pitchers.
How will the Yankees replace him? They tried and failed to get Cliff Lee. Since then they have been prepping for life without him by trying to collect spare parts, and have come up with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. They can't replace Pettitte. Neither can Sergio Mitre.
Today, though, isn't the day to worry about that. Today is the day to honor Pettitte.
I have never really thought of Petittte as an ace, because he has never really been one. There has almost always been somebody better on the Yankee staff, and always in the American League -- evidenced by Pettitte's never winning the Cy Young Award.
Yet, look at the sum of his 16-year career and there are not a lot of modern pitchers who are better. A total of 240 career regular-season victories and 19 postseason ones, many of them marvelous clutch performances.
Pettitte has to be considered one of the two best Yankee starting pitchers of all time. He is third to Whitey Ford in terms of victories with the Yankees. Ford has 236, Red Ruffing 231 and Pettitte 203. Only Ford started more games as a Yankee (438-396). Only Ford has more strikeouts (1,956-1,823).
Pettitte reached double figures in victories every season of his career except 2004 with Houston, a season shortened by an elbow injury.
Will he make the Hall of Fame? We have debated that before and I'm sure we will do it again. Today, I would rather not.
Today, I just want to honor Pettitte. And beg him to reconsider.