Not many people can say this but I am one of the few baseball fans who never disliked Andy Pettitte. How can I make such a statement? Well, there was a time in baseball history when the 16-year vet, who will be announcing his retirement on Friday morning, wasn't a New York Yankee. In fact, there was a time when the lefty actually didn't take pinstripe money and instead gave a hometown discount to the Houston Astros. That was a time -- though it may have been very brief -- when fans, who daily wear the interlocking N-Y symbol as a badge of honor, couldn't stand Pettitte.
"How could he leave us?", asked the Yankee faithful in winter of 2003. "Especially, for Houston?... When was the last time they won anything?... Come on Andy!... We made you a borderline Hall Of Fame pitcher!... You'll be nothing without us!... Heck, we don't even need you!"
Yes, there were a lot of acclamations in that last paragraph because I remember Yankee fans talking to me, a Houston Astros follower living in upstate New York, that way. All I could do was shrug my shoulders and smile, I knew what Houston was getting. I had watched a lot of Yankee games over the years, because I liked to follow the team, and knew the Yankee faithful were going to miss him. They did.
For three seasons (2003-'06), Pettitte and pitching buddy Rodger Clemens helped the 'Stros put together some of the best years in Astros history -- two NLCS and a World Series appearances (2004). In those three years, I watched Pettitte work the strike zone just like he did in New York -- great location, smooth cutter and that famous stare. I learned to appreciate Pettitte, who pitched to help the hometown team win and to prove the Yankee front office, which thought the lefty's elbow was shot, that he still could perform at a high level.
Pettitte did what he wanted to do in Houston then returned to New York for another season of good pitching, then another good season and another and another! Four seasons after leaving Texas, Pettitte was still pitching extremely well -- three seasons of 190-plus innings and three with 10-plus wins. As a baseball fan who didn't cheer for the Boston Red Sox, how could you not root for that?
Never was No. 46 overrated or underrated. He was always rated. That's my favorite thing about Pettitte. Not once did any organization ask the three-time All Star to be the ace of a staff, because he was never that dominating. However, Pettitte was always that good. A consistent presence on the mound, especially during the postseason. Pettitte also never tried to be something he wasn't. Which is the key to a lot of success in sports, and Pettitte had plenty of success.
Pettitte did have his flaws. Year after year, Pettitte seemed to do his best Brett Favre impersonation about deciding if that season would be his last. But that didn't bother me. In 2007, when baseball fans learned how his elbow healed so fast. That didn't bother me because, as bad as using HGH is, Pettitte handled the situation the right way. But wasn't that always the case?
This won't be the last we see or hear from Mr. Pettitte. He'll be working for YES, MLB Network or some baseball broadcasting crew because it will be tough for him to walk away completely -- it took him seven years to retire! But it will be the last time we get to watch him pitch or pick off a runner at first base, something I did and always liked to see.