Andy Pettitte, with his glare of steel and nerves of the same, roused the Bronx in a way I don’t believe I’ve heard in years. When it was over, The House That George Built shook with a roar the way The House That Ruth Built used to. He didn’t pitch great and it didn’t matter.
His impact was immediately felt the moment he stepped onto the field and headed to the place where he belongs. The place he created dozens of memorable moments. The place where he displayed that terrifically fluid pitching motion and mastered the art of the pickoff. Andy Pettitte looks like he belongs on a pitching mound. And he looked like he never left; although he returned with some signs that age has set in.
Pettitte didn’t pitch terrible, but he wasn’t great either. Its foolish to expect a guy about to turn 40 and who has been out of baseball for a full season to come right in and take over where he left off. In the minors, he didn’t dazzle because he never had to. He simply had to be sure that he could pitch and that he still wanted to.
The answer to both of those questions was affirmed Sunday afternoon. Although he remarked about tired legs, his pitches (especially fastball velocity) were still there. He missed the mark a few times and paid for it, giving up seven hits, three walks, and four earned runs through six and a third.
Speculation runs rampant in sports regardless if you are a stat junkie or not. To quote John Sterling, “You can’t predict baseball.” I still maintain Pettitte will be a so-so pitcher during the regular season. He’ll have games where you swear you’ve entered a time warp back to 1996. Likewise, there will be games you won’t recognize that its really him.
Will he regain his post-season dominance should the Yankees get that far? He has numerous factors working against him this go round. He’ll be more prone to health issues and fatigue could set in as the dog days of summer draw to a close. With the way the pitching staff has been up and down this year, there is no telling if he would even make the post-season rotation.
I’ll maintain his greatest contribution will be his leadership and knowledge. While veterans like CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda may benefit mostly just by the presence of Pettitte, the younger arms like Ivan Nova and future starter David Phelps have a lot to learn from what Pettitte can teach them. I also feel that if he hadn’t gotten hurt, Pettitte could’ve done wonders for the confidence of Michael Pineda. Pettitte has been the young kid thrust into the New York spotlight.
We can speculate all we want about what really happened to Pineda but it would be shortsighted to think that the media attention did not play a part. Phelps, Nova, and Pineda could not have been given a better mentor. And if either or both of the ‘Killer B’s’ are needed at some point this season, hand them right over to Andy. He knows what it means to be a Yankee and how to deal with that expected success. Its not like Captain Jeter couldn’t do the same or isn’t as capable, but its almost a totally different mentality for a pitcher. The bullpen has/had Rivera and he is/was terrific in guiding them to be one of the most effective in baseball, now the starters have Pettitte. Lets hope he can even out the waters of this choppy sea the starting rotation has been navigating.
The Yankees also got back the perpetually high-on-life Nick Swisher. If there is one thing I know about him, it’s that he loves baseball and more so being a Yankee. I think it might be a pipe dream to expect Swish to don The Pinstripes next year and that’s too bad. The guy is having a pretty great year and has been one of the more consistent performers thus far. Is this season an audition for other teams that might be interested, or is he giving the Yankee faithful one last gift? I’d like to say he’d take a big pay cut to come back but lets not get to ahead of ourselves. Heck, if the Yankees suddenly hit a wall and struggle big time, Swisher may likely be a featured trade chip.
Its obvious Swisher has some sort of positive impact on the rest of the team. Two of our most important hitters are on a tear right now. Robinson Cano has rocketed his average to just over .300 and Alex Rodriguez is doing very well at the plate the last few games. Is it all because of Swish? Likely not, but you can’t argue that his excitability is contagious.
Here’s a Swisher Salute an exciting run to the All-Star break!