Each off-season Yankee fans typically resemble some of the unfortunate souls that sit in the first few rows at Sea World. Waiting idly by for the Steinbrenner family to turn over the behemoth Yankee checkbook and drench their fans with their pricey off-season acquisitions.
Instead, this off-season fans were given a heavy dose of nostalgia as the Yankees announced they would honor the uniform numbers of Bernie Williams (51), Jorge Posada (20) and Andy Pettitte (46) in pregame ceremonies this season. While all key cogs in championship teams, many pundits believe this to be more of a public relation move. Why? Well, this 2015 roster doesn’t hold the usual “World Series or Bust” tag that is associated with pinstripes.
Despite the motives behind the ceremonies, retiring numbers is the single biggest honor an individual team can bestow upon player. The notion that no player should ever don a certain number is held in such high regard that in 1997 Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s 42 across every team in the game. That’s an honor that no other legend has ever attained.
The Yankees on the other hand, have used this gesture for their great players with regularity. After this announcement, 20 Yankees will have had their number retired. Names like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle and Gehrig are just a small portion of the true legends to have their numbers immortalized in the Bronx. And with the introduction of Andrew Eugene Pettitte, that pool of legends has now become tainted.
There’s no debating Pettitte’s numbers. He was a member of five championship Yankee teams and won more post-season games than anyone who has ever stepped on the mound. If you are looking to find statistical analysis of why the Yankees shouldn’t honor one of the top starting pitchers they’ve ever had, then you are in the wrong place.
Andy shouldn’t have his number retired for everything he did off the field as a Yankee, which came out in the Mitchell Report and even made it to The Times. Andy Pettitte was right on his way to having a dream Yankee career like the shortstop that played behind him. But if we look very closely at the career of Andy Pettitte, we see familiar scars of Baseball’s Steroid era.
Two days after the Mitchell Report, Pettitte admitted to using HGH at a press conference at Yankee Stadium. The southpaw clung to the fact that he used it only two times and it was because he felt obligated to get out there and pitch for his team. While for years, supposed steroid users were being hammered for their deflections about questions about steroid use, Pettitte’s supposed transparency turned to be a strike of genius.
It was Pettitte’s “stand-up guy” demeanor that saved his career and allowed the fans and the organization to forgive his transgressions. That same “stand-up guy” admitted to a federal court that he used his severely ill father to obtain a prescription for HGH. In that same hearing, Pettitte told the U.S. House of Representatives that he “misremembered” hearing that Roger Clemens was using HGH after agreeing to testify against Clemens. It seems as if time heals all things, including any lasting memory of Pettitte’s backdoor dealings in the world of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
When Pettitte was asked about why the Yankees would retire a player’s number who admitted to using PED’s on the Michael Kay Show, he said, “I guess you’d have to ask the Yankees that question.”
It seems as the Yankees and their fans are completely content with using selective memory when it comes to honoring number 46. But the true hypocrisy is that in the same week, there are reports of the Yankees trying to avoid paying Alex Rodriguez the money they owe him if he reaches certain milestone numbers in his career.
So while the Yankees enshrine an admitted cheater they punish another? How quickly do fans forget about the 2009 Championship season where Alex Rodriguez supposedly “became a Yankee” and brought a ring to the Bronx. Was it because Alex Rodriguez isn’t as likeble? Or is it because the Yankees don’t mind Pettitte being a cheater because it’s old news.
The Yankees are watering down their prestigious pinstripes to give themselves one sold out ballpark in August. But the real question remains, will there be a day to retire number 13?