Sunday, December 10, 2006

Back In the Fold

You've probably heard by now, that Andy Pettitte is back in pinstripes, after supposedly ending his Yankee career on not-so-good terms with the front office three years ago. Back then, the Yanks seemed too eager to let Andy go home to Texas, and I was ambivalent about the fact that the Yanks' homegrown mainstay pitcher had decided to go home. Actually, it was a little more upsetting when he took recently "retired" Roger Clemens with him.

Andy comes back three years later, having posted a 37-26 record with the Astros, 520.7 innings of 3.38 ERA ball, in a hard home stadium for lefty pitchers (Minute Maid Field has an inviting short porch in left field). It broke down this way: in 2004, Pettitte pitched less than half a season, troubled by elbow problems; in 2005, he was a CyYoung candidate, 17-9, 2.39 ERA; in 2006, a mediore 14-13 with a 4.20 ERA--Pettitte's control slipped and his walks doubled from last year to this year. Looking at these numbers from the Yankees' perspective, you have to remember that Pettitte was playing in an easier league without a DH, even though he was pitching in a bandbox.

Still, when we look at the Yanks' 2 year, $32 million deal with Pettitte--sure, the deal is technically for one year, but you have to count that player option as guaranteed money, unless Andy decides to leave it on the table--the important thing is to look at the market in which it was made. Sure, $16 million is a lot to pay for a pitcher, and some may say, better had the Yanks paid that premium in 2003 than in 2006. Still, you have to like Pettitte at 2 years and $32 million more than giving Ted Lilly the Pavano Contract (4/$40M) or Gil Meche the Darren Dreifort Contract (5/$55M). Not only is the Yanks' exposure smaller with Pettitte, he's the devil you know, personality-wise, injury issues-wise, and performance-wise.

And all of that comes without mentioning Andy's not-so-little friend. I predict now that Roger Clemens will be sitting on the sidelines as the season starts, like Mifune in Yojimbo (I don't remember if they re-did that scene with Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars). Rather than sign with any team that offers the most money, Clemens can just wait to see how the little things shake out--you know, how does Randy Johnson look after back surgery, and whatnot. And it could mean big money for him.

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