By Ernie Palladino
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While the end of the beginning of the Alex Rodriguez mess arrived Monday, the beginning of the end unfolded in Chicago for another great player.
Swept under the rug amid the dust and dirt A-Rod and his defiant return to the pinstripes generated was the absolute mess that was Andy Pettitte. And this had nothing to do with PEDs, even though the left-hander has admitted to dabbling in them. But the western hemisphere has forgiven him, give or take a few holdouts.
On a day banned substances and a fallen star’s hubris held center stage, this involved strictly the performance of an old warrior, a once-reliable starter who appears can no longer bring it.
It may be time for the Yanks to say farewell to Pettitte if Pettitte doesn‘t bid them adieu first. At 41, his days are up. And if, by chance, he decides not to go home to his wife and kids and take another shot at it next season, the Yanks should tell him “Thanks, but no thanks. Godspeed, and good luck with another team. Call us if you need a recommendation.”
It comes down to numbers, and the numbers are not good on any front.
On the one hand, he’s old, and the rotation sorely need to get younger and more efficient. Simple as that.
On the other hand, he has allowed first-inning runs in a franchise-record seven straight starts. He gave up 11 hits in 2 2/3 innings Monday against a White Sox team that can’t hit. For a younger Andy Pettitte, it could easily have been chalked up to “one of those days.” But this was the sixth time in the last 10 outings that he’d allowed nine hits or more, and his record over those starts is 2-6, 5.64.
The seven earned runs he allowed in Chicago went with his trend of giving up at least four in six of those starts.
Pettitte, ever the battler regardless of his PED past, just hasn’t gotten the results as this season has worn on. Whether that’s age wilting in the summer heat, the bad luck of the bloops that afflicted him in that three-run first inning Monday, or just the tenor of injury-filled, controversy-infected season is besides the point.
The end comes for all. And Pettitte may be looking straight in the eye at his. Or at least he should be seriously considering it.
He will not be alone in his departure, of course. Mariano Rivera, the one guy who looks like he could go on until he collects social security — the real stuff at 67, not the early payout option at 59 ½ — is in the midst of a classy, heartfelt farewell tour. He’s got 35 saves in 37 attempts with more than a month and a half remaining to pad those numbers.
Derek Jeter, potentially the last man standing among the Core Four of himself, Rivera, Pettitte, and the since-retired Jorge Posada, may also be heading into that tunnel. His old body is decaying before his eyes. Even he references age as reviewing his problems in rehabbing the twice-broken ankle, his quad, and now the calf strain that has put him back on the disabled list.
At 39, what do you expect?
Then, of course, there is A-Rod, of whom we may have seen the beginning of the end with his suspension, but really have only reached the end of the beginning. His appeal, a long, point-counterpoint process of evidence presentation by MLB and its attempted debunking by Rodriguez’ legal team, could stretch into November. If it all comes out right, he will fail at arbitration, still serve his 211-game suspension. Age 40 by then, he’ll probably slink away with at least a portion of his contract’s remaining $35 million.
With so many parts that must be turned around to have any shot at a playoff spot — starting pitching and hitting standing high on the list — the season has turned into a potential mass-farewell for old standbys.
Pettitte, for all his pluck, must stand among the departing.
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