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Andy Pettitte's news conference, and even more on the Wilpons

Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte pauses as he talks

Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte pauses as he talks about his decision to retire. (Feb. 4, 2010) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Andy Pettitte speaks from the heart, always - that doesn't mean he's always 100 percent truthful, but we'll get to that later - and that certainly was the case today at Pettitte's news conference.

He spoke of how, even two weeks ago, he thought he would come back and pitch, which explains why the Yankees had grown more optimistic lately. His wife Laura said she thought Pettitte would make 2011 his final season.

Ultimately, however, Pettitte said that he lacked the desire to pitch this year. Kudos to him for not agreeing to pitch while conflicted.

Is he conflicted in part because of the Roger Clemens trial? He insisted no, as we figured he would. But it's kind of like with the Mets and Bernie Madoff. Just as the Mets should have been suspicious of Madoff's long streak of supposed brilliance, Pettitte should be very wary of what's ahead of him later this year. 

If the Clemens hearing proceeds in July as scheduled, then Pettitte might be even more in the public spotlight than during his playing days.

It was interesting that Pettitte ruled out pitching this year, but didn't fully write off the notion of a comeback in 2012. Does that mean Pettitte wants a full year with his family? Maybe. Does that mean he can't even think about pitching now, with the Clemens trial looming? Perhaps.

In any case, Pettitte spoke much about taking summer vacations, and about not knowing where life will take him next. But the truth is, as long as the Clemens matter is unresolved, Pettitte can't fully liberate himself from his past profession and identity.

--Everyone wants to know whether Pettitte is a Hall of Famer. First take: No. If you look at his career totals, you'll see consistency and durability, but not quite enough excellence. In only three of his 16 seasons (1996, 1997 and 2005) did he post more than four wins above replacement (WAR). As a point of comparison, Pettitte's former Yankees teammate Mike Mussina recorded 12 such seasons.

His postseason numbers definitely make Pettitte a more interesting candidate. No one is going to sneeze at 263 career postseason innings and a 3.83 ERA. But I still think Pettitte falls slightly short. The postseason numbers make him a bubble candidate, rather than putting him through the bubble. Or is it "past" the bubble?

UPDATE, 4:09 p.m.: Tim N. says it's "over" the bubble. I think he's right.

-- Bernie Williams showed up about 30 minutes late to the news conference, which was just perfect, because Bernie used to drive his teammates batty with his tardiness. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman also attended.

Some folks on Twitter asked me where the rest of the Core Four was. Derek Jeter's in Tampa, and I assume that Jorge Posada is in Miami, where he has moved his family. Don't know about Mariano Rivera, who keeps his family in Westchester. But whatever. It's a news conference. It's not like a number retirement ceremony. I don't think it's worth making hay over it.

-- Speaking of the number retirement, Brian Cashman said that no one would wear Pettitte's 46 for now. Cashman has publicly lobbied to formalize the Yankees' uniform retirement process, which was extremely haphazard under George Steinbrenner, but it hasn't happened yet.

In any case, you can bet comfortably on Williams and Joe Torre having their 51 and 6 retired, respectively - and now that Torre and the Yankees are back on good terms, the club will probably even throw a day for him. Jeter's 2 will obviously be retired, also, as will Rivera's 42 _ although that wouldn't be given out again, anyway, in honor of Jackie Robinson.

How about Pettitte? I think the 46 gets retired, also. The guy is one of the Yankees' best starting pitchers, and he has five World Series rings. Posada? It's hard to deny him, too.

Throw in the fact that the Yankees also keep away Paul O'Neill's 21 (they gave it to LaTroy Hawkins in 2008, only to see disaster erupt) and Mike Mussina's 35, and you have yourself a glut.

-- Moving back to the present, here's what Cashman had to say about the Yankees' current pitching situation: "Andy’s decision that he provided this week, the final final, has had no impact. .... I’m not going to rule anybody out, but people I have an interest in, I have a defined level of interest in my mind. I talked to ownership about it. If guys come within the range we’re comfortable with, we’ll try to close something out. If not, we’re obviously very close to starting spring training with what we have."

Translation: "I'll sign Kevin Millwood if he's willing to come in dirt cheap and earn a job. Otherwise, maybe Freddy Garcia can give us a good April. Or maybe the players will go on strike in April."

Added Girardi: "I believe there’s enough talent in that room to get it done.:

-- As for our favorite beleaguered owners from Flushing, we now know that Irving Picard wants $300 million from the Wilpons

The Wilpons' new favorite excuse is, "How could we have known what was going on with Bernie Madoff when the SEC couldn't figure it out?"

Hmm. The SEC is like the police in this scenario, right? So imagine you got yourself involved in some crazy scheme that worked for a while, and then you got caught, and it turns out your partner was a criminal. Would you really go with, "How was I supposed to figure it out when the police couldn't?" As the party taking on risk, isn't it inherent upon you to do even more due diligence than the police? 

After all, the police - or the SEC, in this instance - have a lot on their plate.

When we're discussing this Wilpon/Madoff stuff, we can't profess to be masters of high finance. But we can inject some common sense into the conversation.

-- See ya Monday. Have I mentioned there'll be giveaway contests every day next week?


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