Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The prodigal left-hander comes home

When a pro wrestler clearly screws up a move during a match, there's a recent phenomenon in wrestling culture whereby the crowd in attendance will bark out the phrase "You fucked up!" in unison. This is like what happens when you mess up in your job, only completely different. On a semi-related note, I would've chanted this at the top of my lungs in the theater had Nicolas Cage been cast over Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

I mention this wrestling tradition because it'd probably be a fitting chant at Yankee Stadium this April when Andy Pettitte takes the mound for the first time. Pettitte turned down a one year, $10 million deal from the Yankees in December before learning the hard way that interest in this current economic climate wasn't exactly high for an aging pitcher coming off his worst season. On Monday, Pettitte agreed to a $5.5 million guaranteed deal with those same Yankees. With agents like these, who needs enemies?andypettitte33.jpg

Sure, Pettitte can earn up to an additional $6.5 million in incentives, but the veteran is surely kicking himself (or agent Randy Hendricks) for misreading the market so egregiously. Kudos to GM Brian Cashman, who didn't give in when Pettitte's camp balked at the initial offer.

Pettitte admitted today in a conference call that his pride was hurt by the negotiations, and I'd probably feel the same way if I were him. Pettitte was paid $16 million last season to pitch near the top of the Yankees rotation. Now he's only guaranteed a third of that salary to be the club's fifth starter. What a difference a year makes.

I don't, however, expect Pettitte to be negatively impacted by this going forward. Joe Torre now infamously felt he needed no motivation to do his job right, but I can certainly see the intense Pettitte pitching well with a chip sitting squarely on his left shoulder.

I have a friend from college who is a huge Red Sox fan, ludicrous accent, used to live in Southie, the whole nine yards. He texted me after the story broke stating that the signing boosted the Yanks from 89 to 93 wins this season. I replied it pushes them up to 105, mostly just to piss him off. That said, I think this was a very important signing for the Yanks, one that gives their rotation the additional depth that was necessary. Here's a look at the presumed rotation come Opening Day.

LHP CC Sabathia
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Chien-Ming Wang
RHP Joba Chamberlain
LHP Andy Pettitte

That's real good. Not only does Pettitte provide that second lefty to balance the rotation, it also allows Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Alfredo Aceves to continue their development in the minors. When one of the starters inevitably goes down (I'm looking at you, A.J.), whatever prospect is performing best will get his shot. Pettitte's presence also gives the Yanks more flexibility in how they handle Joba, who will be on an innings limit.

It's a very weird time in Yankee Land with all the Torre shrapnel flying around, but from a team standpoint the Bombers had another very good day in what has been an outstanding offseason.

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