Throughout this winter of indecision, there was a constant search for outside forces that might influence Andy Pettitte’s retirement decision. Would he be swayed by a family that wanted him at home? Would he feel compelled to pitch for a team that so obviously needed another starter? Would he be worried about the publicity of a legal battle?
In the end, Pettitte said, the decision was 100 percent his own. As recently as two weeks ago he had decided to come back, but when he went by himself for a one-night stay at his ranch in southern Texas, he made up his mind that he was finished.
“It was all me,” he said. “I just didn’t think that I could be fully committed to it the way I needed to be and the way I wanted to be for the fans.”
The pull of family
Contrary to what you might expect, Pettitte’s family actually pushed him toward the Yankees. “I feel like, maybe, if you’re not 100 percent done then maybe you need to try it one more time,” his wife, Laura, said.
Three of Pettitte’s four children were in favor of one last season. “My 5-year-old,” Pettitte said. “Any time my 5-year-old was around and I was talking to people and I’d say, everybody wanted me to play, he’d be like, I didn’t want you to play, Dad.”
The need of the organization
Pettitte said he felt a “huge obligation” when the Yankees missed out on Cliff Lee. It was around that time that he started working out again, making sure he was in shape. “I felt like I owed it to this team, to this organization,” Pettitte said. “I felt like they wanted me before they got him, but I felt like they would probably need me now that they didn’t.”
In his regular conversations with Brian Cashman, the Yankees GM let Pettitte know that the team could use him, but there was never a push for Pettitte to make a decision immediately.
“If I pushed him in November or December, I knew the answer,” Cashman said. “It was more like, he needs more time so I’ll just give him the long rope. If you pushed him, you’d be pushing him farther away. Time was something that was going to be on our side. He’d already made a decision. It was more like, is there a chance for him to change his mind over time?”
The impact of Cliff Lee
It’s all hypothetical, but if Lee had signed with the Yankees, would Pettitte have come back to fill a remarkably deep five-man rotation?
“I don’t think it would have mattered,” Pettitte said. “I believe I had spoken to Cash right before the Winter Meetings, and I just wanted to let him know (where I stood) because I knew this was such a huge deal. I don’t think I’m coming back. He kept telling me, we want you back and we’re counting on you to come back, but I just didn’t want this organization to count on me, and everybody to be counting on me. Even if you got Cliff or even if they didn’t get Cliff, I felt like I was done. If he would have come, I don’t know. I really don’t know because you don’t know how things change or how you feel, but I don’t think so.”
The pending Roger Clemens trial
A source of much speculation, the Clemens trial hangs as a potential circus, and Pettitte might have avoided discussing it by staying away from baseball.
“I would hope that anyone, any of you guys that have followed me through that whole situation would know that that has not had any affect,” Pettitte said. “I mean, zero. I would never let that interfere with a life decision that I’m going to make for me and my family.
“I have not had one thing said to me or, I have not been spoken to again since all of that stuff has happened. It has not been an issue. I wouldn’t sit here and say that if someone was speaking with me on a regular basis about that whole situation. Since all of that stuff first came up, I have not been spoken to. That never even entered my mind on what I would do or what I wouldn’t do.”
The concern about injuries
Pettitte was hurt at the end of last season. He had a groin injury that cost him most of the second half, and his back bothered him a little bit in the playoffs. None of that, he said, played a factor in his decision to retire.
“My body feels really good, I feel great,” Pettitte said. “My arm feels unbelievable. I threw 120 innings last year, and I started cranking up my throwing like I normally would at the normal time. My arm feels great right now, so physically I thought that I would be OK. And obviously when I started training and doing this again, all my focus was on my groin. So I’ve been working hard on getting that thing strong, because it was beat up when I started working.”
The calls from teammates
Pettitte said that about three weeks ago he “shut everybody down.” By that point he had decided that this had to be his own decision and he “didn’t want any advice from anybody.”
Among the players who had most pushed for a comeback was Alex Rodriguez. “Me and him have built up a special relationship since I’ve been here, and I know he really wanted me to come back,” Pettitte said.
Ultimately, though, Pettitte’s teammates left the decision up to him. And that includes his old friends, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.
“They were just so supportive,” Pettitte said. “They want me to be happy. When I did talk to them in the offseason it was never, hey, you’ve got to play, let’s go. It was, do what’s right for your family. All of them (said that). Do what’s right in your heart. I know they want me to play. I didn’t need them to tell me that.”
Associated Press photo