As the brilliant Washington Irving once explained, “Sweet is the memory of distant friends! Like the mellow rays of the departing sun, it falls tenderly, yet sadly, on the heart.” Boy, do those words ring true as the stark reality of Andy Pettitte’s pending departure from baseball echo throughout our minds.
In terms of pitching, Pettitte was nothing short of ideal. As Larry noted in his recent tribute, Andy has worked his way into the Hall of Fame discussion through consistent quality production, gathering hoards of dedicated fans all the while. However, I have always felt it was Andy’s unassuming way of going about his business that truly distinguished him from many of the other great players to don pinstripes. His modest disposition and professional work ethic always impressed me personally, and his perceived humility allowed many of us to look past prior transgressions.
For many in Yankeeland, Andy's retirement also signals the beginning of a very surreal circumstance; that is to say, the first of four incredible careers which defined a generation of fandom has abrubtly come to an end. While the future impact of these iconic players absconding from baseball remains obscure to me, I can absolutely say that it was a supreme delight watching their careers unfold over these many, many years. And it is only through bittersweet passion of the sport that many of us are able to critique their respective declining years while simultaneously upholding strong degrees of sentimentality.
Although the Yankee organization will surely miss Andy, especially given the tumultuous state of the rotation, his retirement should still be reflected upon with happiness and appreciation. He’s accumulated generational wealth and deserves the opportunity to enjoy the next stage of his life regardless of whether or not we as fans are ready to let him go. While many will be quick to mention his capacity for continued competitive performance, or the fact that an abundance of cash could still be acquired, the truth is fairly simple and straightforward -- he’s ready for something new, and the reasons for choosing this path are his alone.
And so, I leave you with one final word of wisdom compliments of Dr. Seuss. “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
[Update: 2/3/11 3:06PM] Be sure to check out this excellent photo montage of memorable Pettitte moments.