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The Importance of Andy Pettitte in 25 Names

Ron Guidry was drafted by the Yankees in 1971. He first emerged from the farm system in 1975, and established himself as a rotation regular in 1977. In 1978, he won 25 games and the American League Cy Young Award. He went on to a 14-season career in which he started 323 games for the Yankees.

Andy Pettitte: The one that stuck. (AP)

Andy Pettite was drafted by the Yankees in 1990, emerged from the farm system in 1995, and established himself as a rotation regular the same year. He ultimately started 396 games for the Yankees. Between Guidry’s 1977 and Andy Pettitte’s 1995, a generous accounting of the Yankees farm system produces the following starting pitchers, in order of games started:

Dave Righetti (76), Scott Kamieniecki, Ray Fontenot, Jim Beattie, Jeff Johnson, Dave Eiland, Bob Tewksbury, Wade Taylor, Al Leiter, Eric Plunk, Sterling Hitchcock, Ken Clay, Sam Militello, Scott Nielsen, Mike Griffin, Gene Nelson, Domingo Jean, Jose Rijo, Steve Adkins, Mark Hutton, Brad Arnsberg, Jim Deshaies, Kevin Mmahat, Alan Mills, Dave Rajsich (2).

That list is somewhat subjective; it contains some pitchers who were traded into the system in mid-apprenticeship and omits others, and whether you say Doug Drabek was a product of the Yankees or White Sox farm system is a question maybe not even he can answer. Still, you get the point: there was little after Guidry. Righetti was shifted to the pen, and while several of the other pitchers had excellent careers, none of them stayed, having not established themselves fast enough to assuage the Yankees’ anxieties about young pitchers costing them pennants, a tick which, ironically, cost the club several pennants. Pettitte broke a cycle of futility that had lasted nearly 20 years.

The question now is if another homegrown pitcher will be given a chance to follow in his footsteps by claiming his spot, or if that place of honor will go to, say, Sergio Mitre.