The Yankees recently announced that Andy Pettitte will be a part of their wave of new honorees in Monument Park in 2015. There are some that may dispute whether his career accomplishments warrant the same honor once bestowed upon the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio, but it cannot be denied that Pettitte deserves to be immortalized as an all-time great Yankee pitcher in some way, shape, or form.
Like the other members of the "Core Four", Pettitte racked up a number of both Yankees and MLB records over the course of his career. On his way to five World Series championships, Andy won 19 postseason games, more than any other pitcher in baseball history. He's also the all-time postseason leader in games started (44) and innings pitched (276.2). With a career record of 256-153, Pettitte is one of only 25 pitchers to have a career record 100 games over .500. He's the only pitcher in MLB history to never have a losing record in a season while pitching more than 15 years. As far as where he falls in Yankees' history, he's the franchise's all-time leader in strikeouts (2,020), ranks first in games started (438-tied with Whitey Ford), and is third in wins (behind Ford and Red Ruffing).
Along the way, fans have been able to collect a wealth of great moments and memories. From his Game 5 start of the 1996 World Series to his final start in the last game at the old Yankee Stadium to the gem of a complete game he threw in his final career start in Houston to his emotional embrace with Mariano Rivera as he came to the mound with Derek Jeter to take him out of the game one last time, Andy had himself a hell of a career.
The memory that stands out to me and defines Pettitte's career is the string of starts in the 2009 playoffs when he became the only pitcher in history ever to start and win three series-clinching games in a single postseason (he also won the regular season game that clinched the AL East). The 37-year-old was a pivotal part of the three-man rotation that ended the Yanks' nine-year championship drought.
In the third game of the ALDS against Minnesota, with the Yankees ahead 2-0 in the series, Pettitte went head-to-head with former Yankee Carl Pavano, who was pitching with a chip on his shoulder. (No, not literally... this time.) Pavano struck out nine in seven innings, but Pettitte held his own as well, retiring the first 12 batters he faced en route to a win and their first trip to the American League Championship Series in five years.
In his first outing in the ALCS Pettitte pitched well, but earned a no-decision. It would be Game 6 when he continued his run of making the most out of series-clinching opportunities. In a fairly standard stellar start, Andy threw 6 1/3 inning, allowing seven hits, a walk and an earned run, with Joba Chamberlain bridging the gap to Mo for the save and the pennant.
He would get his first crack at the defending World Champion Phillies and their potent offense in a rain-soaked Game 3 against Cole Hamels. Pettitte didn't quite have his "A" game, as he surrendered three runs in the second inning, but he would later take matters into his own hands by driving in the tying run with an RBI single and scoring the go-ahead run on a Johnny Damon double.
Andy wouldn't have a chance to compensate with his bat if things went sour on the mound in Game 6, as the series returned to the Bronx with the Yanks up 3-2 in the series. The night has gone down in history as Hideki Matsui's, with "Godzilla" paving the way to victory with six RBI, and rightfully so. However, Pettitte got the job done starting on three days' rest for the first time in several years, securing his fifth World Championship.
Pettitte would go on to pitch effectively for three more seasons, separated by a brief retirement stint in 2011, but to me it felt like his swan song. All of the "Core Four" collected their share of personal records on their way out the door, but their biggest achievement will always be what they won together and how they contributed. Andy can say he contributed to all five of his rings, but perhaps never more than his fifth.
What do you think is the defining moment of Andy Pettitte's career?