The New York Yankees recently announced that Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams will be honored this season by having their numbers retired at Monument Park.
This will amount to 20 jersey numbers being retired by the Yankees, which is the most in the majors by far. The next closest franchise is the St. Louis Cardinals with 13.
Pettitte, who spent 15 seasons with the Yankees and three with the Houston Astros, holds the record for the most wins by a pitcher in postseason history. He also ranks high in a multitude of Yankees team records, including the most strikeouts in team history with 2,020.
However, with Pettitte’s history in regards to performance-enhancing drugs, namely HGH, it seems odd as to the Yankees giving him the highest individual team honor possible.
In fairness to Pettitte, he was a three-time All-Star and was the American League Wins leader in 1996. He went 219-127 in his career as a Yankee, won five World Series Championships as a starter, and played well in clutch situations in the postseason.
Pettite was especially instrumental in the 2009 World Series championship, going 4-0 and winning every series-clinching game. He even drove in a run in Game 3 of the World Series, notching the first RBI of his entire postseason career. Over his 18 years in the majors, Pettitte went 18-10 in the postseason with the Yankees and 19-11 altogether.
With the retirement of Mariano Rivera’s number 42 in 2013, and Derek Jeter’s number 2 in the near future, this new class will round out the Core Four, establishing Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, and Posada as four of the best players the Yankees have ever produced.
One could argue that the Core Four in and of itself deserved to be honored by the Yankees for their contributions to the team’s 5 championships in 14 years. Maybe this is why individual careers are being slightly ignored in this situation and the concept of the core of the team is being so outwardly praised.
Nevertheless, the Yankees are walking a very tight rope when it comes to retiring the number of a confessed PED user. Pettitte admitted to using human growth hormone twice in 2002 and twice in 2004. This would mean he used HGH while on both the Yankees and the Astros.
On one hand, Pettitte never actually lied about using the PED after his name was found in the Mitchell Report of 2007. It could be argued that although he may have made a few errors in judgement over the course of 18 years, at least he manned up and outrightly acknowledged his wrongdoings. Pettitte could’ve pulled a Rafael Palmeiro and lie to Congress’s face, but he didn’t and he presumably never took HGH again.
Even more so, HGH wasn’t banned in MLB until 2005, which was after the fact. Pettitte claimed he only took the drugs to come back from an elbow injury faster because his team needed him.
On the other hand, the fact that Pettitte took HGH meant that he wanted to gain a competitive advantage. It may not have been to strike out more players, or to throw 95 MPH, but it still gave him an advantage in recovery time for his elbow injury in 2002.
Between 2002-2004, Pettitte went a combined 40-17, including going 21-8 in 2003. 21 wins for a pitcher whose fastball was regularly around 90 MPH may seem rather suspicious, yet he also went 21-8 in 1996 with an even lower ERA (4.02 in ‘03 to 3.87 in ‘96).
Pettitte’s career statistics do not give any inclination that he was a PED user. However, he did use HGH, which may have possibly tainted his résumé as a Yankee. Even if he had a shot at making the Hall of Fame due to his postseason exploits, Pettitte’s involvement during the “steroid-era” certainly won’t help his cause.
Ironically, the Yankees released this news amid the ongoing Alex Rodriguez saga. Here’s a man that actually took steroids, which boosted his performance to the degree that he was given the biggest contract in Major League history at the time because of it.
Not only did he take performance-enhancing drugs multiple times, Rodriguez lied to the world and made millions of dollars off of that lie. A-Rod’s cheating makes Pettitte look like an angel.
In any case, Pettitte cheated. It may have not been illegal at the time, but it was still cheating the game. He may not have intended to cheat to get a competitive advantage, but he still cheated. And for that, no matter how many records he holds, or how honest he was about his wrongdoings, he does not deserve to be honored in any way, shape or form.