Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees

Pettitte: “I just didn’t have the hunger”


I’ve been watching Andy Pettitte’s press conference.  It just ended a minute ago.  Some random things that struck me:

  • All of the conflicting reports we’ve heard over the past several months make a lot of sense given how much Pettitte says he wrestled over this.  He said that just two weeks ago he was ready to come back. And then he wasn’t.  He’s been all over the map, really.  At the risk of reading too much into this, it seems like his subconscious knew that he wasn’t going to play again, because he admitted he lacked the drive to rehab his groin and do the other kinds of offseason work he normally does.  He didn’t come to a conscious decision about it, however, until just recently.
  • Pettitte does not seem like a waffler. People will read too much into a random “you can never say never” comment he made, but he was emphatic about not pitching in 2011 certainly, and said that he’s done pitching.
  • He’s pretty clear-eyed about his career. He said he doesn’t consider himself a Hall of Famer. When asked about how he was able to pitch so well in the post season he said that if you look at the numbers he wasn’t really any different in the playoffs than he was during the regular season.  If anything that sells himself a bit short given the tougher competition in the postseason, but it does kind of harm the case of those who would claim that he was some sort of October clutch god.
  • He said the Roger Clemens trial had zero impact on his decision. This squares with what I’ve been hearing from a source I know close to Pettitte. And if you think about it, there’s even an argument that playing would have made the Clemens stuff less of a distraction. At least then he’d have something to do with himself rather than obsess about it. He could hide behind team spokesmen more easily.
  • He said that he spoke with a lot of people about whether he should go on. One of the people he spoke to was Tino Martinez, who told Pettitte that if he had any doubts, he shouldn’t play. Why? Martinez felt like he hung on for one season too long and seems to have regretted it.
  • He also said that Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies didn’t ultimately impact his decision, though there was an interesting note: he said that his offseason workouts began when Lee signed because he “felt an obligation” to the Yankees now that they were down a pitcher they had been assuming they’d get.  Ultimately, though, his lack of a desire to come back trumped this.

That last thing is probably the most interesting thing in all of this to me. I find his sense of team on that point to be fascinating and highly admirable. Indeed, in this whole press conference he has come off as just a swell dude, and I mean that sincerely.

Who knows what the future holds for Pettitte?  I don’t see him as a broadcaster. I could totally see him as a folksy pitching coach or something.  I don’t think he’s going to play baseball anymore, however. And that’s a good thing given that Andy Pettitte — more than most guys in his shoes — seems to have truly engaged the question of his desire and his ego and his drive to go on.

Good luck, Andy.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
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Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Ding-Dong! The Cubbies ride homers to a 2-1 series lead

Jorge Soler

The wind was blowing out of Wrigley Field on Monday night, but mostly for the home team. Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all about the wind.

The Cubs hit six homers off of Cardinals pitching, one each from each of the first six batters in their lineup. Three of them came against Michael Wacha, who Mike Matheny inexplicably let bat for himself in the top of the fifth and take the hill in the bottom of the fifth and on to a third time through the Cubs’ order. He was shaky as it was, and quickly put a runner on and then allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant to make it 4-2. One batter later Kevin Siegrist came in and let Anthony Rizzo take him VERY deep to right field to make it 5-2.

Jason Heyward made it interesting in the top of the sixth with a two run shot to make it a one-run game but then Jorge Soler hit a two run shot in the bottom half and Dexter Fowler hit one in the eighth to make it 8-4. You can’t trade solo shots for multiple two-run jobs. You wanna get the Cardinals? Here’s how you get ’em. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! They hit a solo homer, you hit a bunch of two-run shots. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get the Cardinals!

Not that the Cardinals didn’t do a lot. They scored four runs in five and a third against Jake Arrieta, who hadn’t been damaged like that since June 16. But five Cubs relievers held mostly firm. You tell me before the game that they got to Arrieta like that and I tell you they won. But nope.

Now it’s 2-1 Cubs in a best of five. They go tomorrow with Jason Hammel and try to eliminate the Cards. Who had best figure out how to counter the Cubs’ power.