Legacy? Who cares about Andy Pettitte’s legacy?

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Whenever a once-great player holds on too long or comes back too often, there is talk about his legacy.  Or, shall I say, his legacy.

The italics are important. They denote the magical nature of this magical concept. A concept that is hard to describe. What makes a legacy? Do a man’s accomplishments make it so, or is it something else? Something more?

I’m inclined to say it’s the latter. That a player’s legacy is more a function of the narrative that surrounds his accomplishments than the accomplishments themselves. And that narrative is mostly a media creation.  A player leaving on a high note. A player holding on too long. Those things are a function of the stories we tell about them, not a function of their greatness itself.

I’m thinking about all of this because I just read Jon Morosi’s column about Andy Pettitte’s return and how it could negatively impact his legacy:

Posada didn’t hurt the Yankees last year. In fact, he batted .429 against the Tigers in the American League Division Series. But the story of his season, on and off the field, underscored the difficultly in shepherding a franchise icon into retirement without bruising his psyche.

Pettitte managed to get it right the first time, walking away after two quality starts in the 2010 postseason. Just before retiring, the ol’ lefty burnished his image as the most reliable October starter of his generation.

It’s a nice legacy – quite perfect the way it is. Now he’s taking it out of the display case. He must be careful not to drop it.

I understand the value of avoiding an ignominious end — who wants to look foolish? — but I question how much such ignominious ends truly matter to the players in question. And whether they should matter to us at all.

Posada had a couple of bad moments last year. Poor play. That tantrum about where he was in the batting order.  But that stuff vanished pretty quickly after the season ended and the retirement press conference happened. Sure, I remember it because all I do is think about baseball all day, but the vast majority of fans have already banished those thoughts from their memories and when they think about Jorge Posada, they’ll think about the good stuff, not the bad.

And you can bet your bippy that Posada will remember the good stuff too.  Almost all players do.  When I met Willie Mays last week, he was walking around in a Giants cap talking about his exploits from the 50s and 60s, not his last year with the Mets.  Same goes for anyone else. They think about the events and happenings, not some amorphous concept that is their legacy. And even if they do, you can bet that the same healthy egos that allowed them to become superstars create a legacy in their minds that is untarnished.

Back to Pettitte.  He might not pitch well this year. Heck, he could have a total meltdown. He could go 0-8 with a 12.56 ERA, accidentally injure Robinson Cano while covering a bunt and poop his pants on the mound on a muggy August night.  And man, that would suck pretty bad.

But will that erase all of the good stuff he’s done?  Will that make his amazing body of work go away? Will it keep Pettitte from sitting in a rocking chair one day and thinking about how great a pitcher he was?  Of course not. His legacy is already solidified, no matter what he does in 2012. Indeed, it can only really be enhanced if he does something amazing, because most people’s memories are pretty good at pushing out the negativity as the years go on.

Well, maybe not if he actually poops his pants. That may be something he can’t shake, I’ll grant you. But I think you know what I mean.

Aaron Judge broke a dubious record last night

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Aaron Judge hit a monster home run in last night’s win over the Mets, but he also set a dubious record. Judge struck out for the 33rd consecutive game, setting a new mark for a position player in a single season.

Yes, that’s qualified. No pitchers, of course, as I assume many of them have struck out in more than 33 straight games. Also,  Adam Dunn once struck out in 36 straight games, but that straddled two seasons: he struck out in the final four games of 2011 and the first 32 games of 2012. Still, Judge’s feat is impressive, and given the nature of his game and the state of baseball these days, it’s not hard to imagine him striking out in three or four more straight games anyway.

None of which, by the way, should be all that much of a slight on Judge. The guy is still hitting .291/.420/.614, even with his second half slump. If I was a manager I’d happily accept his whiffs in exchange for everything else he brings to the table. It’s not 1959 anymore, and strikeouts are not the worst thing that can happen.

The Cubs gave Rick Renteria a World Series Ring

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It was revealed, in the course of a Jerry Reinsdorf interview the other day, that the Chicago Cubs gave Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria a World Series ring.

Renteria, of course, managed the Cubs for one season — in 2014 — and was fired when Joe Maddon became available after exiting his contract with the Rays. Renteria did an OK job with the Cubs — they were 73-89, which was seven games better than they had been the year before, and in the normal course would never have been fired after that showing — but the thinking by the Cubs front office was that they wanted Maddon, and not Renteria, to be in charge of taking a young and talented team from the land of rebuilding to the land of contention. Which Maddon did, far more quickly than most expected.

It’s a nice gesture by the Cubs, and I have no issue with it at all. If you can do a nice thing that costs you little or nothing, it’s always good to do it. And, based on his comments before yesterday’s White Sox-Dodgers game, Renteria did appreciate it. He’s been nothing but gracious since his undeserved (even if understandable) firing by the Cubs. He’s a high-road guy.

Still, I’m wondering what the inspiration for it was, because as far as I know, it’s pretty unusual for a team to give a former manager a ring in this situation, especially if the former manager had no greater history with the club (Renteria never played or coached in the Cubs system before 2014). At the time the judgment — put bluntly — was that the Cubs had a better chance to win with Maddon than Renteria, so it feels sort of . . . revisionist for them to be doing this now. Or even disrespectful on some unintentional level. Isn’t it sort of like the ex who dumped you for someone else a couple of years ago giving you a gift on their wedding day? How would that make you feel? “Glad I helped make you a better person for your new partner,” no one would say, ever.

In reality, I imagine that the thinking is a benign and somewhat cosmic “it takes a village” kind of thing and that the Cubs brass believes that anyone who had even a small hand in what became the 2016 Cubs should be rewarded. And, like I said above: nice gestures are good things and this is a nice gesture.

Still, there’s an element to this that strikes me as weird. Almost as if it’s a guilt-assuaging move on some level. “Er, uh, sorry for that awkwardness when we dumped you for the prettier girl a couple of years back. No hard feelings?”