Game of Seconds

john tappen

Matt Joyce homers to right. David DeJesus doubles, driving in Myers. Longoria hits a sacrifice fly to right, scoring DeJesus. And that’s how the Yankee season ended.

It only took one more half inning against the Rays to end my Summer. Like Peter Gammons wrote several decades ago, Summer has been extended — in Boston, in Oakland, possibly in Cleveland and Tampa. But it’s been cold in the Bronx for a while.

With time to reflect, my mind goes back to Sunday’s game: Mariano Rivera Day at the stadium and Andy Pettitte’s last start in pinstripes.

When Pettitte jogged to the mound for the eighth, I had my hands clasped together, hoping for a shutout. And I can only imagine that the sole thought in his mind was getting this win — staying in playoff contention. Then Sandoval doubles to left and out comes Joe Girardi. That’s it. A career ended. In four minutes he went from warm up pitches to a tip of the cap to 55,000 fans chant- ing his name and to a seat back on the bench where retirement begins to set in.

After the high fives and congratulations, he must have been greeted by memories: the phone call when he was drafted. His start on the last game of his rookie season that clinched the first playoff birth for the team in over a decade. Game two of the 2003 World Series when he threw a shutout against the Marlins — his eleventh consecutive win after a Yankee loss. Four minutes ago he was just pissed he hung a slider.

Andy is beloved by fans and re- spected by broadcasters.

There was a moment in the middle of the Yankees 16 scoreless innings against Toronto last week that really cemented that: Robinson Cano hits a dribblerdownthefirstbaselinethathe thinks will go foul. When it doesn’t, he puts his hands on his hips, spits from his wad and grimaces — half in agony and half in hilarity at the way the Yankees season has turned out. In the booth, Kay and Flaherty ripped him for a lack of hustle and poor leadership.

The camera zoomed into the dugout and caught a shot of Andy leaning on the rail facing forward and Cano walking down the clubhouse stairs in the back. The juxtaposition of two Yankee veterans — one who lacks hustle when it counts, and one who is the ceaseless professional spoke to them.

It’s real easy to forget that Andy Pettite was caught using steroids. It must have been magically blotted out of everyone’s mind. You would think that if people cared as much about players taking ‘roids as they say they do, they’d share with Andy some of the boos they shower A-Rod with. People will claim to dislike A-Rod because he’s a cheat who used PEDs.

Fans love to hate A-Rod because he’s a hitter who isn’t as clutch as he is good. Kenny Rogers and Kyle Farnsworth can attest that a player doesn’t need to take steroids to get New Yorkers to tell them they’re awful. Opposing fans boo A-Rod because he’s made a career of hitting home runs against them and his salary represents everything small market fans loathe about baseball. But, most importantly, they do it because they think he’s arrogant. His steroid use is just additional evidence that fans all over will point to as evi- dence that he’s a jerk.

Does anyone really think that A-rod taking steroids is more detrimental to baseball than the Miami Marlins? Than $8 hot dogs, corporate-sponsored calls to the bullpen and product placement at every replay and highlight?

Fans are hypocritical. Barry Bonds was hated everywhere outside of San Fransisco, but George Steinbrenner called Jason Giambi a “hell of a man.”

Fans use steroids to justify their hatred of A-Rod and to admire Pettitte because cheating somehow made him more human and relatable. There’s something to that. Because in baseball, perception is important. This isn’t football. The Yankees can’t dress as many players as the Tex- as A&M Aggies can. It’s just 25 — and none of them are wearing a face mask. Baseball fans develop a relationship with the players on their team that’s too intimate to justify. They see them everyday and call players by their first name. So when they see a player strike out with the bases loaded, who throws a tantrum on the field and refuses to stand in front of his locker and answer questions after the game, it’s like they’ve been let down by a friend.

I’ve been told that our character is what we do when no one is looking. But we’re constantly watching ball players and we use these series of anecdotes and at-bats to unfairly make conclusions about who they are and if we like them.

Earlier this month I met my Dad at Yankee Stadium to see Andy Pettitte throw one last time. I sat in the right field upper deck and thought about ev- ery time I’ve seen Andy pitch — every runner I’ve seen him pick off and every time I tried to emulate that move. I thought about the number 21 Andy Pettitte Houston Astros jersey I wore out until it completely faded. And I thought about being 13 and fighting back tears on a living room floor when Pettitte fought to keep the Yankees alive in game six of the ‘03 Series and lost.

That’s everything I know about Andy Pettitte.