In the Bronx, desperate times have called for desperate measures.
With Derek Jeter in his first year of retirement and the Yankees hoping to avoid missing the playoffs for a third straight season, a once-dominant franchise enters the 2015 campaign as a team without an identity.
Forced to pray that an often-injured collection of veterans is able to stay healthy, the Yankees haven’t appeared this mortal in over 20 years. And as you can imagine, it’s not easy to sell already overpriced tickets to fans that haven’t been given much reason to get excited about the upcoming season.
Naturally, in an effort to assure that at least one game is sold out, it was revealed on Sunday that admitted PED user and fan-favorite Andy Pettitte will have his number retired on Aug. 23 at Yankee Stadium.
You can’t fault the franchise for trying – remembering how awesome the past was is a great distraction from the present.
The timing is curious, however, as the Yanks are currently involved in a battle to try and void a home run-triggered bonus in Alex Rodriguez’s contract due to his PED use.
Rodriguez, who has hit 654 career home runs, needs just six more homers to tie Willie Mays’ career total of 660 and become eligible for a $6 million payday. The deal also calls for A-Rod to receive $6 million if he ties Babe Ruth’s mark (714), another $6 million if he matches Hank Aaron’s 755 home runs and yet another $6 million if he moves past Barry Bonds’ record-setting 762 homers.
And that’s on top of the whopping $61 million Alex is owed over the next three years.
Again, you can’t fault the franchise for trying – I wouldn’t want to pay an over-the-hill player any more than I already had to, either.
Yet somehow, the Yankees have managed to turn an overpaid cheater into a sympathetic figure.
Rodriguez confirmed in a handwritten apology on Tuesday that the Yankees had wanted him to address the media in-person at Yankee Stadium before pitchers and catchers reported – even though he’s already apologized and served a season-long suspension.
So, why does Rodriguez continuously have to address his mistakes when the Yankees just announced they’re retiring the number of another admitted PED user?
It boils down to hypocrisy.
After Pettitte’s name appeared in the infamous Mitchell Report for his use of human growth hormone, the lefty admitted to taking HGH twice and said it was only to recover from injury – and not to improve his performance.
Whether that’s believable or not, the Yankees bought Pettitte’s excuse and never punished the left-hander. The matter, as far as the franchise was concerned, was over.
Yet, fast forward to 2015, and the Yanks are still involved in a never-ending battle with an already-punished player.
Regardless of whatever your personal stance on PED use may be, a little bit of consistency across the sport of baseball would be nice. When a franchise is bestowing its highest honor on one admitted user, while trying to repeatedly punish another, we have a problem that extends far beyond any Hall of Fame debate.
And it’s a problem that isn’t going away any time soon.
With Jason Giambi announcing his retirement on Monday, the Yankees have opened themselves up to the question of whether the former first baseman – another admitted PED user – is worthy of enshrinement in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
Don’t laugh, the Yanks already let Tino Martinez in last season, and Giambi arguably has the better numbers.
Although, perhaps the better question is: Would Giambi sell enough tickets to warrant such an honor?