As the appreciations of Andy Pettitte's career began rolling in on Thursday, there was a common thread running through them. Some called him a gamer, others spoke of his physical and mental toughness and plenty talked about his desire to be the best possible teammate.
Basically, Pettitte was a man whose heart was always in the game.On Friday, he said that his heart wasn't in it and that's why he ultimately decided not to return to the Yankees in 2011.
That decision didn't come easily, though, and Pettitte's devotion to the team played a role in making it more difficult. He admitted that he started working out and throwing once the team missed out on Cliff Lee because he felt that he owed it to the franchise to come back for one more season. He even admitted that he thought he'd play two weeks ago and that his wife was pushing him in that direction, but that when he thought about packing his bags "it just didn't feel right."
He didn't leave out the possibility that it might feel right again. He gave candid answers to every question lobbed in his direction, including one about whether he might find himself with the itch to pitch again in the future. Pettitte replied that he believes he's done and "can tell you that I am not going to play this season." He also said that one should "never say never" which should be good for a few midseason columns when the Yankees starters are scuffling.
The fact that he couldn't ever get himself to being 100 percent in for this season does make it hard to believe that he'll be able to flip the switch after more time off. Listening to Pettitte talk about how much last year's groin injury impacted him and how long thoughts of hanging up the uniform have been running around his head, it is hard to see what's going to sway him back to the grind.
It probably won't be a desire to burnish his Hall of Fame credentials. Pettitte said that he's never considered himself a Hall of Famer and even did his best to shoot down one argument his backers will make by saying that he wasn't any better a pitcher in the postseason than the regular season. It won't stop people from making the argument, but Pettitte seems comfortable with the honest assessment of his spot as a very good pitcher on great teams rather than a player whose individual accomplishments are what stand out.
Ultimately, that's going to be the book on Pettitte and he wrote a pretty fine final chapter of it at Friday's press conference. A lot of people would have forced the issue and come back for the money and the attention and everything else. The fact that Pettitte couldn't do that fits right into the player he proved himself to be over his career.