And Then... There Was One

by Nolan Silbernagel
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Keith Allison :: Flickr

With Pettitte retiring, only Jeter remains from "Core Four"

Everyone knew it was coming.

After the one year contract, the struggling outings, the aging body, it was clear that this season was going to be the last that Yankee legend Andy Pettitte would don the Pinstripes.  That didn’t make his retirement announcement on Friday afternoon any easier to hear.

Unlike the last time the lefty pitcher “retired” a few years ago, it truly seems that Pettitte has emptied the tank and is mentally and physically exhausted.  There were times that he looked absolutely lost on the mound this season, specifically against the White Sox on August 5th when he gave up 7 runs, 11 hits, and could not even make it out of the third inning.

Despite the struggles, Pettitte has looked decent enough this season, as his ERA as of now sits just below the 4 mark with a 3.93 and his record stands at an even 10-10.  But the idea of going through another long, 162 game season was just too much, and with 255 wins under his belt, Pettite has called it a career.

He is the third Yankee of the “Core Four” to hang up the cleats.  Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte all came up to the Majors in 1996, which began a stretch of 4 World Series titles in 5 years, and 6 American League Championship titles in 8 years. A string of success that many believe will never be seen again.

Posada retired after the 2011 season and Rivera announced before this season that he would not be returning to the field for the 2014 campaign.  With Pettitte now officially hanging up the cleats as well, only Derek Jeter remains of that special four person group. 

When Posada retired two years ago, it was definitely a tough sign that the times were changing.  No longer were these young ball players in their early twenties taking the league by storm, but were now men in their late thirties and early forties.  The questions surfaced: now that one legend is gone, how much longer does the Core Four have left?

That question was undoubtedly answered today.  In February of this year, 3 of the 4 members were still in the big leagues, now in October, there will be only one.  The Captain.

It is truly the end of an era in not only Yankee history, but in all of baseball history as well.  Gone now is Andy Pettitte’s fierce stare behind his glove as he stands on the mound, the brim of his cap allowing only his piercing eyes to look at the batter with two strikes in a big situation.  He leaves the game, taking with him the most postseason wins of any individual in the league’s history.

Following him out the door is Mariano Rivera, who needs no introduction as the indisputably greatest closer of all time, and perhaps one of the most dominant players at a certain position of all time as well. 

Fittingly, only the captain remains.  The one to go down with the ship, the one who has to keep going when everyone else has called it a magnificent career.

But the question once again resurfaces: How much longer until the Core Four is officially over?

Jeter suffered the worst season of his career because it barely was a season.  He only played in 17 games, as he missed a huge portion of time nursing a broken ankle from last year’s ALCS.  He never fully healed, unfortunately, and bounced on and off the Disabled List until he was shut down for the rest of the season a week ago.

Jeter will not play until he can’t run to first.  He is the type of player who has a strong desire to play and compete, but once he feels like he is hurting the team and not helping, he will call it quits as well. As scary as it is for Yankee fans, that could happen as soon as next year.

And while that will be a story for another day, one thing is for certain: today marks the end of a chapter in Yankee baseball.  The Core Four, the young players who all arrived in the Bronx at the same time and together brought 5 world titles to this proud franchise, has come to a close.

Posada was the first to leave the game, and now Rivera and Pettitte will walk off into the sunset of retirement together.

And then there was one, just the Captain, trying to bring more championships to the New York Yankees before his time is over as well. 

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