Petitte right at home standing in the line of aging Yankee veterans

When Andy Pettitte announced on Monday that he will play for the Yankees in 2008, it struck me as a little bit strange.

There?s no doubt the veteran lefty will fit right in?especially because the word ?veteran? in the Yankees rotation might as well mean ?aging.?

Yes, New York has a strong group of three youngsters (youngsters in this case means ?pitchers younger than me?) in Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

But what does it say about the other two when the Yankees are aggressively trying to include Hughes in a deal for Johan Santana?

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I don?t see how Minnesota can pull the trigger on any trade involving its ace because there?s no chance that whatever the team might get back will include one player more valuable than Santana.

It?s like playing a slot machine marked ?95 percent chance of winning,? which really means to the Twins, ?100 percent chance of losing at least a nickle out of every dollar.?

Then again, not trading him and watching 100 percent of Johan Satana walk out the door with no compensation whatsoever for the Twins isn?t better.

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Back to Pettitte. ESPN.com reports that New York’s projected rotation presently includes Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Hughes and Chamberlain, with Kennedy in reserve.

I haven?t seen it for myself, but a friend told me that AARP.com is announcing a lower group rate for veteran Yankees, and the line starts behind Billy Werber and Tommy Henrich. I?m pretty sure Mussina is third.

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The Colorado Rockies, like the Twins, have always been faced with how best to deal with veterans headed for free agency.

When Todd Helton was at the top of his game in 2003, the Rockies made the decision to re-sign him to a nine-year, $142 million deal.

With a strong fan base, the Rockies had a luxury the Twins do not?to resign their best player without cutting a hole in their bottom line.

But the Rockies also understood something that I?m not sure the Twins quite get: that fan support is often linked very strongly to a team?s ability to retain its top players.

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Fans of professional sports have a way of looking at their support of a franchise like an investment: if a fan of the Rockies (or Twins, or Yankees) decides to put a measure of loyalty into watching their games, wearing their hats, buying their tickets, what is he or she going to get out of it?

And the bottom line is that the Yankees have done a fantastic job of building a tradition of winning.

How easy is it to forget the Mattingly Era?

The Yankees were awful, and staking the future of their franchise on free agency and massive trades proved a bad idea.

But how many other teams were awful in 1990, and how many of them committed to a primarily bottom-up method of player development back then?

For putting Minnesota in the bind the Twins are in, having to decide whether to give a player to a better team with a bigger payroll for less than he is worth to their team, the Yanks deserved to be vilified.

No team and no group of fans should have to part ways with their favorite or best player. But is it up to the Yankees to opt not to seek the best of the best?

Or is it possible?just possible?that it is up to the Twins to figure out how to hang onto him.

Playing in a town of 29 million gives the Yankees a huge advantage, and baseball fans have to acknowledge that. At the same time, I wonder how many small-market teams have failed to make the most of whatever advantages they?ve got to work with.

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