Feb 4, 2011, 9:14 AM EDT
There are a ton of Andy Pettitte career-remembrances floating around already and more will be added to the pile today (he officially announces his retirement in less than an hour). I thought Buster Oleny’s was particularly good. I think you can see most of it even if you’re not an Insider subscriber.
The upshot of it all is that Pettitte was an honest guy and good teammate. I know that sounds obvious, and I’ll grant that it’s stuff that in the wrong hands could come off treacly or cliche. But Buster does a good job with it, especially the stuff about how Pettitte was loathe to retaliate in beanball wars. I feel like I learned something new about Pettitte having read it.
There’s one passage, though, that you probably want to save and keep in the back of your mind for the next few years. Excerpted below, I bet it’s going to be the argument-of-choice for those who really, really want to vote for Andy Pettitte for the Hall of Fame while not voting for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and the rest of the PED-associated crowd:
After Pettitte’s name appeared in the Mitchell Report, the pitcher quickly acknowledged his past use of performance-enhancing drugs. He would not lie.
Said one teammate, “Some of the guys who took that stuff did it because they wanted to be the greatest, maybe because of the money involved. But with Andy, I have no doubt he did it because he felt he could be better for teammates.”
You won’t be shocked to learn that it’s an argument that does absolutely nothing for me. We have some evidence in “Game of Shadows” that Barry Bonds was truly driven by some notion to be The Best Ever, but I have a really, really hard time believing that megalomania was the true motivator for the guys who used PEDs. These guys wanted to excel, stay in the lineup and all of that for all of the same reasons any ballplayer does. They wanted to win, both for themselves and their self-interest and for their teammates and all of those usual team-centric concerns.
I no sooner believe that, say, David Sequi or Larry Bigbie’s primary motivation was that they “wanted to be the greatest” than I would believe that Andy Pettitte was a monastic and altruistic soul who wouldn’t have taken PEDs if it wasn’t for the fact that he’d let his teammates down. It was the usual mix of self-interest, self-preservation and the normal competitiveness that drives every ballplayer. The only difference is the means the PED-users employed to do so.
I don’t think that Olney is trying to start a Pettitte apology campaign here. He has always been a straight shooter when it comes to PEDs and the Hall of Fame. I think, though, that the observation he’s passing along here might be appealing to some people out there who want to treat Pettitte differently than other PED users when it comes to legacy construction. But sorry: it won’t wash. You either hold PED use against a guy when it comes to that stuff or you don’t. Pettitte doesn’t get special treatment no matter how great a player he was and how great a guy he is.
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