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Olney on Andy Pettitte: “He would not lie”

Feb 4, 2011, 9:14 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees, Game 3 Getty Images

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.

  1. Chipmaker - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Wouldn’t lie? Oh. I guess that’s why he only used once, oh wait, it was twice.

    Sheesh.

    • arrabin56 - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:28 AM

      Exactly. If he “would not lie” why did it take a publicly released report for him to admit he took HGH? Why didn’t he say he was using when he did it, or when he knew the report would be released and he would likely be in it?

      Waiting until you’re caught red handed to tell the truth is not what I would describe as “would not lie.”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:23 AM

        Waiting until you’re caught red handed to tell the truth is not what I would describe as “would not lie.”

        Technically he’s right though. If you do something wrong, but no one every asks if you did it wrong, you don’t have to lie. You just aren’t telling the truth. There is a difference.

        However, the fact that he only came forward and admitted it after he was caught, doesn’t mean we should shower him with praise for being so truthful.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:03 AM

      That sound we hear is a cherry tree hitting the ground.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Feb 4, 2011 at 5:11 PM

      As a Yankee fan i gotta agree, Andy has already changed his story from once to twice to who knows? Wouldnt lie, give me a break

  2. skyking162 - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    I saw one argument in favor of Pettitte for the HoF that said his pitching line is more impressive because he had to pitch against hitters using PEDs.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:25 AM

      Oh my god. If you have that, I’d love a link.

      • professorperry - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:10 AM

        Craig – read this: http://sports.espn.go.com/newyork/mlb/news/story?id=5278306

        Let the hagiography begin.

        “Friday night at Yankee Stadium should have been all about Pettitte, who won his eighth game of the season and earned his 200th victory as a Yankee, a win that put him on a plateau inhabited only by Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing, Hall of Famers both. If only he hadn’t had that dalliance with HGH back in 2002, he might have someday joined them there, too.”

        Ahhh, dalliance …

    • Detroit Michael - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:58 AM

      I’m sure this guy was among the handful of Kevin Brown voters then, if he wanted to be consistent.

  3. mercyflush - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    –But with Andy, I have no doubt he did it because he felt he could be better for teammates.”–

    oh, i see, so if *that* is why you cheated, that’s ok.

    also, not admitting you cheated until a report comes out claiming that you did… that is not the same thing as not lying, Mr. Olney.

  4. calrulz25 - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    If you go by the line “He wouldn’t lie” what’s the difference between him and McGwire.

    Mark McGwire never lied about taking performance enhancing drugs. The only thing McGwire did differently is he had to get up in front of Congress. McGwire did not have immunity, if he admitted to doing steroids then he would have been in trouble with the law. So McGwire pleaded the fifth because “he wouldn’t lie.” Yet he gets killed for not lying but Pettitte doesn’t. Seems like a double standard to me.

    • BC - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:55 AM

      You’re right. McGwire didn’t lie. He just didn’t say anything. Then ultimately he did tell the truth. (Whatever the truth is at this point.)
      I tire of the PED topic. Let ‘em all juice. Bring back the 60-HR days!
      “Do ou want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me hit some dingers?

      • fribnit - Feb 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM

        McGwire the Liar did in deed lie. He claimed to ba taking only Andro, an approved supplement at the time. Then last year admitted he used steroids.

        That is lying.

  5. Kevin S. - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I never understood why people get sk worked up about whether somebody lied about his PED usage or not. What, do they really expect people to take the drugs and then simply pray that they never get asked about it? Perhaps there is a difference in what players do when confronted with evidence about it, but before that? It’s like when people all got their panties in a twist because A-Rod denied taking PEDs to Katie Couric. Of coursr he lied! That doesn’t somehow make what he did with Texas any worse.

  6. vortexbreakdown - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I know many are loathe to differentiate between different types of PEDs, but I think we really do have to acknowledge the difference between HGH and anabolic steroids. HGH does not increase strength in healthy adults and there’s quite a bit of disagreement about how much of anything it actually does. Yes, it has been shown to help healing better and maybe even prevent injury, but to me that puts it in a bit of a gray area. It’s an indirect performance enhancer in that it lets you perform more often rather than at a higher level (relative to an athlete’s true talent level). I don’t agree with Buster about the not lying stuff, and I think a much better argument for Pettitte is that he used a substance that didn’t alter his strength, but helped him heal from injury, similar to a litany of other substances that are legal.

    • calrulz25 - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:51 AM

      Here’s how HGH helps. Let’s say you a pitcher, let’s call him Andy. You have a bunch of nagging injuries that you can’t play through then you take some HGH and then instead of having to miss games you can now pitch those games. Let’s say maybe that happens for 5 starts a year. Over a 16 year career that’s an extra 80 games in which the said player can pitch. That doesn’t give the player who took HGH any advantage?

      • vortexbreakdown - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:04 AM

        Oh yeah, I get that, it definitely has the potential to give an advantage to a player if it’s as effective as its supporters claim it is (though we know Pettitte used it twice; if true, he would have gained little). I just see very little acknowledgement in general that there’s a substantial difference between many steroids and HGH, both in what the substances claim to do and in the scientific evidence that shows what they actually can do. If we’re going to punish players for using PEDs, I think it’s worthwhile to include in the discussion what those substances actually did (or what they’ve been proven to do) instead of lumping them all together under the lazy term “PEDs.”

      • paperlions - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Except that there remains no evidence that HGH speeds healing or prevents injuries in healthy adults with normal natural HGH levels. Yeah, Petitte and others “cheated” by taking HGH, but it is almost certain that it had no effect on them physically and really certain that it had no effect on their performance.

  7. BC - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    He may have taken it his whole career, or maybe just the one time to come back from injury. No one will know. The only thing you can point to are the stats, and he was really consistent for a long time, no big spikes. No anomalies like having a 1.80 ERA at age 40 (paging Mr. Clemens). I give him credit for standing up and saying “I did it”, but I’d have given him more credit for doing so before the Mitchell Report came out.

  8. Professor Longnose - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    “Pettitte doesn’t get special treatment no matter how great a player he was and how great a guy he is.”

    The Hall of Fame says different.

  9. kinggeorge96 - Feb 4, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    I think it sucks that Andy Pettitte was using HGH… once or a hundred times, but the arguments by the commenter’s above seem to link cheating and lying as one and the same. As far as I’m concerned cheating is an action, whereas lying is verbal. Hope that made sense???

    I believe the point Olney was trying to make is that yes, Andy cheated, but he would not lie about cheating. It’s two separate actions. He was never asked about it, therefore he never lied about it. He wasn’t every other ball player who got caught saying, “Well, no, of course not, I’d never use any type of illegal drug. I’ve never used any PED, period.” Then the list comes out with their name on it, and the story changes. There was no different story with Andy.

    So yes it sucks he cheated, but he could not tell a lie… Hall of Fame? Maybe… I’d love to see it but don’t think it’d happen. I don’t really care about he PED use for him or any of them. It really pissed me off when I first heard all the names that were on the list, but the more time I’ve had for it to marinate in my brain, the less I care.

  10. largebill - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    The mental gymnastics some of these writers will be going through to justifying voting for X after refusing to vote for Y is going to be painful to watch. There are dozens of examples we could debate, but just consider Piazza and Pettitte. Piazza has never been legitimately implicated with PED’s. Pettitte was named in the Mitchell report and later admitted use and claimed it was just once or twice. Olney and others who can see into a player’s mind and heart “know” Pettitte is telling the truth about the amount of use and the reason for using. Chass and others of his ilk “know” Piazza used because . . . well there isn’t much there unless acne or other dermatological evidence is all your addled brain needs. We need to remember which voters don’t vote for Piazza (arguably best offensive catcher ever) and then turn around and a few years later vote for Pettitte (a weak HoF candidate) based on his honesty.

    I don’t know Olney’s history with Pettitte, but based on how other writers have been influenced by their relationship with players it is worth wondering whether Olney’s claim that he wouldn’t lie comes from the player treating him decently over the years. Don’t get me wrong, people should treat each other decently, but it should have NO bearing on Hall of Fame voting.

  11. fribnit - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    In a few years time, if it is conclusively proven that HGH does nothing for performance (pretty much proven from what I have read) and very little for healing (nearly proven from what I have read) then maybe we can put the Pettitte chapter of PED behind us all. No he didn’t lie. Good for him. By the rules of the game at the time, he cheated, he broke the rules.

    If in fact HGH does not help performance (as the data seems to indicate) is it still cheating? If it was only an aid to help his elbow heal as Pettitte said then how does it differ from an anti-inflamatory or heat therapy. Let’s say that HGH has a significant effect on healing but not on performance. Is baseball hurting its players by banning it?

    By the way: Mark McGwire did lie. He claimed that he only ever took Andro, at the time an approved supplement.

    He would later admit that he was taking steroids at that time.

    Folks, that is called lying.

    I am a life long Yankee Fan. That said: I do not support Pettitte for the HOF, I do not condone the cheating but the two are unrelated. I do appreciate that he was a very good pitcher for a long time.

  12. Jonny 5 - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    First of all he’s not a HOF caliber pitcher. He had a great career, not a HOF career, which should be exceptional. So, his use of PED’s will only push him further down in voting imo. And if performance is the issue as it should be, no “well he was honest about using PED’s” should not garner him more votes than if he lied about it. Which he kinda did stretch the truth a bit on anyway. I don’t see how a negative equals a positive here.

    • Paul White - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:44 AM

      Agreed. Can we just focus on the fact that he didn’t have a HOF-level career? Won’t that kill any of the PED arguments? Let’s start:

      Pettitte’s neutral-context stats look like this:
      169-153, .525 Win pct, 3.84 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

      Now here’s the neutral-context average for 10 other pitchers:
      197-158, .554 Win pct, 3.65 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

      (Note: Yes, won-loss records are a terrible stat to judge a pitcher. But we’re talking about HOF voters here. They care about that stuff.)

      The ten pitchers are: Luis Tiant, Billy Pierce, Orel Hershiser, Milt Pappas, Dave Stieb, Larry Jackson, Kevin Brown, Jerry Koosman, Curt Simmons and Rick Reuschel. Not one of them is in the Hall of Fame, and none are likely ever to get in unless Brown’s supporters finally outlast the anti-PED crowd. These guys were better than Pettitte, both collectively and, in most cases, individually, and they were each rejected, sometimes overwhelmingly, by the various HOF election bodies.

      The standard has been set, and Pettitte simply isn’t qualified, PED user or not.

      • Paul White - Feb 4, 2011 at 10:48 AM

        Postscript: Pettitte’s WAR total was 50.2. The ten pitchers listed above averaged 55.2.

        And no, Pettitte’s post-season numbers shouldn’t change things. His post-season stat line is essentially a mirror image of the numbers we should have expected him to post based on his regular season totals. All he had that others didn’t was better teammates, and the expanded post-season opportunities they helped bring to him.

      • BC - Feb 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM

        Out of all the guys you list the only one I’d consider for the HOF (and he won’t get there unless the Good Ol Boys Veterans put him there) is Tiant, based on him having maybe 5 dominant seasons. Hershisher and Brown had 2 dominant seasons. I don’t feel like Pettitte had any, though he was consistent for a long time. You make a good point.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 4, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        Yup, Yup, Mmm Hmmm, and Amen. I feel the Pettitte for HOF argument will be a smallish crowd. Mostly NY reporters trying to find something to write about off season is my guess.

  13. jasonc2300 - Feb 4, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Prove it, Buster.

  14. jasonc2300 - Feb 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Can you give your players PEDs?

  15. amhendrick - Feb 4, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    But he DID lie about it.

    ““I haven’t done anything,” Pettitte said on Oct. 1, 2006. “I guess reports are saying I’ve used performance-enhancing drugs. I’ve never used any drugs to enhance my performance in baseball before. I don’t know what else to say except to say it’s embarrassing my name would be out there.”” (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/16/sports/baseball/16pettitte.html).

    After his name turned up in the Mitchell Report in 2007, he then admitted to using HGH two times in 2002, but said that he stopped after that. (same article). Then, “On February 13, 2008, in an affidavit made public as part of a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform, Pettitte admitted to additional injections of HGH twice in one day in 2004, using HGH obtained via prescription for his seriously ill father.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Pettite#cite_note-21).

    That’s two outright lies about his PED use. I don’t think that makes him evil, but I don’t understand why someone would defend him as being exceptionally honest.

    • Kevin S. - Feb 4, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      Okay, I really don’t get why people get on Pettitte’s case for that second one. He didn’t mention it the first time because he didn’t want to throw his sick father under the bus.

  16. macjacmccoy - Feb 4, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    Come on he only admitted PED use after he ran out of ways to hide from the truth. That doesnt strike me as honest. Thats like calling Clinton honest. Ya he eventually came clean but that doesnt make up for all the times he flat out lied or avoided giving an answer.

  17. crashdog - Feb 5, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Pettitte never lied…he mis-remembered how many times and when he used

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