Skip to content

Andy Pettitte and the Van Doren Gene

Jun 13, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

Andy Pettitte AP

That would be Charles Van Doren, the infamous game show contestent who cheated his way to stardom, in large part because everyone wanted to believe that a nice, handsome and polite guy like him would never do such a thing.

Joe Posnanski thinks that there are a lot of players in baseball like that — players people want to like and, when necessary, forgive — and that Andy Pettitte is one of them:

We want to think the best of him. Everybody does. People seem to see Pettitte as a generally honest and minor character in baseball’s PED scandal. Ask a moderate baseball fan who was named in the Mitchell Report — Sammy Sosa or Andy Pettitte? I’m thinking most will say Sosa, which is the wrong answer. Ask any baseball fan which pitcher denied using HGH, admitted using only twice but never more, admitted later than he actually used it another time, and I suspect Pettitte will not be the first guess.

Dead on. He doesn’t get any kind of heat for the PED stuff. Partially because people have chosen to forget it, partially because people liked his “aw-shucks” partial admission better than that of other players. As if the p.r. game is more important than the cheating everyone claims is the real issue.  A-Rod came clean when caught in 2009 and was instantly a pariah (and still would be even if the Biogenesis stuff never happened). Why? People want to like Pettitte. They want to hate A-Rod.

Posnanski goes way beyond the PED thing, of course, talking about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame resume too. I’ll admit I don’t know what to think about Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case. The other day on HBT Daily I waxed fairly effusive. Joe’s comps, though — Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and David Cone do have better cases — give me pause. Truth is I haven’t considered it too deeply yet. Probably won’t until after he retires.

But I do know this much: no PED-connected player is going to get anywhere close to the amount of forgiveness Pettitte will get when his candidacy is up. And, apart from the Van Doren Gene, I have no idea why that is.

  1. mdpickles - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    It’s exactly how I think about him. We all know he is a hell of guy, but he cheated. And all those post-season records don’t mean a thing to me now.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:24 PM

      Andy good, A-Rod bad………….
      it all depends on your opinion.

      • frenchysplatediscipline - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:14 PM

        Hell of a guy? Why? Because he gives a good interview? Because he is quiet and unassuming? Because he was a good player on some championship teams?

        Fuck that. You see what he wants you to see.

        Oh, and Pettite wasn’t a HOF’er before he admitted cheating.

        He ABSOLUTELY isn’t now.

  2. pjmitch - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:09 PM

    HOF Credentials

    Mussina- probably yes

    Cone-no

    Brown-no

    If you feel that Pettitte does not have as good a case as Cone and Brown, then he doesn’t get in. Easy decision

    • Jason Lukehart - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Kevin Brown has what ought to qualify as HOF credentials. He pitched over 3000 innings and his career ERA+ of 127 is one of the 20 best in history for a pitcher with at least that many innings. It’s the same figure as (among others) Bob Gibson.

  3. protectthishouse54 - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Am I the only one around here who doesn’t think he’s gotten let off the hook at all?

    • Jeremy T - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      It depends where you look. On HBT and a lot of other blogs like it, people are quick to point out the PED stuff. Reading a newspaper or watching ESPN, though, it’s easy to completely forget that it ever happened.

    • alang3131982 - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      It seems to me he has been let off the hook to a certain degree. I dont remember editorials/national baseball writers looking for ways for the Yankees to get rid of him like they did with AROD. Perhaps, I’m wrong and there are numerous clips.

      In addition, he certainly hasnt been blackballed by baseball like Barry Bonds was. He wasnt exactly attacked legally the same way Clemens was, etc. Of course, different circumstances, but it appears Andy has been handled with kid gloves on this.

      the real test will come when he retires + 5 years and we see what people write about PEDs in the Hall. I suspect there might be a few columns that come out in favor of his in teh Hall after he retires. And i hope by teh time he is eligible we have known PED users in the hall (Andy still isnt Hall worthy, imo).

      Anyway, this was long. I just dont see the amount of columns out there attacking Andy for using PEDs…

      • bigharold - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        “It seems to me he has been let off the hook to a certain degree. ”

        Some of that is the result of him admitting it when it was reveled. Sure he gave his rationalization but he didn’t try to minimize it. It’s not like he gave himself up but once it was out he said he did it, admitted it was a mistake, took responsibility and actually apologized. While that doesn’t erase what he did, it does end the debate. If somebody says, yeah it was me, I screwed up there is really nowhere else to take it. Also, he was one of the first to admit it and apologize.

        At the other extreme, at least for the Yankees, initially wasn’t A-Rod it was Jason Giambi. Giambi not only never admitted it he repeatedly apologized but wouldn’t say what he was apologizing for. And, at the time there was the same crap from the media about voiding his contract and just releasing him. Not only didn’t that happen he’s still liked by Yankee fans. And, he was the only guy that Jeter went out of his way to defend as being a good team mate. The person that truly benefited from A-Rod being outed was Giambi. It took all the PED focus off him and to A-Rod. Proving once again Big Harold’s rule of Thermos-dynamics; When the heats on somebody else it ain’t on you!

      • paperlions - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:38 PM

        Except, of course, we don’t know that Pettitte has admitted everything. For many guys, there are calls for them to detail their full usage, and guys that say they only used it for a certain time period are doubted.

        Pettitte said he used HGH only once…then when information indicated he used it more than once, he said, “well, okay, I used it twice.” Obviously, he lied the first time, I have no reason to believe him the second time.

      • tuberippin - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:41 PM

        “i hope by teh time he is eligible we have known PED users in the hall”

        We already do.

      • Alex K - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:59 PM

        This 100%, paper. I’m not sure why everyone believes Pettitte when he has been proven to have lied about his usage. The only reason I can think of is because he seems to be an “ah shucks” kind of guy that people genuinely like.

        I don’t villanize any of the steroids/HGH guys because 1)There is no real evidence it makes you any better at baseball & 2) We’re never going to know who did what, how often they did it, and how long the timeline is/was.

        That’s not to say that players who fail drug tests or are proven to have taken steroids/HGH shouldn’t be suspended, however. I think the suspension for amphetamines should actually be tougher than a steroid/HGH suspension since those are, most likely, more helpful in performance. I might be the only person who think that, though.

      • bigharold - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        “Except, of course, we don’t know that Pettitte has admitted everything. For many guys, there are calls for them to detail their full usage,…”

        Yes but so what? And, conversely you don’t know that there was anything more either. And, what mechanism is there to determine to any certainty that he is either telling the truth or not, ..blood oath, .. lie detector, .. Vulcan mind meld??? He said he did it and for those that see it as such he is and will always and forever be a cheater so what is the point of lying about it?

        I’m not defending Pettite nor any other player that used PEDs I’m trying to understand why people will cut guys like Pettitte some slack but not others. Not to mention yet others that never tested positive nor have ever admitted using PEDs but receive nothing but scorn and are universally called liars like Clemens and Bonds. In Pettitte’s case I believe it’s the reasons I stated and, as others have pointed out, he comes across as a fairly down to earth humble person. Liking him is not a referendum on his veracity with regard to his PED use but it does explain why people are not as rabid in their response when he’s mentioned.

      • badintent - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:28 AM

        @bigharold
        If only you had applied super conductors instead of Thermos -dynamics. You would have won a $50K prize and had two major cell phone manufacturers offer to make you a multi-millionaire for charging cell phones in only 20 Seconds ! That’s right, 20 Seconds !! Some high school chick did and she’s off to Harvard. But I agree with your point about Pettie being more up front than Jason. Jason should have spent some of that $120 million the Yankees gave him on some spin doctors/PR firm.A country bumpkin is a redneck in NY.And sounds stupid.

  4. threefingerclown - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    I guess this makes A-Rod the guy with the Herb Stempel Gene.

  5. yankeesgameday - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Biggest reason we overlook Pettite and PED is because he never put up obscene video game like numbers. He’s just had a solid career that stayed level with the same crazy peaks as Arod, bonds, or Clemens. His use is therefore less obvious on the field so it seems less like he cheatedthan they did.

    • pjmitch - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      I have to admit, you make a very good point.

      • paperlions - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Not really. He is correct that one reason people don’t care about Pettitte’s use is that he didn’t have a crazy peak, but he is not correct that the cray peak’s are a result of PED use. If that were true, then there should be many 100s more crazy peak performances.

        What is more indicative of PED use is the ability to maintain performance well past a person’s physical prime, which ends around 30 for a baseball player. Such extended excellence was observed for Bonds and Clemens, and Hank Aaron, and Pettitte, and Stan Musial. Which aspects of those performances are you going to assign to PED use?

  6. danster46 - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Is it possible that we, the public, are more forgiving of Pettitte because he is a fine role model and a good person? Are he, or Charles Van Doren, “bad” human beings because they made mistakes?

    Why should we believe that Andy Pettitte is lying about the number of times he used HGH? The substance was not banned by Major League Baseball until 2004. Pettitte used twice in 2002 and once in 2004, all while on the disabled list. This indicates to me that he was not looking for an edge in the competition — he wanted to heal faster and get back to his team. He is openly frustrated and self-depricating when hurt or not at his best. Who amongst us would not at least explore alternate means for healing if we were away from work and eager to get back? Is a man who takes medicinal marijuana to ease his pain, although it is illegal in most states, a “cheater?” Perhaps he is just a diligent employee who feels guilty for his absence.

    Andy Pettitte is a modest person who puts others before himself. I once saw him take a perfect game into the seventh inning, only to have it broken up by an error on routine groundball to Jerry Hairston Jr. at third base. In the locker room following the game, Pettitte immediatley sought out his teammate to console him. “I’m too old to be throwing no hitters or perfect games,” he said. It was his night to shine, and his teammate’s feelings matter more to him than glory or perfect victory. Aaron Boone spoke about this in a recent ESPN broadcast as well, noting that Pettitte is always the first to reach out to struggling teammates in the locker room.

    Pettitte is also a religious man, asked to put his hand on the bible multiple times and to implicate friends and peers in a scandal that, in my opinion, has been dissected in excess. How would you do under oath if asked to call your close friends liars and cheaters in front of a national audience? And how would you feel if you faltered on the stand, unsure of casual conversations from decades ago, and were disdained and judged for it? Give the man a break.

    Last year, as Pettitte was coming out of retirement, he pitched a few innings in Trenton, New Jersey. Thousands of fans, including myself, came to see him. I’ve admired Mr. Pettitte since he burst onto the scene in 1995, and was hoping to catch his eye and maybe a smile or a wave. But Pettitte, knowing how many had come just to see him pitch, held off a press conference for nearly an hour as he greeted fans, signed autographs, and shook hands. I had the opportunity to meet my idol face-to-face, and I doubt that any of Sammy Sosa’s or Alex Rodriguez’s minions can say the same. Those superstars don’t have the time for things like that. Pettitte’s kindness and consideration is unparalelled, and perhaps we are more forgiving because he treats us with respect, just as he treats other ballplayers, the media, and his colleagues.

    Did Andy Pettitte “cheat?” If “cheating” means that he broke a rule, you can’t even really say that, as the substance he used was not banned at the time. But he did make a mistake. He then admitted his mistake, apologized, and was open to answering anyone’s questions. We, the public, like to scrutinize celebrities: every move they make, and every step and crap they take, so to speak. Perhaps our zest for picking these people apart stems from our inability, or unwillingness, to look at ourselves. How do we treat those around us? Are we immune from fault?

    There is plenty in this world to be upset about and outraged by. We should reserve our venom for those who abuse power, who put their own needs before the safety and the livelihood of their fellow human beings. And I for one have reserved my admiration for the Andy Pettittes of the world. Maybe Van Doren “cheated his way to stardom,” but Andy Pettitte earned his, and he’s earned my utmost respect, regardless of any mistakes that he’s made or will make.

    • pjmitch - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      Awesome.

    • clemente2 - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Ha, you couldn’t make this up. Just amusing–I would have been annoyed when I was so much older, but self-delusion turned out to be widespread.

    • dluxxx - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Wow, hero worship much? That’s just silly.

  7. sdelmonte - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Maybe it matters that it’s HGH, which may or may not do much for an adult. It certainly can’t do what steroids do. At most, it would seem to promote healing. It is easier to say “well, he was only trying to heal faster” as opposed to “he was trying to get an edge over everyone else.”

    But this explanation assumes that people’s reactions to PEDs are rational.

  8. bigharold - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    If his career ended today Pettitte, in my opinion, is close but not a HoF pitcher. Interestingly, while I see his post season success as a significant positive aspect, JP point’s out that his stats were identical to his regular season stats. Precisely, considering the talent he faced in the post season was for the most part superior to the regular season, (which is how they got to the post season), that actually says a lot about how good he really was overall. And, since he pitched a lot more than other pitchers his post season stats are more representative. He didn’t have one or two really good post seasons.

    And, Pettitte isn’t the only guy that gets the Van Doren treatment. David Ortiz is swimming in the same gene pool and Jason Giambi is practically the gene pool’s Aquaman.

    • clemente2 - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      Yes. People wake up—steriods and HGH were widespread, especially among pitchers, especially relief pitchers, who were just trying to heal faster so they could pitch at their top level throughout the season. They have moved on to Adderol and who knows what else.

      You have to decide it matters as to all of them, or does not, and then how it matters. Grouping the users by ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ based for the most part on media characterizations is a fool’s game.

  9. brinkus - Jun 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    In all honesty, how in the world is this not a race issue? Andy Pettitte is white and has a nice smile, so he gets off the hook. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, A-Rod? They all have something in common, and it’s not just that they are/were incredible baseball players.

    The issue here seems fairly clear.

    • paperlions - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      Yeah, people also love McGwire and Clemens, who were both elected to the HOF on the first ballot.

      • brinkus - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:57 PM

        Totally fair. Although, McGwire is on his second Major league coaching job (Cardinals, Dodgers), and Clemons was found not guilty on all counts of obstruction of justice.

        Clemons: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8068819/roger-clemens-found-not-guilty-all-six-counts-perjury-trial

        Bonds: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=6347014

        Obviously, you can’t put everything on race, but I certainly believe it has to be acknowledged in all of this.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:23 AM

        Let’s not forget how those racists who run baseball have kept Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, Rickey Henderson, Frank Robinson, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Kirby Puckett and Willie McCovey out of the Hall of Fame! What? Really? All of them? Others too? Oh. Never mind.

  10. turdfurgerson68 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    Even if he was 100% squeaky clean, Pettitte shouldn’t be in HoF discussions…unless he can reach the 300+ win plateau.

    Same goes for Mussina.

    Both wereexcellent pitchers but neither was a transcendental ace like Pedro Martinez (who will be a first ballot Hof’er when eligible).

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 13, 2013 at 6:42 PM

      If your qualification for entry into the HoF is as good as Pedro, might as well shut it down right now. That’s essentially the Willie Mays Hall of Fame:

      http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2011/01/willie-mays-hall-of-fame.html

      • turdfurgerson68 - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        Some players are transcendental and define their era (guys like Mays, Ruth, Aaron, Ted Williams, Spahn, Gibson, etc.) but that doesn’t mean that players just a tad below (guys like Molitor, Winfield, Don Sutton, Glavine, etc.) should not be given their rightful place in the HoF.

        I agree, if their were different strata in the HoF then Petro would be in the top one besides guys like Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Warren Spahn, etc.

        He was that dominate.

  11. nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    Clicked to see a possible link between Pettitte and Mamie Van Doren. Oh, Charles. Yeah, he was interesting too in those days.

  12. Bob - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    You guys speak for yourselves. I think Pettitte is a cheat first and foremost, and no amount of aw-shucks persona put out by him will change that. I don’t care what he does off the field, whether he’s a nice guy, etc. He’s a cheater.

  13. apmn - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    The lesson, kids, is to not be a d-bag, and people might give you a second chance.

    Unless posting comments on the Internet, in which case being a d-bag is mandatory.

  14. historiophiliac - Jun 14, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    I really can’t stand Andy Pettitte. I freaking hate the way they let him get away with balks. And, he’s bland. He’s the buttermints of baseball.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

When home-field advantage isn't so
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (3097)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2690)
  3. M. Morse (2447)
  4. J. Shields (2247)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2080)
  1. H. Pence (1504)
  2. T. Ishikawa (1461)
  3. U. Jimenez (1449)
  4. L. Cain (1449)
  5. B. Butler (1412)