In a word, Andy Pettitte said nothing during his hour-long press conference this afternoon. Or at least, nothing we haven’t heard already.
For sixty minutes, Pettitte spoke to reporters and basically reiterated his position: He took HGH for only two or three days. He felt really bad about it. He feels bad about everything, and he just wants it all to go away.
But while Pettitte didn’t add much to the steroid talk, he did clarify a few of his own thoughts and shed some — but not much — light on baseball’s drug subculture. At the outset, reporters were quick to ask Pettitte if he thought of retiring. “I’d be lying if I said that didn’t cross my mind,” he said at least twice. He had a difficult off-season, he said, and wanted to hold the press conference as much to clear up his conscience as to clarify the issues.
Interestingly, Pettitte noted that he took HGH without much knowledge of the drug. “I didn’t know much about it,” he admitted. This, to me, is the kicker. Clemens took a similar stance during his Congressional circus hearing the other day. How can Major League Baseball players continue to inject substances into themselves without knowing what it is? How can they pump themselves full of chemicals without bothering to figure out the side effects and long-term problems associated with the drugs? It’s mind-boggling.
Finally, in the part that I found most interesting, Pettitte routinely discussed his relationship to the money he’s making. We take for granted the fact that baseball players play for a lot of money. Salaries, as you’ll see in a later post, are indeed absurd, and fans seem to assume that baseball players simply take the money and run. But along with multi-million-dollar salaries come the pressure the perform.
Pettitte, if you believe him, took HGH on two different occasions because he was trying to recover from injuries. Once with the Yankees and later with the Astros, he felt the need to come back and pitch as well as he could to justify the team’s investment in him and to help his team win. For players not used to the idea of taking home $12 or $16 million annually, the dollars can exert a lot of pressure.
At one point, a reporter asked Pettitte what sort of support the Yanks’ brass gave him and if they had asked him to come back or stay home. He said he wanted to do what the team wanted. “I don’t need the money, and I don’t need to go through this,” he said. If the Yanks thought he was a distraction, they could, he said, ask him to shut it down and go home.
Now, I’m not trying to make excuses for Andy Pettitte, but money does some odd things to people. If Pettitte feels the pressures of a contract when he’s hurt, imagine what players who aren’t making the big bucks must think. If they can bulk up, they get rewarded. So as baseball seems to be avoiding the subject of why and how PEDs are prevalent in the game, I think the answer lies in the economics of the sport as it always does.
For Pettitte, the days ahead will set the tone for his season. Does the media portray him in a sympathetic light? I thought the questions he faced today weren’t that tough, and he was more than willing to answer them more candidly than I thought he would. While the fans will be harsh, the media, at least, probably won’t be.
But baseball is once again left with questions it won’t or doesn’t want to answer. As players are sent out as sacrificial lambs, will anyone in power be willing to take the blame?