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?
I’m sure this is something of a pipe dream for Yankee fans dismayed at the black hole around first base but Nick Johnson is feeling good and looking good early on in the Nationals’ camp. The Nationals have two first basemen — Johnson and Dmitri Young — and will, if both are healthy, look to trade one before camp breaks. The Yanks are definitely keeping an eye on their former farm hand and OBP machine. · (50) ·
In a few short hours, the Yanks’ first of many days of reckoning will arrive. When Andy Pettitte takes the microphone with his lawyer at his side this afternoon, he will, in effect, set the tone for the 2008 Yankee season for better or for worse.
On the field, as we all well know, 2008 is a year of transition. It’s a rebuilding year for a team built to win now and win later. The new guns are coming up, and the old guys are playing out final years of costly contracts. With a farm system rich with talent and coffers nearing replenishment, the 2008 season will continue to lead in a new era of Yankees as the old ones find their way to the door.
The field itself is undergoing a transition. In just 1 month and 13 days — check out the snazzy new countdown at right — the Yankees will take the field in the Bronx for their final Opening Day at the old Yankee Stadium. Each game will bring that ticker closer to zero and closer to the day that the Yanks and their fans cross the street for newer and more expensive pastures.
But while new players and the ongoing construction of a new stadium will set the tone for much of the season, today brings the bellwether event for the Yankees’ 2008 season. When Andy Pettitte faces a skeptical media and a very skeptical public, the Yankees will begin to learn what is in store for them this season.
Make no mistake about it: Andy Pettitte is the pivotal player on the Yankees this year. The team opted against pursuing Johan Santana because Pettitte said he would come back. They view Andy as a bridge to the new. He was very effective last year and brings a wealth of knowledge about the game and his pitching. The team needs Pettitte to make his 35 starts and to impart his knowledge to those who will inherit his position.
Looming over everything are the HGH revelations and the Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee circus, and it’s a shame to think that a report issued by a Red Sox part owner that didn’t manage to paint a complete picture of drug use in baseball could be the deciding the factor in the Yanks’ 2008 season. But here we are. Such is life.
If Pettitte can convey a sincere apology, if he can diffuse a scandal, and if he can come out of today’s press conference confident, the Yanks should have reason to hope. If he gets bogged down — as his Congressional testimony did — in a confusion of details and information, it will be a long season of media skepticism and abuse at the hands of harsh fans in Boston and Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland, Toronto and Tampa Bay.
Here we go. Let’s hope everything gets off on the right foot.
I know he’s not the Yanks’ manager anymore, but it’s a great interview that’s worth three minutes of your time regardless. The third winningest manager in Bombers’ history talks Mitchell Report, the pressures he felt in NY, and milking pitchers for another hitter or two.
I’ve come to grips with Girardi being the man in charge now, and I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job, but I still believe Torre’s the guy that should be managing the team. There’s things off the field that need managing too, and Joe was the master at that. Chastise me in the comments if you wish, that’s just my personal opinion.
Update: Patrick talked to PeteAbe, who said that the no-hair-below-the-lip policy remains in place.
A story making its rounds in the mainstream media today is Joe Girardi‘s list of rules. I’m not sure if these are just for Spring Training or if they’ll extend into the season. There are 17 total, and RAB goat Wallace Matthews got his hands on nine:
1. Be on time. No excuse for lateness.
2. Shorts and T-shirts only permitted during spring training.
3. Curfew of 1 a.m.
4. Jewelry – only one chain is permitted. No earrings.
5. Only neatly cut beards, mustaches, goatees. No long hair or “unshaven looks.”
6. No family members in the clubhouse until after games.
7. No cell phones in the dugout.
8. Cell phones only allowed in the clubhouse until one hour before games.
9. No competing speakers in the clubhouse.
No. 2 makes it seem like these are the Girardi rules. No. 5, then, looks like it supersedes King George’s Law.
No. 7 should be fairly obvious…
When the Yanks on the World Series in 1998, they did so with a $73-million payroll. Despite the then-lofty price tag, the Yanks finished behind the $74-million, fourth-place Orioles in the payroll wars. That historic season would be the last time the Yanks lost that battle.
Ten years later, the Yanks are coming off a season that saw their payroll balloon to $218.3 million, nearly $70 million higher than the most expensive team to ever win a World Series. Brian Cashman, who is part of a Front Office that just doled out the most expensive contract in history and high-ticket deals to two other star players, now says that the bloat has to stop:
“We are high,” Yankees GM Brain Cashman said in an interview with ESPN 1050 New York’s Andrew Marchand. “If I could get our payroll lower [I would]. It is not going to happen — not this year. But we have, at the end of the year, a lot of numbers coming off. The combination of building our farm system and getting our salary lines back to where they probably need to be. That’s a process, too, and that takes some time. I’m not particularly proud that we have the highest payroll in the game.
“I just don’t think you are going to get the type of bang for your buck at the type of dollars that you are paying.”
For some Yankee fans, their instant reaction to this quote will be one of concern. The vaunted Yankees are going to enter a rebuilding period? No way, how how.
But what Cashman is saying actually makes perfect sense. With the farm system coming due at the same time a lot of contracts are coming off the books, the Yanks have the cheap, good pieces to plug in to the right holes. At the same time, with a lot of albatross-like contracts — Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, Kyle Farnsworth — coming due, the Yanks can use that money to snatch up the right pieces.
NoMaas likes to say that if they had $200 million to spend, the Yanks would never lose. If Brian Cashman is true to his word and the Yanks’ brass don’t overreact this season, we may finally get to see what happens when the Yanks put together a well-constructed $180-million machine instead of a $200-million bloated roster.
Had some minor technical issues with our host, but all is good now. Sorry for the downtime. Too bad that hot blonde chick that was showing up instead of the regular site didn’t stick around.
Peter Abraham reports that Jason Giambi is supposedly in great shape and ready to play this year. Why? Well, because it’s his walk year, of course. Giambi, who’s had three and a half good years and two and a half terrible years on the Yanks, is playing out his age 37 season and could sign another two-year deal with some team if he proves he can still hit this year. While he probably won’t be in the Bronx in 2009, I’ll take a good 2008 from him. · (24) ·
Says Hank: “We’re one of the five best, and no nobody really knows who’s better than who at this point. There’s Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, there’s Anaheim, and there might be a couple others as well. … With (Johan) Santana, we’d be the favorite right now. I’d like to win it this year. But we had a chance, and it will only get better.”
While WasWatching.com says Hank is expressing some Santana remorse, it seems to me that Hank recognizes that the future will “only get better” with the Big Three around. Considering Hank was long the one who pushed hard for Santana, this is a welcome change of heart from one of the guys in charge.