Putting His Faith in Telling the Truth
Considering that his old buddy Roger had thrown him under the stagecoach five days earlier, Andy Pettitte was in a tolerant mood about Clemens on Monday, even if it fell slightly short of turning the other cheek.
Pettitte still loves Clemens like a brother, he said, even if Clemens testified at a Congressional hearing that Pettitte “misremembered” that little conversation they had in 1999 about human growth hormone. Pettitte has testified under oath that Clemens admitted using the stuff, and Clemens has denied it. A small misunderstanding between buddies.
“The truth will set you free,” Pettitte said, quoting Christ’s words in John 8:32. Pettitte’s manager, Joe Girardi, had used the same phrase earlier in the day. Pettitte has played a bit loose with details in the recent past, but Monday he seemed chastened, horrified, by his public exposure, and seemed to need a public forum to set himself free. Always quick to note that he is not very smart, Pettitte did it four or five times during a news conference that was remarkable not only for its length of 57 minutes, but also for its tone of humility. Pettitte rarely preaches in the clubhouse. His references to his Christian faith generally come out in the context of the life he is living, which has always seemed controlled and sober and decent.
Not totally dimwitted, Pettitte did manage to make this key point in the standoff between Clemens and Brian McNamee, the rogue trainer who claims he administered illegal bodybuilding drugs to Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch and Pettitte.
“Mac told the truth about me,” Pettitte said Monday, a remark that underscored that Clemens has not exactly seemed candid since the Mitchell report came out in December, naming Clemens frequently and citing Pettitte.
On Monday, Pettitte sat still for questions about how he could square his dabbling in an illegal drug, twice in 2002 when he was with the Yankees. He also was asked why he did not tell the Mitchell investigators about two other times in 2004, when he was with Houston, that he used H.G.H. he had gotten from his father, Tom, who was under medical treatment.
“Stupid,” Pettitte said of himself. He did not recoil in anger when asked if he was a cheat for having used drugs banned by federal law, even if Major League Baseball had dawdled in banning such drugs.
“I was desperate,” Pettitte explained, referring to injuries in 2002 and 2004. “Do I think I’m a cheater? No, from the bottom of my heart. I wish I hadn’t done it. Stupid.”
Mostly, Pettitte seemed to think it was “stupid” because he wound up caught in the crossfire between McNamee and Clemens, and because he has embarrassed his family and the two teams he served, dragged his proud father into the news and disrupted his Batman-and-Robin friendship with Big Roger.
It is fascinating to see the desperation in both Pettitte and Knoblauch in their depositions to the House committee. Both cite the pressure to perform — injuries to Pettitte, the sudden loss of Knoblauch’s ability to throw accurately from second base. In trying illegal stuff, they sound like rank amateurs. And they both admit the drugs did not help.
Pettitte said he was so nervous as he prepared to fly from Houston to begin spring training that his wife, Laura, had to write down his thoughts on loose-leaf paper because he doubted he would remember his talking points. Yet he strode to a dais at an open-sided pavilion outside the Yankees’ park with the air of a man seeking a public cleansing.
He said he volunteered that his father had supplied H.G.H., even though Pettitte had withheld that from the Mitchell investigators. He and his wife had prayed about it, and came up with Romans 13:1-5, in which Paul spoke about a Christian’s relationship to civil government: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”
Conscience. A word one does not hear on a daily basis, particularly in the big-time sports mill. Asked Monday about how somebody of faith could have tried an illegal drug, Pettitte split hairs by noting that the drug was not banned by his sport. “I didn’t feel good about it,” he said.
“I know God knows that,” he added. “I know I’m going to have to stand before him some day. You have to tell the truth.”
This was not exactly a faith-healing ceremony. Nobody dunked Pettitte in a baptismal pool. He was flanked by his manager, Girardi, and his general manager, Brian Cashman. Three Yankee stalwarts — Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter — sat off to the side.
And for this secular confession, Pettitte had two slick lawyers, Jay K. Reisinger and Thomas J. Farrell, within reach, but he did not need them. He wouldn’t talk about Clemens, other than to say he loves him, and misses him. The only thing he didn’t say about his buddy was that he was telling the truth.