February 2011

Pettitte retired, but he won’t be out of the news

It was just a coincidence, Andy Pettitte, said on Friday, that he decided to formally retire shortly after a federal judge ruled that lawyers for Roger Clemens will be able to cross exam the left-handed pitcher this summer when the Rocket soars into court.

Pettitte won’t throw off a Major League mound for the Yankees this season, but he will be front and center as a key witness when Clemens goes to trial, which is slated to begin in Washington on July 6.

During his lengthy retirement media conference at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte said that the pending Clemens trial had “zero” effect on his decision. The question seemed to be the giant elephant in the room.

“I would hope that anyone or any of you guys who have followed me through that whole situation would know that it has not had any effect, zero in my decision,” Pettitte responded when the question was finally asked 20 minutes into the conference. “I would never let that interfere with those life decisions I’m [making] for me and my family. That has literally had no impact on my decision, no impact on my life.”

Clemens, who is charged with lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, was questioned by United States District Judge Reggie Walton on Wednesday about a possible conflict of interest involving one of his attorneys — Rusty Hardin. The bombastic Houston lawyer also advised Pettitte for a short time after the pair of pitchers were named in the Mitchell Report as PED users in December 2007. Clemens waived his rights about the conflict and another attorney will cross examine Pettitte.
Pettitte said he used human growth hormone. In a deposition before the famous Congressional hearing in February 2008, Pettitte admitted that transgression and said he had knowledge that Clemens also used HGH when the two were teammates. Pettitte was excused from the hearing. Clemens was advised not to testify. When he insisted and did so under oath he said that Pettitte “misremembered” the incident. It was one of the numerous times the Justice Dept. has charged that Clemens committed perjury that day.

Pettitte said he was at the end of line in his 16-year career anyway, that he could have physically continued to pitch, but “didn’t have his heart in it.” He missed almost the entire second half of the 2010 season because of a severely pulled groin and his absence alone certainly contributed to the Yankees barely losing the American League East title to the Rays. But it probably wouldn’t have been prudent for him to appear at the Clemens trial during the middle of the 2011 season. At 39, he can take the year off, get through the turmoil and perhaps give it another shot.

“I’ve been thinking about that, too,” Pettitte said. “I believe I’m done. I would not be doing what I’m doing right now if I didn’t think I was done. And I don’t know what I’m going to feel like two months from now, three months from now. I can tell you one thing: I am not going to play again this season.  I can tell you that 100 percent. But I guess you can never say never. I don’t think I’d be scared if I went through this whole season and I had a hurt in my stomach saying I wanted to pitch.  Maybe I’ll try it again.  But I don’t plan on pitching again. I think that me taking the mound every fifth day is over.”

Just when we thought Major League Baseball’s steroid era was behind us, it’s going to rear its ugly head again this year. First Barry Bonds will go to trial in San Francisco on March 21 for perjury in a case that is so old it defies the imagination. Bonds is charged with lying about his PED use in grand jury testimony regarding the BALCO case that was given in late 2003. Clemens will then go to trial in the nightcap a few months later. That’s only the top hitter and arguably the top pitcher of the era. Both will be on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2013.

Pettitte took the honorable path, publicly apologized for his mistake and then went on with his life and career. With a 240-138 regular season record and 19 postseason wins, he has Hall of Fame credentials similar to those of Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, another famous Yankees left-hander who had a 236-106 record and 10 postseason victories, all in the World Series.

That decision is for 2016 when Pettitte’s name will first appear on the ballot. No matter. Though he won’t be on the mound, he’ll certainly be back in the news in a big way again this summer.