With Andy Pettitte’s announcement last week that he will be hanging up his cleats (for good) at the end of this season, the very controversial discussion of whether or not Pettitte will be a Hall of Famer has begun again. Wins and strikeouts and “big game” reputation aside, Pettitte’s resume will have one other detail hanging over it: his admission of HGH use. Regardless of where one lands on the discussion of Pettitte’s HOF credentials, the entire debate sparks a much bigger issue: do people in baseball have a double standard on PED use when it comes to Andy Pettitte?
Before we go any further, here’s some full disclosure from me: I am a huge Andy Pettitte fan. While other kids my age were all about Derek Jeter in the mid-90’s, Andy was (and still is) my guy. I have a #46 jersey hanging in my closet. I was bummed when he went to Houston. And I still remember how disappointed I was as a fan to see my sports idol’s name on the Mitchell Report in 2007. For the record, I think Pettitte is borderline in the HOF discussion before the PED admission, tipping slightly towards “no.”
All of this said, it stands to reason that I would have all kinds of excuses for Andy Pettitte’s HGH use. I could say, “It wasn’t against the rules,” or, “Everyone was doing it back then.” I could point to the fact that he has admitted he use was limited to two times (two! That’s not that bad!), and merely for the sake of rehabbing and elbow injury (he was hurt!).
But truthfully, I don’t. I can’t. How can I? Because he is “Big Game” Andy Pettitte? Because he won a lot of games in the postseason? Because he is a member of the Core Four, and he has been a huge part of all five rings the Yankees have earned since 1996? If I did- and trust me, there’s a piece of me that really, really wants to- I would be a huge hypocrite.
Think about it. Pettitte claims he only took HGH twice. Well, didn’t we also hear for years that Alex Rodriguez only took PEDs during his Texas years? Before Biogenesis, he had never failed a drug test (and technically, he still hasn’t). Both men can only attest to in on his word. No tests, nothing else. No corroboration from other people. Both men never failed a test. Both took the items in question when the league had not outlawed them, so really, their main crime was a moral failing. Biogenesis aside, both stories sounds awfully familiar. Change the names up, and it could be the same story.
So why do we give Pettitte a pass? Yes, I know we could examine the source. By all accounts, Pettitte is and always has been a stand-up guy, whereas Alex’s history is a bit more checkered. Fine. But in terms of actions alone, both men did exactly the same thing. One just gets a pass, and one doesn’t, merely because he has a reputation as being a “good guy.”
I’m not Alex Rodriguez’s defender, I’m not even a fan of him as a player or person- in the early 2000’s when he was the second coming of a baseball demigod, or now. But it doesn’t also seem fair that Pettitte gets a pass and Rodriguez was lambasted and a laughingstock in stadiums around the league for doing the exact same thing.
With the new information on Biogenesis, Alex Rodriguez deserves all the criticism he gets. But prior to that, he got a lot more than he deserved, while Andy Pettitte got none. And while I want to defend my childhood sports hero, I can’t do that either. So reading about his retirement is a weird moment for me.
On the one hand, it gives me a chance to celebrate a storied career of a player who has been a huge part of the Yankee success, who was my idol. On the other hand, it forces me to examine how I look at him. He could be a stand up guy. He could be a Big Game pitcher. All of that is true. What is also true is that he took PEDs, regardless of the reason or how many times.
As much as I want to, I cannot ignore that double standard. So I wish him well, I hope he retires and I thank him for the great memories. But I also now am forced to look at him as baseball historians will look at Alex Rodriguez: a great player who will forever be tarnished by PED use.