I Doubt This Is True But…

What do I know? In case you didn’t see the ESPNNew York article today about Petttte’s reluctance to come back, take a look.

Clemens reason for Pettitte’s pause?

Yankees lefty still waffling about next season as The Rocket’s perjury trial looms

MatthewsBy Wallace Matthews

Nearly four years after he cashed his last Yankees paycheck, $18 million for a half-season’s work and a 6-6 record, it is possible that Roger Clemens is still exacting a heavy price from the team.

[+] EnlargeRoger Clemens & Andy Pettitte

AP Photo/Kathy WillensPettitte and Clemens used to be very close, but not anymore.

We are now barely a month away from the beginning of spring training and Andy Pettitte has still not decided whether he wants to pitch in 2011.

On Thursday, he told a New York Post reporter who showed up on his doorstep in Deer Park, Texas, the same thing he told reporters in the clubhouse in Arlington the night the Yankees were eliminated by the Texas Rangers, the same thing he has been t
elling the Yankees during their infrequent conversations this offseason: that he hasn’t made a decision.

All season long, I believed his reason — a desire to spend time at home with his young but growing family, a desire I can relate to with two children of my own. But now, as Pettitte continues to dither on what he really wants to do, the thought occurs that there might be another factor at work.

Clearly, it’s not a matter of ability — Pettitte’s 11-2 record up to the point of his groin injury in July that robbed him of two months of the season proves he can still pitch, and probably better than anyone in the Yankees’ rotation not named Carsten Charles.

And it’s not a matter of money — right now, the Yankees’ payroll sits at a treacherously low $170 million and with Cliff Lee out of the picture, you know that $30 million of Boss Bucks is just burning a hole in Brian Cashman’s pocket.

So either Pettitte wants to pitch, or he doesn’t.

What’s taking him so long to decide?

Well, maybe it is what is waiting for him in July, a hot seat on the witness stand in the upcoming federal perjury trial against Clemens. Pettitte is expected to be the government’s star witness against his former teammate and buddy, and in fact, might be the only man standing between The Rocket and a jail cell.

Clemens, of course, is a slimy character. His accuser, Brian McNamee, is every bit as slimy with a background that is maybe even more shady. No matter how strong the evidence or how many dirty syringes McNamee saved in a soda can in his basement, his and Clemens’ testimony will probably cancel one another out just on the sleaze factor alone.

That leaves Pettitte, and his word, as the swing vote — and you know Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, is going after Pettitte in the only areas he can in order to discredit his testimony. He is going to do his level best to crush Pettit
te’s reputation for honesty and sincerity and religious convictions. Simply put, he is likely to try to paint Pettitte as a lying hypocrite whose word cannot and should not be trusted.

The cross-examination could get embarrassing and highly personal.

And in a situation like that, pitching for the New York Yankees every five days and facing a ravenous media horde on a daily basis is not exactly where anyone in his or her right mind would want to be.

In that context, Pettitte’s indecision becomes not only clear, but quite understandable. When Pettitte says he hasn’t decided, it seems to mean that he really wants to pitch, but something is keeping him from committing himself to it.

True, there have been other offseasons in which he waited until well into January to decide — one season, he announced his decision on Jan. 26 — but never one in which this kind of thing was looming over his head.

Facing reporters to answer questions regar
ding his HGH use in a news conference in spring training was like an appearance on “The View” compared with being grilled by a defense attorney trying to keep a client out of jail.

My guess is the fear of that is keeping Pettitte on the shelf so far this winter — and if so, then Clemens is about to drag down his old team once again.

This, of course, is as much the Yankees’ fault as it is Clemens’ — for forging an unholy alliance with a player almost universally despised in their clubhouse before he joined them, for indulging his “special desires,” for allowing him to write his own rules. Clemens pitched well in his first stint with the Yankees, but the negative things he brought along with him negate many of his accomplishments.

He embarrassed the team by throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza, forcing Joe Torre into the impossible position of having to defend the indefensible. He forced them to hire McNamee, who brought his own variety of shame and dishonor to the club.

Clemens, too, strung the Yankees along on what seemed like an annual Hamlet routine of to pitch or not to pitch, one year even going so far as to accept thousands of dollars worth of ”retirement gifts” — only to resurface the next year as a member of the Houston Astros. He neither returned the gifts nor showed an ounce of embarrassment.

But his crowning achievement came in 2007, when he played the Yankees for an $18 million contract — more like $28 million if projected over a full season — sat out until June, and then delivered a .forgettable 500 season. That was followed by his star turn in the Mitchell report, his shameful performance before Congress in which he introduced the word “misremembered” to the sports lexicon, and then he slunk off, many of us thought, forever.

But now, perhaps he is rearing his ugly head again. Now, he may be one of the reasons — not the only one, of course — why the Yankees head into spring training with a pitching rotation that is decidedly third-best in the division. Perhaps he is the reason Pettitte is so reluctant to do what it appears he really would like to do for one more season.

As a man who has ties to both the Yankees and Pettitte told me Friday, “He’s afraid of a lot of things right now. People have told him he’s going to be a major distraction this year. He knows his name is going to be dragged through the mud and he knows that when you’re a Yankee, there’s nowhere to hide.”

Maybe Pettitte is hoping Clemens will come to his senses and cop a plea before his case ever gets to trail. Maybe he is waiting to see if U.S. district judge Reggie Walton, who has already pushed back the start date from April to July, will delay the trial further, to October or November.

Or maybe he really is wrestling with the issues he discussed all season, the struggle between wanting to continue doing what he does so well and wanting to enjoy his family while they are still around to be enjoyed.

But if that was the whole story, you would think he would have made his decision by now.

Something is keeping Andy Pettitte from issuing the final verdict on his 2011 intentions.

Perhaps it’s the prospect of having to testify against Roger Clemens and stand up to what could be a public humiliation, both in the courtroom and in the clubhouse.

If that’s the case, then once again The Rocket will have cost his former team a whole lot more than just money.

Even if Andy does have concerns about having to leave the team to appear at a July trial, I’m sure the Yankees would accommodate him. And by then we’ll have Felix Hernandez so no problem! Honestly, I really hope the Clemens thing isn’t messing with our rotation. The Rocket and his weasel-of-a-former-trainer have done enough damage to the franchise already.


  1. dschaub@gpo.gov

    Oh, this hurts.
    Sadly, the article makes too much sense not to be realistic. I fear that it’s all too true. And maybe, even more sadly, there’s a ‘karmic’ kind of retribution that’s come due; meaning — we’ve delighted in squeezing some very productive years from Wade Boggs, Clemens, Johnny D — goin’ all the way back to the Babe — and dodged possible payback bullets, like Bernie Williams, and even (yes, Lord help me for admitting this)…Mo. I mean, who have they ever stolen from us…Elston Howard (near the end, for a year or two)…anyone else? Reports were that it was close with Mo, which I’m still stunned about. This would be a cosmic payback hand grenade; nobody will remember Clemens’ two years in-between with the Jays, or the Houston flings. Please forgive these comments, She-Fan, but I’d rather that Andy get his own house in order than have an aging and VERY distracted pitcher that we’re counting on way way too much. Good luck with this mess, Andy… testifying in court (in cross-exam) is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever have to do…

  2. mel.tmottbg@gmail.com

    This does make some sense. I wonder if it is a combination of the two things: Petite knows that if he is an active player, the spotlight will shine brighter on him and he wants to protect his family.

    Andy must rue the day he ever met that Red Sock (what I have always called Clemens).


  3. The Cub Den

    I don’t think anything Clemens ever did can ever damage the Yankees. He’s a legend in his own mind and an embarrasment to baseball. They should put a seperate Hall at Cooperstown for Clemens and everyone else who shamed baseball.

    —Mark Gauthier

  4. ooaooa

    Saw this article several days ago. I fully agree this is weighing on Andy. He is a very sensitive inward person. A couple of years ago at spring training we had the opportunity to spend some time talking to him and he is not a flashy showman. He really impressed us as a real down to earth guy and it seems very logical this Clemons thing would make him question if he would distract from the Yankee season by playing this year.

    Speaking of Clemons he is scheduled to appear at Mohegan Sun at the Conn. Sports Foundation Against Cancer Dinner in mid February. I am hoping to get invited to attend. Given the format of the event it will be very interesting to see what he has to say.

  5. Jane Heller

    I wouldn’t want a distracted Andy either, Dave, but he’s dealt with this stuff before and been able to focus. I do agree that the trial will get ugly though and who knows how long it’ll last. Someone on Facebook just pointed out that Bob Klapisch of the Record had a similar story/theory in his column and that if Andy were going to pitch, he would be throwing by now with spring training just around the corner. So I guess there’s some validity to all this.

    He must absolutely rue the day he met Clemens, Melissa. They were so close, so alll this must hurt a lot. But Andy has to protect himself and his family, as you say, and tell the truth. The thing is, after having his life turned upside down, maybe he should pitch again, so his legacy won’t be all about the stupid trial.

    Clemens is damaging the Yankees if he’s the reason one of our best pitchers isn’t pitching, Mark. That’s the point of the article.

    Yes, John, you should go to that dinner and see what bull Clemens will be handing everybody. The fact that he still gets invited to this sort of thing boggles my mind. I get that he hasn’t been convicted of anything and has the right to do whatever he wants, but….Grrrr.

    If Clemens wants to keep fighting, Jeff, that’s fine and dandy with me. I just object to taking Andy down with him in an effort to save his skin. Andy’s not perfect – obviously, he’s made his own mistakes – but at least he owned up to them.

  6. PAUL

    As religious as Pettitte is, I doubt he’d let the trial influence his decision to the point where it would be the deciding factor. He’d go in and tell the truth whenever the trial takes place.
    And Jeff Pearlman made a convincing defense of Brian McNamee in his bio of Roger Clemens, so calling him slimy? I dunno.
    Not sure if I’m buying it. In fact, I’m not.

  7. Jane Heller

    I’m sure Andy will tell the truth, Paul. No doubt about that part. But can you imagine the media scrum after every word of testimony? As for McNamee, he’s slimy. I’m not second-guessing him about Clemens, since he seems to have so much damning evidence against him. But the day he decided to become a trainer-turned-drug-dealer is the day he lost his right not to be called slimy.

  8. ftyankeefan@aol.com

    First let me say that I love Andy Pettitte, but I am getting impatient with his non decision. I’m upset with him for keeping us in the dark.
    But speaking of upset, what really bothers me is Wallace Matthews. He used to write for Newsday, my local paper. I almost cancelled the papers several times because of his mean spirited, critical, angry columns about the Yankees. He never had anything good to say about them. He infuriated me, and I was glad that he left Newsday. I see that he hasn’t lost his miserable touch.

  9. Jane Heller

    I feel exactly the same way you do about Pettitte’s indecisiveness, Freya. I know he’s done this dance before, but what’s the big hold-up? Talk to your family. Consult your pastor. Talk to your manager and your teammates. Do whatever you need to do and then decide! I can’t understand why he’d leave everybody hanging, even if the Clemens trial is factoring into his decision. As for Matthews, I don’t read Newsday so I haven’t been as familiar with his stuff as you have. But I know that Bob Klapisch of The Record wrote pretty much the same Clemens-Pettitte story yesterday.

    Thanks, Kaybee. I appreciate your good wishes and hope all is good with you.

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