Andy Pettitte should NOT get the blame if Clemens walks

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Andy Pettitte’s testimony this morning in the Roger Clemens case was pretty bad for the prosecution.  He was called to establish one fact — that Clemens once admitted to using PEDs — and he was equivocal on that fact.  Pettitte said he wasn’t sure if Clemens ever said that, actually.

That testimony, however, has led to some misleading commentary this afternoon: The beginning of a meme in which Andy Pettitte is being accused, implicitly or otherwise, of sinking the government’s case, flip-flopping or otherwise changing his story.

First one I saw was Jon Heyman. I’d embed his tweet but he blocks me, so here’s the link and here’s what he said:

pettitte finally is misremembering. now suddenly, hes unsure of key hgh conversation with clemens.#oy

Then I saw Richard Justice:

I’m assuming others will get on the “Andy Pettitte flip-flopped” bandwagon soon. But if they do, they’re wrong. Because Andy Pettitte didn’t change his story. Not one bit.

Pettitte was deposed by the government in 2008.  You can read his entire testimony here.  The relevant parts of it come on pages 25-28.  There Pettitte recounts the two conversations he had about PEDs with Roger Clemens: one in 1999, one in 2005. As he did in court today, he said then that he initially believed Clemens told him in 1999 that he used PEDs.  Then in 2005, Clemens said something else: that it was his wife, not Clemens himself, who used.

Obviously, it’s possible that Clemens was lying in 2005. The heat was on PED users by then.  He may have wanted to make people think that he never used PEDs at all.  That may have been why Clemens said what he said about his wife, and it would not be at all unreasonable for Pettitte to assume in 2005 that Clemens was lying.

But Pettitte didn’t assume that. At least not publicly. Here’s what he told Congress, under oath in 2008, when they asked him what he made of Clemens apparently changing his story:

Q What was your reaction to what he said?

A Well, obviously I was a little confused and flustered. But after that, I was like, well, obviously I must have misunderstood him.

Q But he had never told you before that his wife had used HGH, that was the first you’d heard of that, is that right?

A Yes.

Q Did you understand that he was saying that as a way or sort of a strategy to handle the press inquiries? I mean, was that the nature of your conversation?

A Not really. The conversation wasn’t very long. That was really the end of the conversation. Just when he said that, I was like, oh, just kind of walked out. I wasn’t going to argue with him over it. You know.

Q It sounds like when you — it sounds like your recollection of the conversation you had with him in 1999, you are fairly certain about that, that he told you he used it. Do you think it’s likely that you did misunderstand what Clemens had told you then? Are you saying you just didn’t want to get into a dispute with him about it so you
dropped the subject?

A I’m saying that I was under the impression that he told me that he had taken it. And then when Roger told me that he didn’t take it, and I misunderstood him, I took it for that, that I misunderstood him.

In light of that previous testimony — that Pettitte, in his own mind, concluded that he misunderstood Roger Clemens in 1999 — there had to be zero expectation that he would say with any degree of certainty this morning that Clemens told him he used PEDs in 1999.  For him to do so would require him to contradict his previously-sworn testimony.

And he did not contradict his previous testimony. It was totally consistent. And it was freely available to the prosecution and the defense for the past four years. They all knew that Pettitte was going to say that he was unsure about Clemens’ 1999 comments after he heard what he heard in 2005.

The prosecution knew this and foolishly decided to call Petitte anyway, in an attempt to prove more than they really could.  The defense knew this and exploited it deftly, asking Pettitte how unsure he was, leading to that “less than 50/50” comment which was both an obvious way to go for anyone with a day’s worth of trial experience and was an absolute killer in practice since “less than 50/50” = “reasonable doubt” to just about any juror.  In short, it was awful lawyering by the government and a freaking slam dunk for the defense.

But the press knew it too. Or should have.  And to the extent any member of the press now claims that the Clemens trial was sunk because Andy Pettitte “changed his story” or is “suddenly unsure” of key facts, they are dead wrong.

And not only are they dead wrong, but they’re doing a grave disservice to Andy Pettitte. The only man in this whole case who has been honest and consistent all along.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.