Andy Pettitte showed up at Yankees camp in Tampa yesterday to speak to Yankees minor leaguers. Or, as the New York Daily News characterized it, “to offer words of wisdom that perhaps one day will help a future generation of Yankee stars.”
The Daily News story notes that, apart from some gray hair, Pettitte looked fit and ready to play if he wanted to. The story says he talked about “the attention to detail that big leaguers have” and about how Pettitte “used himself as an example.” He additionally offered insight about “the commitment it takes to get to the big-league level and some different things, goal-setting, just some little things [he] learned over the years to help me.” The story is non-critical. It’s actually inspirational. It’s a portrait of a Great One coming back home to pass on what he knows to the Yankees’ Youngsters.
It also makes no reference whatsoever to Andy Pettite’s history of performance enhancing drug use or the legal proceedings about PEDs to which he was a party.
To be clear, this sort of story shouldn’t include such things because such things are pretty irrelevant. Pettitte is no longer a player. His drug use is in the past. Given what we know about PEDs it likely had far less impact on his performance than hysterics like to claim and made him effectively no different than scores and probably hundreds of other players of his era. It really doesn’t belong in a story about a retired player in 2016, at least in a story that is not about his past.
Except, to the Daily News, this sort of thing is almost always in these sorts of stories. Just not stories about Andy Pettitte.
In 2014, when Barry Bonds was invited back to Giants spring training, just as Pettitte was invited back to Tampa, the Daily News did a story on it. The lede: “Barry Bonds, the home run king with the drug-checkered past, is back in baseball.” Further down, the story included an entire paragraph about Bonds’ drug and legal history. The final paragraph gave shoutouts to then-Nationals manager Matt Williams’ and then-Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire’s PED history as well. Indeed, three of the six paragraphs in a story about an ex-player visiting spring training were about PEDs.
Similarly, when Bonds was under consideration to be hired by Marlins this past offseason, the Daily News’ story likewise went deep on Bonds’ drug history and, again, made mention of “admitted steroid user” Mark McGwire, who otherwise had nothing to do with the story. Once Bonds’ hiring was made official, the Daily News’ headline was “Steroids-tainted Barry Bonds hired as Marlins hitting coach.” Again, with more references to McGwire as “admitted steroid user” despite the fact that he has been coaching for several years now.
Why does Pettitte’s drug use get no mention at all when players who have been out of the game longer continue to be defined by their drug use by the Daily News? Notably, in stories which have nothing to do with the players’ pasts?
It certainly can’t be because Pettitte was honest and forthcoming about his drug use. I realize a lot of people think he was, but he wasn’t. As I detailed in 2014, Pettitte lied about his PED use on multiple occasions, including after he was named in the Mitchell Report. He also has, quite conveniently, claimed that the only two occasions he took PEDs just so happened to be the two times for which there is evidence from a third party that he did them. It was originally zero occasions and then one occasion. Pettitte has had to change his story a few times, which must be annoying. Oh, and Pettitte has also claimed that he only used PEDs to recover from injuries. Maybe that’s true, but no other player has ever been believed when he has claimed that, especially by the New York Daily News.
Again, I don’t think any less of Pettitte than I do any other player who was caught up in the PED mess of the past 20 years or so. It was a thing that happened and, in my mind, it takes nothing away from his career, his team accomplishments, his individual accomplishments or his legacy. If I’m the Yankees I WANT Andy Pettitte back in Tampa, teaching the next generation of Yankees players. If I’m doing a news story about it, I make no mention of his PED past unless it’s relevant to the story or if I’m writing detailed background about the guy.
But the New York Daily News, like a lot of other news outlets, has not taken such an approach with PED-using stars in the past. They tend to only really do that with Andy Pettitte. The paper famous for its “I-Team” tends to turn a blind eye to a favored player.