By Mike Steffanos
Sorry it took so long to get this first one posted. I haven't written much for the past few months and the words still aren't quite flowing freely.
I promise we'll get to some talk about the Mets off-season soon, but for my first official baseball posting since my return I'd like to make a point that occurred to me after Mark McGwire's interview with Bob Costas last month. I promise to tie this back into the Mets at the end.
As expected going into the interview, McGwire admitted to using steroids during his career. Equally as predictable, most people feel that the former slugger somewhat understated his use during his mea culpa. McGwire did confess to using PEDs "on occasion throughout the '90s", including his record-breaking HR year of 1998.
However, he told Costas that he only used PEDs to recover from injuries and didn't feet that steroids contributed to his home run production.
McGwire's comments were met with much skepticism on the part of the media as being both self-serving and not completely credible. It's still thought that the former great's hope of making it into the Hall of Fame is a long shot, and at the very least it will take many years for voters to forget that awful performance in front of the senate that devastated McGwire's image.
I've read many pundits who took McGwire apart for trying to make his steroid use seem unselfish, in that he only wanted to return from injuries and earn his salary. I find it somewhat ironic, however, that another ballplayer was able to claim virtually the same motivation while meeting with much less skepticism from the baseball media.
After being outed in the Mitchell Report as a PED user, the still-active Andy Pettitte admitted to using Human Growth Hormone twice -- but not, of course, for selfish personal reasons:
"In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow," Pettitte said in the statement released to The Associated Press by agent Randy Hendricks.
"I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.
"This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list," he said. "I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal."
Pettitte was not linked to steroids in the report, and said he never had never [sic] used them.
"I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable," he said. "If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication.
"I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true," he said.
Now maybe I'm just the evil, skeptical sort, but I didn't feel at the time -- and still don't -- that there was any reason to swallow everything Pettite was saying. For one thing, he didn't confess to anything until he was "outed" in the Mitchell Report, and even when he confessed he put himself in the best possible light in his non-apology apology.
While McGwire gets skewered for his own hypocrisy, Pettitte mostly gets a pass these days. By all accounts he's a good guy who gets along well with the media, and that seems to have bought for him a whole boatload of credulity.
I think this is why I get such a headache when folks start screaming about punishing steroid users. It seems to me that the more likeable you are as a person, the more likely you are to be receiving the all-important benefit of the doubt.
To me, Andy Pettitte is every bit as much of a liar and a cheater as McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens or any of the other favorite scapegoats from that era. There's no justice in any true sense of the word when the relative likeability of the player seems to count for so much. When Andy Pettitte and McGwire are treated exactly the same by the press for their self-serving, dubious claims, that's when I'll start taking this nonsense seriously.
And now, finally, back to the Mets. The aforementioned benefit of the doubt is something this franchise desperately craves. Just about every move they make or don't make gets absolutely skewered by the press. The fans are unhappy and somewhat confused by a winter full of conflicting signals and free agents who seemed to be a good fit signing elsewhere for seemingly quite reasonable contracts.
On one hand, two disappointing seasons followed by one utter disaster have created a track record that doesn't lend itself to receiving the benefit of the doubt. Falling into the same dismal patterns of behavior as an organization that have contributed to so many losing seasons doesn't help.
But on the other hand, the constant negativity of the coverage of this team has become tiresome to me. To me it has all the nuance of those old-timey melodramas with evil villains twirling their handlebar moustaches.
Certainly mistakes have been made in the way this franchise has been run, but it isn't all darkness and misery. If we're to take a realistic look going forward at the state of this franchise, we'll need to avoid the hyperbole and the temptation to oversimplify everything to fit a certain story line.
If your past three seasons of watching this team have embittered you to the point where your only motivation for getting out of bed each morning is your burning of Luis Castillo and/or Omar Minaya and/or Jerry Manuel, this probably isn't going to be the blog that provides the emotional catharsis you so desperately crave. No hard feelings.
On the other hand, hopefully we can take a more measured and realistic look at things than the mainstream coverage has been providing going forward. Thanks for sticking around.