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The Benefit of the Doubt

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 10, 2010
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.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

Comments (7)

exactly... well said Mike... Petitte is no better or different than McGwire. Both got caught doing bad things.

mike, welcome back.i agree about petite.he's just as big a liar as the rest of the cheaters.as far as the 2010 season goes, expectations are super low this year, so maybe we will be pleasantly surprised.if they stink it up, minaya and manuel will be gone and the fan base will have a new gm and manager for 2011 and will get the energy jolt that has been missing in the 2009-10 offseason.

Mike - glad to see you back! I have been saying this about Petitte since he 'apologized'. Because he is a Yank, he gets a pass from the NY sportswriters. The truth is he took a drug to gain an advantage over the competition. He and McGwire are both guilty of cheating. Period. I will take the 'confessions' and 'apologies' seriously when these guys will simply just say they are truly sorry for precisely what they had done, and admit they intended for the drugs to enhance the healing and performance on the field.

As for the 2010 Mets, I am willing to let the current pitching staff take the mound and show us what they've got. Apart from Lackey, I was not overly impressed by this winter's crop of free agent pitchers, and very pleased the team did not overvalue and overpay for the talent. Most of all, I am glad the slow-footed, old catcher Molina will not join our team. Let;'s give Thole a chance to play mid season. For that matter, please let Daniel Murphy play every day.

Mike- glad to have you back. I was away myself for a while, got tied up with work and whatnot.

I'm ambivalent about Pettite. He did have alot of injuries when he started with the Astros. Asides from that, I think steroids didn't affect him positively or negatively. His overall numbers didn't really get affected (excpet maybe for that one great year pitching in Houston) dramatically.

I agree with what vinny said about the Mets 2010 upcoming season. Asides from Lackey, there was no real pitcher on the market who had any good long-term value. I like the short term value of Sheets, Smoltz, and even Pinero....but they might block guys from the minors or mid-season deals from coming down. Keep in mind, that there are ALOT of free agent pitchers coming after this season. The list includes: Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Jorge De La Rosa, Javier Vasquez, and Ted Lilly. There's no reason for the Mets to sign a Pinero to a long-term deal, especially when it's highly unlikely he'll keep his 25 BB rate from last season intact. Otherwise, the Mets did sign the one bat they needed to get- Jason Bay- and are keeping their options open for later deals.

I expect the Mets to be full-on for a mid-season deal with Arroyo or Harang (or Webb) if their respective teams are not competitive. They'll also be involved in the Adrian Gonzalez chase, but we'll have to see how Murphy and Ike Davis develop at 1st.

Also, if the Mets are NOT competitive this year.......expect them to trade Carlos Beltran, especially if Fernando Martinez gets into any sort of a groove, at the plate and/or healthy. And expect the Mets to make good use of Angel Pagan, as well.

I also get irritated when we hear media talk that the "Mets don't have money", when they turned out to be a net winner in the Madoff scandal. And I can't find actual sourced quotes about the Mets having a payroll reduction strategy, either. It's the usual "What are the Yankees saying about the Mets?" crap I get from the NY Sports Media.

Thanks for all the feedback. You know, I actually think Pettitte really is a good guy, I guess I'm just amazed how he got a pass for saying almost exactly the same things McGwire is getting slammed for saying. As far as Jason's point on how much or little PEDs helped his career, that's impossible to say for anyone. Then again, being a cheater isn't about how well you cheat, but rather that you did at all. In my book, Pettitte is as big a cheater as anyone simply because he chose to cheat. Like McGwire, he only "came clean" because he was outed and forced to.

I don't disagree about Pettite "coming clean". I just think that it matters less with him than with McGuire or Bonds, because it DID materially affect their preformances better. I think that's why we tend to give Petitte a "pass" more so than the other guys.

That being said, I still want JC Romero thrown out of baseball. He was caught after the 2008 season for 'roids; and then look at the Phillies bullpen last year. I rest my case folks: He was their damn drug pusher and fall guy.

I hate the Phillies even more because of that. They're a pathetic team.

Jason -- we honestly don't know how much Pettitte was helped by PEDs because we only have his word for how long he took them and what he took. He could still be taking HGH for all we know since they still don't test for it. We'll never really know about any of these guys.

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