Monday, July 21, 2008

Pettitte and Giambi

It's hard to find something interesting to write about every game in a 162-game season. Indeed, there are mornings when I stare at the box scores for long, long minutes trying to find some hook, some thematic association, some sense of coherence among the numbers that will enable me to say something pithy, useful, or at least funny about a given contest. This is especially true in quick, low-scoring games in which no particular player's line stands out as particularly good, bad, or indifferent.

Newsday's Wallace Matthews seems to have a similar problem. After all, what else could it be besides writer's block that led to this piece, openly speculating -- without really speculating -- if Pettitte and Giambi are still taking PEDs:

It was a win to remember, to be sure. But was it a win to be proud of? Was it real? Was it clean?Those are the questions you'd rather not have to wrestle with, but considering the players involved and their well-publicized history, they refuse to go away.

On the mound, you have Pettitte, admitted HGH user in the Mitchell Report, throwing eight strong innings in weather that would fry a cactus, and at the plate, you have Giambi, who couldn't hit his listed weight until Memorial Day weekend, blasting a fastball into the rightfield seats against a pitcher with the lowest ERA in major-league baseball, a pitcher who had allowed a measly six home runs all season long.You want to believe they are doing it the way it is supposed to be done, both by law and by the code of sportsmanship . . .

. . . But then you look at Pettitte, throwing as hard in the eighth inning as he did in the first, striking out two of the three batters he faced, and you scratch your head in confusion. You see Giambi, looking as muscular and fit as he ever did, and you shake your head in disbelief.
This is low rent garbage borne of a deadline and a lack of an idea as opposed to anything even remotely newsworthy on which to comment. Pettitte pitched an even better game back on July 8th and Matthews didn't accuse him of being on the juice then. Giambi hit two homers back on June 17th and it was bubkis. The only basis for Wallace filing this garbage this morning was that it was hot yesterday and Pettitte and Giambi were the game's only notable performers. How about this: Pettitte had just had a week off and Giambi spent half the game in the shade of the dugout as the team's DH. Is it possible that their comparative stamina had something to do with that? Did coincidence play a role? Perish the thought! That wouldn't make for a column.

Look, I'm not one of those guys who wants to put his head in the sand about PEDs. In fact, I've found it somewhat troubling that the good-but-not-truly-great like Giambi and Pettitte have gotten off way easier in the court of public opinion than have the would-be Hall of Famers like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Clemens. Steroids aren't only a problem because of their impact on record-breaking or legend-making performances. Indeed, maybe we should be talking about the moral and ethical implications of Pettitte's and Giambi's PED use more than we have to date.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The right way is to approach it from a place of reason and informed judgment. To analyze the players' performance, perhaps, and see how much of a benefit PEDs actually gave them. Maybe even to rationally scrutinize comments and habits going forward to see whether Pettitte's and Giambi's stated remorse for their drug use is legit or not. And certainly to follow up on actual evidence -- as opposed to baseless conjecture -- to see if either of them have fallen off the PED wagon. Once bitten twice shy isn't an unfair stance to take with these guys.

The wrong way is to take Matthews' approach. To trot out the same old witch hunt-masking cliches adorned with a phony "these questions just won't refuse to go away" shtick.

Wanna know why those questions won't go away, Matthews? Because you and your ilk refuse to pose them in a manner that could conceivably lead to an answer.

(link via IIATMS)


Ken Dynamo said...

i dont read the ny papers often but every time someone links to a wallace article it's always some blatantly inflammatory tabloid quality pablum. i'm pretty sure he is the worst.

Mike said...

I think Giambi and Pettite have had an easier go of it in the court of public opinion because they admitted to their PED use. Still, complete crap from Wallace.

Jason said...

It's one thing for those of us outside the MSM/beatwriters to take on this line of questioning but I found it bizarre that Matthews chose to head down this road.

Don't the beat writers have to face these guys and gain access/favors? I'd imagine that good ole Wallace just doesn't care!

John said...

Of course Wallace doesn't point out that one third of Oakland's starting lineup was batting under .200 and Giambi's home run barely cleared the short porch in right. Great performances, certainly, but nothing out of the realm of plausibility that would suggest PED use.

Loaf Cobra said...

Well said.

Mr. Thursday said...

If JC Bradbury has taught me anything, it's that the impact of HGH/Steroids on player performance is nebulous, at best. If the confusion and vagaries of doctors has indicated anything to me, it is that steroids can probably be taken safely.

And so, here I am wondering: what is wrong with an athlete trying to become bigger, stronger, faster, better? I mean, really? I understand: it's against the rules. But what I wonder, every time I hear about PEDs is: why are they against the rules at all?

dimtrios said...

I think the reason the American public has given Pettite and Giambi a pass on the whole steroid thing is that they fessed up to it.

American's tend to want to give folks that want to make amends a second chance.

That is the way the court of public opinion seems to work as i see it.

Now, those that cheat and get caught, but lie about it when caught red handed tend to get raked over the coals.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Where does that leave Sosa? Many are on record already opposing his HoF chances and many believe that he was a steroid case. But there's never been an accusation. Is he supposed to admit to anything?

How about Palmiero? I don't have time to look, but I'm pretty sure he offered some statement of remorse, at least eventually.

That said, I totally see where you're coming from on the apology thing. It's understandable. Problem is, everyone is going to have their own standard (would a McGwire apology tomorrow work for him? Maybe it would for some), and when that's the case, there's no standard.