Raggedy Andy (cont.)
Posted: Thursday February 14, 2008 12:15PM; Updated: Thursday February 14, 2008 12:15PM
"Obviously, they found him very credible," Shepherd says. "Pettitte played it just right. You go in and you testify truthfully, transparently and respond in a timely fashion."
Pettitte's believability factor was aided by the fact that, during his deposition, he shared some achingly personal information about his father's illness and the effect that it had on his family. Those family problems, Pettitte said during the interview, were the reason he wasn't completely forthcoming about his HGH use in 2004. Pettitte said that he obtained the HGH he used in '04 from his father, who was using it do deal with a heart condition.
That kind of candor -- albeit candor forced through sworn testimony, perhaps -- goes a long way toward portraying Pettitte as a sympathetic figure. Throughout his interview, Pettitte answered all the questions with an apparent conviction that was completely believable to the committee. "I don't think we've had another player who's been more forthcoming than you have," one of the interviewers, committee majority staff member Phil Schiliro, told Pettitte at the conclusion of his deposition.
The good feeling about Pettitte carried over to the committee members, into the hearing room and has seeped into the public's perception of Pettitte, too. "Andy Pettitte had a very difficult decision to make -- loyalty to a close friend or risking sitting in jail," says Ronn Torossian of 5W Public Relations, a firm that has worked with leading athletes and entertainers including Snoop Dogg, Sean Combs, Roy Jones and Jalen Rose. "I think he's seen as believable and does tremendous damage to Roger Clemens' brand for eternity."
As well as things went for Pettitte on Wednesday -- hey, he didn't have to sit between Clemens and McNamee, the fate reserved for poor Mitchell Report investigator Charles Scheeler -- he won't be skating from here. Though he doesn't likely face a suspension from Major League Baseball for his use of HGH in 2004, Pettitte will have to face a hungry New York press contingent when he reports to the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., within the next few days. He is due in camp by Monday, at the latest.
The Yankees have said that they'll work with Pettitte's agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, to accommodate the crush of media for the pitcher's initial appearance in Tampa. It will be the first time he will answer to reporters since just after the Mitchell Report was made public. Pettitte is sure to be asked about his further HGH use and about Clemens.
How he handles that appearance will be just as important as how he dealt with Congress. At least it will be to the Yankees, who will be paying him $16 million to pitch in '08, and to the legions of Yankees fans and Pettitte fans who want to believe in their seemingly good-guy left-hander.
"The trick," says Gene Grabowski, the senior vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, "is to substitute a new topic. He can't just say, 'I'm not going to talk about it.' That's too petulant.
"The first thing Andy has to do is not give them a real comment, 'cause once [he does], they'll never go away. He has to be as gracious as he can be while positioning himself into the role of victim. You know. 'I need to move on with my career.'"
It's not going to be comfortable for Pettitte, who is not nearly as brusque and intimidating as his friend Clemens. It certainly won't be easy. At least, though, Pettitte has positioned himself to push this performance-enhancing mess behind him.
That, alone, moves him a long way ahead of Clemens and McNamee.
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