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Raggedy Andy

Pettitte praised by Congress, but hits are coming soon

Posted: Thursday February 14, 2008 12:15PM; Updated: Thursday February 14, 2008 12:15PM
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Andy Pettitte
Andy Pettitte made just one appearance on Capitol Hill this month, but he'll face plenty of questions once spring training starts.
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The most important man that we heard from Wednesday on Capitol Hill, amid all the bluster, the embarrassing fawning over Roger Clemens and the multitude of mind-squishingly moronic questions, happened to be nowhere near Capitol Hill. Yet Andy Pettitte's presence at baseball's latest hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was unmistakable, his words unshakeable.

You can talk winners and losers, who looks bad and who doesn't, good guys and bad guys and all that nonsense. Right now, Andy Pettitte is the only man seemingly above it all.

And that, alone, is a hoot, isn't it? Here's a player who, only when outed by the Mitchell Report, finally admitted to taking injections of human growth hormone from Clemens' accuser, Brian McNamee. Then Wednesday, it was revealed in his sworn depositions and affidavits -- oh, by the way, sorry, now that we're under oath and all, forgot to mention this -- that Pettitte took a couple more needle pops from his pops (not McNamee) a few years later.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what constitutes a hero in this mess.

The truth of that matter, though -- and in case we've all forgotten, the truth is what we're after here -- is that Pettitte, friend to both Clemens and McNamee, is the one truly believable voice in this Congressional cacophony. When he said in his deposition, and again in his affidavit, that Clemens admitted using growth hormone in a conversation in either 1999 or 2000, it was the ultimate show-stopper. Even Clemens, who was in the mood to argue Wednesday about the very shape of the Capitol Dome, had a hard time shooting down his buddy's damning recollection.

(A side note here: Remember Mark McGwire's, "I don't want to talk about the past," and Rafael Palmeiro's finger-wagging, "Never," comments to Congress back in 2005? The catchphrase from Wednesday's hearing will end up being Clemens' explanation of the Pettitte story: "I think he misremembers.")

Pettitte was, in fact, as unimpeachable as anyone caught up in this maelstrom can be, praised by McNamee, Clemens and by just about everyone else in the greater D.C. area. The committee at large thought so much of him and what he had to offer, in fact, that it allowed him to skip out on the hearing, deeming that his earlier deposition and the affidavit would suffice. Several members -- among them, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) -- objected to that decision by committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), preferring that Pettitte be there in person to clarify what he had said to the committee's lawyers and staff. It wasn't enough to change Waxman's mind.

"I think it's about them just cutting him some slack," says Ray Shepherd, head of the Congressional Investigations practice at the Washington law firm of Venable LLP and former chief counsel to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. "One can argue that that pressure [in a public hearing] sometimes changes people's answers. [But] I don't know what more you gain other than yet another witness in all of this."

So Pettitte bowed out, stage right, his words lingered accusingly in the hearing room air (and on the overhead projector for everyone to see) and he ended up looking like the most forthright character to make an appearance in the halls of Congress since Honest Abe himself. "A role model on and off the field," Waxman said of Honest Andy.

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