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Pettitte's under-oath about-face costs him one Hall of Fame vote -- this one

Yankees pitching great Andy Pettitte may have gotten Roger Clemens out of a jail sentence with his misremembering the other day in court. But Pettitte's contradictory testimony cost himself a chance of at least one Hall of Fame vote -- mine.

Pettitte's candidacy is a longshot, to be sure, and it depends on at least two factors.

One, a voter probably has to weigh career impact over career statistics (assuming he doesn't stick around for a few more years and dramatically boost those numbers). And two, a voter probably has to take Pettitte at his word that he only used HGH twice, and only then to recover from injuries.

The second claim is suddenly hard to swallow.

Pettitte lied for years when it came to his PED use, denying he ever took any such drugs right up until the day things got serious and baseball-appointed drug czar George Mitchell and the feds got involved. Then Pettitte changed his story to include two instances of HGH use, but only for recovery purposes.

We who knew Pettitte as an exceeedingly pleasant and God-fearing man nodded right along with him. But now, how can we be so sure he was telling the truth then?

Suddenly on the stand in federal court last week, Pettitte changed his story about Clemens. And remarkably, he changed it from one day to the next. It is fair to assume he wasn't being completely truthful one of those two days.

Under questioning by government lawyers, Pettitte, who's trying for a baseball comeback with the Yankees, said Clemens told him about Clemens' own HGH use while the pair were working out together back in 1999 or 2000. That was a powerful point against Clemens. He didn't equivocate at all that day, just flat said Clemens told him he used HGH.

Then only one day later, under questioning by Clemens' lawyers, Pettitte said he may have misunderstood the key HGH conversation. In fact, it's now 50-50 he misunderstood, he answered to Clemens attorney Michael Attanasio. "I'd say that's fair,'' Pettitte lamely answered to Attanasio.

Pettitte's under-oath changeup is so pathetic, Clemens' defense team is arguing Monday to strike his entire testimony, and I won't blame Judge Walton if he agrees. Pettitte's testimony was viewed by many as the key to the government's case, and now it can be thrown out.

While Pettitte won't face charges for his lame, less-then-honest performance (the government is understandably done with the steroids-in-baseball cases after Clemens), Pettitte may have torpedoed a worthwhile yet expensive case of perjury against Clemens with his sudden case of amnesia regarding a conversation he's been testifying consistently about for nearly five years.

I get that Pettitte is conflicted and doesn't want to help send his idol, Clemens, to the slammer. But if Pettitte is willing to bend the truth under oath to aid someone else, why should we believe his own story of two usages of HGH only for recovery and no usages of steroids?

There are people who are going to say Pettitte isn't a Hall of Famer anyway, that he didn't win enough games, strike out enough batters or make enough All-Star teams. But Pettitte is the only pitcher to begin his career with 16 seasons without a single losing season (Tom Seaver and Grover Alexander started with 15), his 19 career postseason victories is the most in history (and makes it 259 total victories), and he's one of 26 pitchers who are at least 100 games over .500, with 18 of those pitchers in the Hall of Fame and six more not yet eligible (according to YESNetwork.com).

Some from the stat set may scoff at individual victories making a Cooperstown case. But there's more. Five times Pettitte finished in the top six in Cy Young voting. The most similar pitcher to him is Mike Mussina, a clear Hall-of-Fame candidate by most accounts, according to Baseball-Reference.com. So Pettitte is at least a serious Cooperstown candidate based on on-field merit.

Some may say still his career comes up short, and that's fine if they do. Others may reflexively rule him out based on using HGH at all, and that's up to them.

But I was of a belief that his impact via big October wins might earn him my vote, and also that I might be able to overlook the two admitted HGH usages as a pair of weak moments for a pitcher with an imperfect elbow.

Now, though, his own sympathetic HGH story comes into serious question. If he's willing to suddenly misremember under oath for a good buddy, it's easy to think now Pettitte only admitted to what he had to admit to. Maybe Pettitte isn't quite the truthteller we gave him credit for, and maybe there is some other explanation for how his fastball velocity increased to 93/94 mph somewhere in the middle of his career.

I'd say the chances are 50-50 (at best) that Pettitte misremembered his own supposedly very limited usage.




 
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