This was a risky case all along: The word of two teammates and friends against one another.
Roger Clemens was sunk. He had seemingly not been truthful when testifying before a congressional committee about steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Stories were being written about PED use by both Clemens and his wife. Card-show invitations were becoming rare, and his previously mortal-lock induction into the Hall of Fame was brought into doubt.
Pettitte then linked Clemens directly to use of human growth hormone. For the 2008 hearings he submitted a sworn affidavit to the U.S. government in which he stated that Clemens had admitted use of human growth hormone to him. This was supposed to be the centerpiece of the perjury case against Clemens. Clemens has long said that Pettitte “misremembered” the conversation.
Now, four years later, Pettitte seems to agree with the Rocket. Yesterday, Pettitte testified under oath that he was only 50 percent sure that Clemens had admitted using HGH.
Pettitte’s retreat came when Michael Attanasio, one of Clemens’s lawyers, asked him: “As you sit here today, you believe in your heart of hearts and your mind that you very well might have misunderstood Mr. Clemens. Sitting here now, you’re 50-50 that you misunderstood him, is that fair?”
Looking exasperated, Pettitte answered, “I’d say that’s fair.”
That’s right — Pettitte pulled a Frankie Five Angels, straight out of The Godfather II. “I never knew no Godfather . . . Look, the FBI guys, they promised me a deal, so I made up a lot of stuff . . . but it was all lies!” Sadly, the coverage of the trial doesn’t mention if Clemens’s attorney flew a relative of Pettitte’s in for the proceedings.
Clemens is likely to beat the case now, which would be the worst outcome. Perjury to Congress is a serious offense, but it would have been better if the government had chosen not to prosecute because of the nature of the charge, and left Clemens an unindicted man seeking to clear his tarnished name. Now he will crow about vindication and start a redemption tour of sorts. The doors to Cooperstown just opened back up.
Pettitte has just lost the credibility that his weak apology earned him when this whole charade began. I hope the Hall of Fame voters remember that, too.