Andy Pettitte and Other PED Users Who Got a Free Pass from MLB Fans

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMay 2, 2012

Andy Pettitte and Other PED Users Who Got a Free Pass from MLB Fans

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    Longtime New York Yankees ace Andy Pettitte is in the news again, and not because he's about to make his 2012 debut.

    Pettitte finds himself making headlines today because he admitted at the Roger Clemens trial that he may have misinterpreted what his old teammate had to say in a past conversation about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

    According to the USA Today, Pettitte conceded that there is at least a "50-50" chance he may have misunderstood Clemens when they spoke back in 1999 or 2000. This comes after Pettitte previously led everyone to believe Clemens had in fact used human growth hormones.

    By admitting he's not 100 percent sure of what he heard, Pettitte may have just let Clemens off the hook.

    Pettitte himself is a former PED user, having admitted to taking HGH in 2002 and 2004. But instead of reacting with outrage, as Clemens' own PED connections were met, most baseball fans saw it fit to give Pettitte a free pass. 

    And he's not the only PED user to get a free pass from fans. Here's a look back at a few juicers who managed to remain in good graces despite their shady dealings. 

Rick Ankiel

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    Background

    In 2007, the New York Daily News reported that Rick Ankiel received a 12-month supply of HGH in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of an illegal drug-distribution operation. 

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    The news of Ankiel's HGH usage was a downer because he had spent the 2007 season establishing himself as a hitter after suffering serious injuries as a pitcher. 

    Ankiel defended himself by saying that he had only ever taken things that had been recommended by doctors. Via ESPN.com:

    "I'm not going to go into the list of what my doctors have prescribed for me. I've been through a lot emotionally and physically. There are doctor and patient privileges, and I hope you guys respect those privileges."

    Then-St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty stood up for Ankiel by insisting that everything Ankiel had done was legal, and that no MLB rules were violated.

    The explanation did not clear Ankiel of all wrongdoing in the eyes of fans, but a lot of fans found it easy to sympathize with Ankiel because of what he had been through earlier in his career. He was a promising young pitcher before arm troubles robbed him of a future in the game, so he forged a new future for himself at the plate. 

    It's hard to hate a guy who did something like that.

Paul Byrd

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    Background

    In 2007, an explosive San Francisco Chronicle article claimed Paul Byrd, then with the Cleveland Indians, had purchased thousands of dollars' worth of HGH from a Florida anti-aging clinic that had been targeted by law enforcement officials for illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    The news about Byrd came out while he and the Indians were busy trying to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. Byrd took some time before Game 7 of that series to fess up, saying that he took HGH to combat a tumor.

    Here's how he explained things in an email to Yahoo! Sports:

    "I have not taken any hormone apart from a doctor's care and supervision. The Indians, my coaches and MLB have known that I have had a pituitary gland issue for some time and have assisted me in getting blood tests in different states. I am currently working with an endocrinologist and will have another MRI on my head after the season to make sure that the tumor hasn't grown."

    Byrd was also careful to note that he hadn't done "anything illegal."

    Byrd took some flak from fans immediately after the initial report came out, but it became a lot harder for fans to mock him after he explained his medical condition. It's not easy to make fun of a guy who says he's trying to stem the growth of a tumor.

    Besides, HGH didn't do much to enhance Byrd's performance on the field. At that point in his career, he was certainly not a hard thrower. He got by thanks to smoke and mirrors, not nasty stuff.

Jason Giambi

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    Background

    Jason Giambi took both steroids and human growth hormone early in his career. He admitted as much in front of a federal grand jury in 2003, according to ESPN.com. He obtained them from Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' infamous personal trainer.

    Though he admitted using PEDs to a grand jury, Giambi denied using them publicly.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    It took a while, but Giambi eventually owned up to his PED usage in public. He took responsibility for his actions, and he also said that Major League Baseball owed it to fans to apologize for the league's rampant PED use.

    Via the New York Daily News:

    "I was wrong for doing that stuff. What we should have done a long time ago was stand up - players, ownership, everybody - and said: 'We made a mistake.'"

    "We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward. ... Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it."

    Giambi said exactly what needed to be said. Doing so didn't clear his name completely, but these comments did help ease a lot of the hatred that fans felt towards him.

    There was a time when Giambi was hated almost as much as Bonds, but that time has long since passed. Giambi is still at it these days, and he's become something of a fan favorite among Colorado Rockies fans.

Guillermo Mota

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    Background

    In 2006, then-New York Mets reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended for 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy. As reported by the USA Today, the league did not say why Mota was being suspended.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    Mota was quick to take responsibility for his actions, saying in a statement:

    "I have no one to blame but myself. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept MLB's suspension. I used extremely poor judgment and deserve to be held accountable."

    "To my teammates and the entire Mets organization, I am sorry. I truly regret what I did and hope that you can forgive me. To baseball fans everywhere, I understand that you are disappointed in me, and I don't blame you. I feel terrible and I promise this is the first and last time that this will happen. I am determined to prove to you that this was one mistake."

    The fact that Mota owned up to what he did helped ease some of the pressure on him, and it also helped that the news of his suspension came in November after the Mets' season had come to an end.

    Whatever it was that Mota took, it didn't seem to give him a huge boost in velocity. Per FanGraphs, Mota's velocity stayed right where it was at in 2006 after his suspension was over, and he still throws hard today. It's therefore debatable whether his performance was actually enhanced.

David Ortiz

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    Background

    In 2009, a couple years after the Mitchell Report was released, The New York Times reported that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had tested positive for PEDs in 2003. That was the year Ortiz broke out as a dangerous slugger, and a year before he helped the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. It looked bad.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    The Times report inspired quite a bit of outrage, but Ortiz moved quickly to quell the unrest. He issued a statement (see: SILive.com) saying that he was "blindsided" by the news, and he reassured fans that he was going to get to the bottom of things.

    A short while later, Ortiz told a group of reporters (see: ESPN.com) that he believed various over-the-counter supplements and vitamins he was taking in 2003 triggered the positive test. He said he had never taken steroids.

    Major League Baseball admitted that some of the urine samples collected in 2003 were in dispute, meaning it was at least possible that Big Papi's test had been a false-positive.

    The anger people felt towards Ortiz initially has died down a lot in the last couple years, in large part because there is reasonable doubt that he ever did use PEDs.

    Fans are still attracted to Ortiz's personality as well. There's only one Big Papi.

Brian Roberts

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    Background

    Brian Roberts was named in the Mitchell Report in 2007. Per ESPN.com, Roberts admitted to then-teammate Larry Bigbie that he had taken steroids in 2003.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    It only took days for Roberts to come out and admit that he had taken steroids. When he did, he made it clear that he was not proud of what he was doing at the time, and he swore that it was a one-time thing.

    Via the Baltimore Sun:

    "In 2003, when I took one shot of steroids, I immediately realized that this was not what I stood for or anything that I wanted to continue doing. I never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing drugs prior to or since that single incident. I can honestly say before God, myself, my family and all of my fans that steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs have never had any effect on what I have worked so hard to accomplish in the game of baseball."

    A lot of fans found it easy to forgive Roberts because his steroid usage in 2003 didn't lead to a huge increase in power. He hit .270 that season and managed five home runs in 460 at-bats. 

    Unlike other notable steroid users, Roberts never became a big-time power hitter. For the better part of his career, he was more of a doubles hitter who succeeded mainly thanks to a quick bat and good speed. There's no obvious evidence that steroids actually enhanced his performance.

    The other reason fans don't hate Roberts is because he's spent his entire career with the Orioles. If he had played for the Yankees, it would have been an entirely different story.

J.C. Romero

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    Background

    In January of 2009, Philadelphia Phillies lefty reliever J.C. Romero was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2009 season for testing positive for a banned substance. At the time, neither Romero nor the MLB Players Association planned to appeal, according to ESPN.com.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    Romero made it clear right away that he didn't think he did anything wrong, and he had a legitimate gripe.

    According to a report from Peter Gammons of ESPN.com, the MLBPA had sent out a letter three months after Romero was tested stating this:

    "We have previously told you there is no reason to believe a supplement bought at a U.S. based retail store could cause you to test positive under our Drug Program. That is no longer true. We have recently learned of three substances which can be bought over the counter at stores in the United States that will cause you to test positive. These three supplements were purchased at a GNC and Vitamin Shoppe in the U.S."

    Romero said he bought a supplement at a GNC and that he had it checked out to make sure it was okay, even taking it to the Phillies' strength and conditioning coach. It was that substance, apparently, that triggered the positive test.

    Once the full story came out, it was clear that Romero's positive test was one big misunderstanding, and that Romero was more of a victim than a villain. Fans found it easy to forgive him.

Edinson Volquez

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    Background

    In 2010, then-Cincinnati Reds hurler Edinson Volquez was hit with a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's performance-enhancing drug policy, as reported by The New York Times. He tested positive for a male fertility drug meant to boost testosterone.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    Volquez said in a statement that he used the drug because he and his wife were looking to start a family. The Times notes that that explanation was similar to the one Manny Ramirez gave after he was suspended for 50 games in 2009.

    Volquez's explanation therefore came off as being a little fishy, but the news wasn't met with a ton of vitriol from baseball fans.

    A big reason for this was because Volquez wasn't pitching at the time anyway. He had reconstructive elbow surgery during the offseason, and was on the disabled list when the news broke. He thus served his suspension while on the DL.

    Since Volquez's return that season, fans have been too busy worrying about his erratic control to be worried about his positive PED test.

Andy Pettitte

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    Background

    Andy Pettitte was tossed into the ring of baseball's PED users when his named surfaced in the Mitchell Report in 2007. The report, an excerpt of which can be seen on SI.com, said Pettitte had used human growth hormone in 2002 as part of an effort to recover from elbow tendinitis. The man who injected him was none other than Brian McNamee, Roger Clemens' infamous personal trainer.

     

    Why Nobody Hates Him

    Pettitte owned up to his HGH usage just a couple of days after his name surfaced in the Mitchell Report. Instead of trying to hide from the spotlight, he was honest about what happened.

    Here's what he said in a statement, via the Associated Press:

    "In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow.

    "I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.

    "This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list. I wasn't looking for an edge. I was looking to heal."

    Pettitte's honesty went over well with fans, and his explanation for why he used HGH made him out to be a sympathetic character in an odd sort of way. 

    In addition, Pettitte is a downright likable guy. He's always been a guy who's just gone about his business in a professional manner, which cannot be said of quite a few notable PED users.