In the latest episode of Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell takes a Jesuit approach to justify the use of HGH by Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.
In the latest episode of Revisionist History “The Standard Case,” Malcolm Gladwell uses a Jesuit technique founded by St. Ignatius 500-years ago called casuistry to understand the egregiousness of Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte‘s use of HGH.
Now, since the casuistic method (a case-based method of reasoning) requires one to put a novel problem into a taxonomy, let’s first understand what Mr. Pettitte’s novel problem is.
According to the Mitchell Report, between April and June of 2002, Mr. Pettitte was on the disabled list (DL) with elbow tendinitis. According to trainer Brian McNamee, he traveled to Tampa to help Pettitte rehab from his injury. In that time, McNamee claims to have injected Pettitte with HGH on “two to four occasions.”
According to Pettitte, he never took HGH to get an edge on anyone. Instead, Pettite says, “I did this to try to get off the DL and do my job.”
Now, with the novel problem in hand, Mr. Gladwell looks at two standard cases, each on opposite sides of the same spectrum, in order to determine the severity of Pettitte’s case.
One standard case is Tommy John. Known mostly for the surgery that is named after him, John was the first pitcher ever to have ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction.
This surgery allowed Tommy John to prolong his career by 14 years by having the experimental surgery. Since then, hundreds of pitchers on every level have had the surgery in order to continue playing baseball. In this case, the method is totally acceptable by all.
The other standard case one can use to determine the severity of Pettitte’s actions is Barry Bonds‘ 2001 season. That season, at age 37, Bonds entered spring training looking like an entirely different person.
He was so muscular, that he had to wear a jersey size 10x larger and a hat much larger than the season prior. What’s more, he more than doubled his average home run production to that point (1986-2000: 33 HR per season) in one single season (2001: 73 home runs).
It is widely known, though not proven, that Bonds used performing-enhancing drugs to achieve this level of transformation. Most of his actions are detailed in the New York Times bestseller “Game of Shadows” and is widely repudiated in the world of MLB.
Now, returning to casuistry, one must determine where on the spectrum Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte’s case belongs. Did he use PED’s to prolong his career like Tommy John or did he use it to transform his level of play like Barry Bonds allegedly did?
I think we’d all agree that it’s the former.