There's nothing like a good apology, especially when you know it comes straight from the heart.
Eric Gagne issued his Monday in two different languages, though if you had just come back from a few months climbing in the Himalayas you'd be hard-pressed to know just what he was apologizing for.
Even Gagne didn't seem sure, and you would think he would be the one to know. Something about a ``distraction that shouldn't be taking place'' was taking place and that ``right now I just want to go forward.''
The French version, I'm told, was better, though even with four years of high school French I wasn't able to quite get the translation down. I was pretty sure, however, that there was nothing in there about shooting up with human growth hormone to make sure his fastball didn't flatten out and drop into the low 90s.
Gagne had to have been watching and taking notes a few days earlier when his former batterymate, and the guy who used to score his HGH for him, issued his own mea culpa before beginning his new job as a $5 million a year catcher and role model for the Washington Nationals.
For that kind of money you would think that Paul Lo Duca might be able to do better than a three sentence statement apologizing for ``mistakes in judgment I made in the past and for the distraction that has resulted.'' Maybe even tell us if the details in the Mitchell report about him buying steroids for his minor league teammates in 1999 and then going around the clubhouse to make sure his buddies had a fresh supply of HGH in the majors were true.
Apparently not. Like Mark McGwire, he just doesn't want to talk about the past.
``Come on, bro'. Next question,'' Lo Duca said.
Silly us for having the temerity to ask. Even sillier of us to actually expect an answer.
Who did we think he was? Andy Pettitte?
No, and as it turns out, not too many of his fellow Mitchellites are either. Jason Giambi never explained what he was apologizing for, Paul Byrd has developed a case of amnesia, Gary Matthews has never told us why he was sent HGH, and we haven't heard a peep yet from Jose Guillen, Troy Glaus or Miguel Tejada.
Come to think of it haven't heard much from Bud Selig either, though on Monday he did allow as to how he doesn't know when he'll finish his review of players named in the Mitchell report or when he'll figure out what punishment they might get.
Unfortunately we've heard way too much from Roger Clemens, but my guess is he'll quiet down now following his disastrous appearance last week before Congress. It was his strident denials that brought Pettitte deeper into this mess than he was ever supposed to be, and his insistence on having a congressional investigation that led to some embarrassing revelations about family members of both pitchers.
That's not excusing Pettitte for using HGH, or lying about it in his first statement when he said he used it only two days in 2002. But I find it believable when he said he lied about using it a second time two years later to protect his father.
Actually there's a lot I found believable about Pettitte after watching him go before the media for an hour Monday and answer almost every question directed his way as honestly and thoroughly as he could. The only ones he didn't answer dealt with Clemens, and Pettitte is already on the record in his congressional deposition on those facts.
While Gagne was in Arizona trying to figure out how to say nothing in French as well as he did in English, Pettitte was remorseful, repentant and apologetic. He said he let his teammates down, let his owner down, and let every kid down in America who looked up to him.
``I care what people think about me,'' he said. ``I consider myself a role model.''
On this day, Pettitte was a role model, though it may not have been the role he wanted to play. He's pitched in seven World Series and under the glaring pressure of being in New York, but admitted he was scared to death about going before the media this time.
Hopefully, Byrd, Matthews, Gagne, Lo Duca and the other players were taking notes because Pettitte never tried to hide. When he finished answering some questions, he would ask the reporter if he needed more.
The short one on why he did HGH, though, seemed good enough.
``Stupidity, desperation, that's the only excuse I can give you,'' he said.
That's better than what most of baseball's juiced generation has given. They remain content to hide behind ambiguous statements that offer nothing, figuring a few home runs or a few clutch saves will win the faithful back anyway.
They'll probably get away with it because fans have short memories, and writers are just as tired of writing about steroids and HGH as people are of reading it.
To Pettitte, though, that wasn't enough. He had to apologize to the Steinbrenners, to the fans, to the media, to everyone. He had to, he said, because it's the only way he'll be able to sleep well at night.
Mission accomplished. He should sleep well now.
----
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org.

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