Murray Chass claims he knows Mike Piazza used steroids. Wait, before you start mumbling expletives at Chass under your breath, keep reading. The former New York Times reporter is not alone. Joel Sherman, a columnist for the New York Post, also raised suspicion about the Mets former catcher.
Both Chass and Sherman covered the Mets in the Piazza era. These guys spent a lot of time with the Mets – and Piazza. Both confirm Mets beat writers and veteran baseball scribes in general suspect Piazza’s name may be on that dubious decade-old unpublished list of 104 players who failed the MLB steroids test.
In his 2009 book The Rocket that Fell to Earth, Jeff Pearlman suggests Piazza used performance-enhancing drugs:
According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up. “Sure, I use,” he told one. “But in limited doses, and not all that often.” (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation) … Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza’s success to be 100 percent chemically delivered.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the truth will be revealed, not in what Chass or Sherman claim they know, but what the evidence reveals as fact.
After reading reports by Chass, Sherman and Pearlman, the evidence supporting Piazza’s PED use boils down to one common piece of evidence: acne. Yes, acne. You know, comedones, seborrhea, cysts. By the way, how’s your breakfast? According to both reporters, Piazza had a bad case of acne on his back, “… a generally accepted telltale sign of steroids use,” wrote Chass. “Teen-age kids never had such a problem.” Sherman added Piazza’s “physical quirks” raised a lot of eyebrows.
What other evidence exists that he used PEDs? Well, there’s the acne thing and the fact that Piazza was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round on the June 1988 draft as a favor to his father. Who can doubt the lingering suspicion created by that fact?
That’s it, and that, in and of itself, is a problem — a big problem.
Piazza never tested positive for steroids. There is no evidence that his name was on the infamous Mitchell Report, yet, he won’t make it to Cooperstown this year because at least 145 of the 581 ballots (75%) that were reportedly submitted did not place a check mark by Piazza’s name because members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America have branded Piazza a suspect. Just so we’re clear: Mike Piazza, the greatest hitter of the last quarter century, is being dismissed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer because the evidence suggests he may have used performance-enhancing drugs.
When Sherman asked point blank if he was a clean player, Piazza replied, “Absolutely.”
Doesn’t matter, Piazza had bad acne and, furthermore, anyone drafted that low must be using PEDs, right? His words mean nothing, but we had to ask.
Over his 16-year career Piazza posted a .308 career batting average (.377 OBP and .545 SLG %) and hit more home runs (427) than any other catcher in MLB history.
Doesn’t matter, didn’t you hear me the first time: He had acne – bad acne – and he was drafted in the 62nd round. The evidence is clear, unlike Piazza’s skin.
The evidence is piling up, not against Piazza, but against Sherman, Chass and anyone who didn’t vote for Piazza. The greatest hitting catcher of the last quarter century is being dismissed as a first-ballot Hall of Famer because he had acne.
“The idea that you’re not going to vote for a guy based on something completely subjective and unproven doesn’t make sense to me,” said Morgan Ensberg, a former MLB infielder who now hosts a radio show on XM Sirius radio.
Ensberg makes a fine point. The Baseball Hall of Fame states, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Plain and simple, anyone not voting for Piazza questions his integrity and character and that judgment is being made around guesswork; circumstantial claims.
That’s the case against Mike Piazza.
Hall of Fame voting is not held to the same standards as a court of law, but maybe it should be. Leaving Piazza off the ballot, first-time or not, is a mistake. He should be judged one the six criteria defined by the HOF, not suspicion, whispers or off-the-record claims.
Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. (edt) Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, will step to the podium and reveal the Class of 2013. I am hopeful Piazza’s name will be read, but I am not optimistic. That makes me sad, not just for Piazza, but for a game once again being stained by poor judgment.
Shame on you, Murray Chass. Shame on you, Joel Sherman. Shame on you, Baseball Writers of America.