A week from Sunday, Mike Piazza will be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, officially cementing his place among the game’s greatest players. Surely, the days and weeks leading up to the ceremony would be a time for the former All Star to celebrate, to relive and remember his greatest accomplishments and contributions to New York sports lore.
Perhaps not. Yesterday, Piazza had his obligatory Hall of Fame conference call with the media, an opportunity for the writers to get quotes for their feel good stories about the player being inducted.
But someone always has to spoil the fun. Yesterday, that person was former New York Times baseball reporter Murray Chass, who started off the questioning with a good old fashioned gut punch, asking Piazza point blank about his steroid use. Ever composed, Piazza responded, “I have addressed that many times in the past, sir.”
This isn’t the first time Chass has come after the former Mets backstop. In 2013, the writer published this scalding piece about Piazza, attacking his book as “a work of fiction” and his reputation as a clean ballplayer. Chass insists that Piazza cheated. However, reasoning is somewhat twisted. His key piece of evidence comes from his locker room observation of Piazza’s back acne. Yeah, you read that right.
People, this is why we can’t have nice things.
The greatest offensive catcher in baseball history had his baseball legacy and personal character challenged because of back acne. Seriously?
Seriously. Chass, in addition to writers Joel Sherman and Jeff Pearlman all cite Piazza’s unfortunately placed acne as the smoking gun indicating his steroid use. How else could a catcher drafted in the 62nd round because of a favor called in by his father become a baseball legend?
The narrative just doesn’t fit.
According to the BBWAA Hall of Fame Election rules, a player is to be judged on his “record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”
Over an impressive 16 year career, the 12 time All Star batted .308 while slugging .545 with a catcher’s record 427 home runs. Statistically speaking, he is the greatest offensive catcher of the past century.
His epic home run against the Braves in the first game played at Shea after 9/11 can be considered one of the most significant events in New York sports history. That fateful blast united a city and gave fans who had no reason to be happy something to smile about.
Not to be lost in his tangible achievements, Piazza was also known as a great teammate and a leader in the Mets’ clubhouse who had the utmost respect for the game.
Given the criteria for induction, Piazza checks all the boxes. Nowhere does it state that suspicion of cheating constitutes a breach of the game’s integrity.
On January 6th, 2016, 83 percent of baseball’s most esteemed writers decided that Piazza belongs among the game’s greats. Their votes echoed the sentiments of millions of baseball fans across the nation.
Unfortunately, Murray Chass cannot let go. He refuses to let Piazza and his supporters revel in achieving baseball’s greatest accomplishment. While he may view his intentions as a noble effort to keep the Hall of Fame exclusive and pure, his attempted slander of Piazza reflects poorly on only one person, himself.