Jump to content


Lil Bit Special

Recommended Posts


JUPITER, Fla. - This is part of the Steroid Era, too, now. A back field at Roger Dean Stadium. A conversation with Mike Piazza.

I can act like Piazza was not encased in suspicion when he played. But that would be dishonest. It was talked about. A lot. Because Piazza fit a certain prototype. He was drafted in the 62nd round, 1,390th overall in 1988, a favor by then Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda for his godson.

There are plenty of stories about late-round draft picks making good. Astros ace Roy Oswalt, who wants all of Alex Rodriguez's accomplishments from 2001-03 banished, was taken in the 23rd round, for example. But Mike Piazza not only made good, he went from the black hole of the draft to greatness, the all-time homer hitter among catchers.

Thus, he did one of those near statistical impossibility things: He navigated from ultra-non-prospect to 427 career homers.

Again, I can pretend that while he was doing this people were not talking about certain physical quirks that raised suspicion, notably a back full of acne. But that, too, would be dishonest.

So Piazza is either creation or casualty of this age. Even still in retirement. Because, again, I can pretend that veteran writers don't talk about his approaching Hall of Fame candidacy with uncertainty. That would be dishonest, as well. Many of us find ourselves thinking: A penalty is being levied in Hall voting on guys who have been outed such as Mark McGwire, and probably, eventually, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and - a long time from now - Alex Rodriguez.

But what do we do about guys who we suspect, guys the establishment of the game so strongly suspected? The Hall of Fame voting is not a court of law. We do not need "beyond a reasonable doubt," though I think we have reached that level with McGwire, Bonds and Clemens. There are plenty of guys who are coming up on ballots now who have not been snared by BALCO or Mitchell or Canseco, who nevertheless cast the strong feeling of artificial success throughout the game. What do we do about them?

I figured job one was to ask Piazza, who is eligible for the Hall in 2013. He is the hitting coach for Team Italy for the WBC, and I heard that his squad was playing a B Game at 10 a.m. yesterday against the Marlins. And this is how I ended up on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium. In a conversation with Piazza about a subject that will not die.

For the record, Piazza says he was a clean player. "Absolutely" is the word he used. He claims he is not on the now infamous list of 104 failed steroid tests from the survey phase in 2003. "No, not that I know," he said. The one-time Mets star offers a lot of explanations to explain his power, from hard work to the addition of forty-something pitchers during the term of his career via four new expansion teams.

"You can't control what people think," Piazza said.

I want to believe Piazza. I have always enjoyed conversation and a good relationship with him, and - even if I didn't - I would not exactly go around hoping that someone cheated and was lying to me about it.

But Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and A-Rod have lied to my face on this subject. So forgive me if I do not exactly bet the house on this one.

This is a major problem with the era now. We no longer fully accept anything we saw nor do we believe the testimony of anybody who played in the time. Derek Jeter expressed the frustration over this reality recently, that the broad brush gets everybody. He is right. But it certainly is going to get 62nd-round draft picks who hit 427 homers.

"It is unfortunate," Piazza said. "I know the work I put in."

I hope he is telling the truth. I hope, at some point, we have full grasp of the era, know exactly what the landscape was. Until then the broad brush paints and you end up on a back field at Roger Dean Stadium early in the morning.


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Mike Piazza: His Bat and His Back

By Murray Chass

March 4, 2009 Baseball writers spend a lot of time in press boxes together, and the close and frequent proximity does not always foster positive relationships. For example, Joel Sherman of the New York Post and I do not have any kind of relationship. We have not talked for years. There’s no need to bore you with the reasons why. But the other day his column caught my attention. Not many of his columns do. He writes them, after all, for the New York Post.

But this was a column about Mike Piazza and the suspicion that he used steroids. As I read it, I was thinking I have to send Sherman an e-mail commending and congratulating him for raising the issue with Piazza. It’s a subject that was long overdue.mike-piazza-225.jpg

Circumstantial evidence against Piazza is almost as strong as it is against Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. A 62nd round draft pick in the 1988 draft and drafted only as a favor to his father, a close friend of Tommy Lasorda, Piazza wound up as the No. 1 home-run hitting catcher in major league history.

Piazza wasn’t a terrific catcher; he would have fared better as a designated hitter. But boy could he hit. He told Sherman the hitting came from hard work. That’s what they all said when they were suspected of having used steroids. We used to fall for that line. That’s one of the reasons we missed the advent and presence of steroids. We were gullible.

I suppose we could call the Mike Piazzas of the baseball world liars, but go prove it. Sherman, to his credit, doesn’t completely buy it. So I was a minute or two away from writing that e-mail. But then I reached the end of the column, and something was glaringly missing. I went back to make sure I hadn’t missed it, but it wasn’t there.

Early in the column Sherman writes about Piazza’s acne-covered back. This was a physical feature I had always noticed with Piazza. Not that reporters spend their time in clubhouses looking at guys’ bare backs, but when a reporter is talking to a player at his locker before he puts on his uniform shirt or after he takes it off and he turns around to put something in or take something out of his locker his back is what is visible. And Piazza’s acne was always visible. Teen-age kids never had such a problem.

Now as na

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the guy had back acne that magically cleared up the year baseball instituted a testing policy, it's pretty damning evidence.

But again, a Jeter said, the sad thing about this whole steroid thing is that every single player from this era is tainted, dirty or not.

Yes, that's much more damning evidence than the huge amount of muscle mass he (and 3/4 of MLB) put on and then magically lost...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, that's much more damning evidence than the huge amount of muscle mass he (and 3/4 of MLB) put on and then magically lost...

Huge amounts of muscle mass + back acne.

I said it's pretty damning, not more. Put the two together and it's a no brainer. And I don't think it's 3/4 of MLB that lost the muscle mass after 2004. I'd say about 2/3 of the juicers just switched to HGH. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have always thought Piazza was a user and, for whatever reason, two former Mets teammates volunteered this information to me during a chance encounter following the '98 season. Maybe they had an axe to grind because they didn't like him personally, but that, along will all of the other anecdotal evidence, makes me fairly confident that he used for at least some period of his career.

That being said, it's total crap for Murray Chass to cry that his editors at the Times wouldn't let him write the article. If you're a journalist and you want to get a story out there without losing your job, there are plenty of ways to do it in this day and age - like writing a blog under the pseudonym "KleckoisGod73", for example...

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...