Archive for the 'Mike Piazza' Category

Hall of Famer Mike Piazza

A great wrong has been righted as Mike Piazza has finally been voted into the Hall of Fame. Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher of all time was voted in to The Hall in his fourth year of eligibility. Congratulations Mike!

Now the next right thing must be that Piazza goes in wearing a Mets cap. He was much more of an MVP with the Mets than he was with the Dodgers. He played more games with the Mets. He had more homers and RBI with the Mets. He helped the Mets get to the post season twice in a row in 1999 and 2000, the only Mets club to date to ever get to the playoffs in back to back seasons. He helped the Mets win the pennant in 2000 and if it was not for a stiff October breeze coming in off of Flushing bay, he might have just tied up game five of the 2000 series against the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth.

If the powers that be are honest, Mike needs to be the second Mets player ever to enter the Hall of Fame.  He meant so much more to the Mets and let’s not forget the Dodgers ran Piazza out of town when they could not agree on an extension.

It should be a great ceremonious summer for the Mets in 2016. With Mike going into the Hall and the thirtieth anniversary of the greatest Mets team of all time, the icing on the cake should be Piazza’s number 31 being retired and placed on the left field wall right next to Tom’s 41.

This is a great day in Mets history.

Mike, Tom, and the Hall

There are a number of reasons a person may get acne, even on their back. It can happen due to heredity. It can be caused by a hormone imbalance. Clothing can also cause the problem, especially if a person sweats a lot. Also, back acne can be caused by some medications including steroids.

And there lies the problem with why the greatest hitting catcher of all time is still not in the Hall of fame. We are talking about Mike Piazza, a player who not only hit the most home runs of any catcher but one who hit impact homers. In my opinion what truly sets a great player apart from a very good one is a player who can rise to the occasion. A player who gets the big hit when it is needed most. Piazza was one of those players.

Many players in the Hall of Fame today are compilers. They are in because the back of their baseball card is filled with numbers. A guy with 3000 hits or 500 homers is almost automatically in, unless of course they are connected to steroids. Mike Piazza is connected to steroids. Not because he has confessed to using them, was caught using them, was turned in by other players or those around the game that know things. No, none of that has happened. He’s on no list that we know of. Lists that include Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, and Rafael Palmero to name a few, do not include Piazza. Nope, Mike is not on any of them, at least so far.

So in a country that decrees it is better for a guilty man to go free than an innocent one being locked up, apparently many writers feel Piazza was a user and therefore should not get into the Hall of fame, at least not yet. And why, because a writer in the Mets locker room once reported that Piazza had back acne, a symptom of steroid use. And there is also other circumstantial evidence. Piazza was a 62nd round draft pick who became one of the greatest catchers ever. Hmm, sounds suspicious to me (sarcasm intended). If you can prove to me that a 62nd round pick only had to take steroids to make him the greatest hitting catcher of all time then where do I get some?

This is a guy who worked his butt off to become the player he was. There are coaches of his from far and wide who will attest to it. He worked constantly to improve himself during the season and in the off season. And his career arc is much in line with other greats before the steroid era. In the case of the players who we know for sure that were using, they were producing at ages that were not common. Piazza began to break down in his mid thirties as most non users did. If he had hit 40 homers at the age of 37, maybe I would have some suspicion.  His last big homer season was 2002 when he hit 33 at the age of 33. At age 34, he hit 11 in an injury plagued season. He ended his Mets career hitting 20 and 19 homers in his final two years in Flushing respectively.  At 37, Mike hit 22 with San Diego before his final season in 2007 when he hit just 8 homers for Oakland.

If the steroid witch hunt had never happened in baseball, Piazza would already be in. But writers have made it clear they are taking a stand regardless of evidence and facts. Piazza will eventually get in. He’s the only player on the ballot who picked up votes this year. That’s no guarantee he’ll get more next year but he should. And in my opinion the Mets should retire his number regardless. Being elected to the Hall or not should be no criteria for his number not hanging on the Citi Field wall.

Personally, there is enough factual information, yes facts, that support that steroids did not make as much of an impact as writers and others in the media claim. The Steroids-and-baseball website is a great source of factual information in regards to steroids and baseball. That doesn’t mean there should be no rules to prevent their use. After all Steroids are illegal and taking them improperly will likely threaten a person’s health in the long term. However, there is a lot of information to suggest that the increased power numbers had more to do with expansion (and with expansion comes more watered down pitching), smaller ballparks, harder maple bats, and a tighter wound ball. Steroids may have aided in players being able to recover faster from injury but many studies are showing the increase in home run production was negligible, if at all! Again, I’m not defending the use of steroids but I am suggesting that the writers get a clue and stop using their vote as some kind of morality statement.

There are many in the Hall of Fame already who were users of steroids and other drugs. Some threw spit balls too and sharpened their spikes with the intent of hurting other players. Should we throw them out now?  Alcohol has ruined more families in this country then any illegal drug combined. Should we throw Babe Ruth and others out of the Hall who routinely tied one on? And of course alcohol reminds us of the utter hypocrisy that has baseball and all sports touting just say no to drugs while you chill out with a Bud. Let’s also not forget at the height of the steroid era, owners turned a blind eye because the turnstiles were spinning out of control. Steroids have been a part of baseball and all sports for a very long time, just ask Lenny Dystra who at the end of his Mets tenure showed up to spring training looking like Charles Atlas winking at anyone who caught his eye.  I think baseball should be commended for their new anti-drug policy but it’s high time we all move forward and leave the past to the history books.

Mike Piazza’s numbers speak for themselves. He performed as a perennial All Star in two of the most pressure packed markets of Los Angeles and New York. He hit home runs and drove in runs that were very often in meaningful situations. He was one of the best clutch hitters in the game. He was a better defensive catcher in terms of handling pitchers and blocking the plate than what he gets credit for. And his offensive numbers and awards are simply outstanding. Pizza belongs in the Hall, plain and simple.

Mets fans hate Tom Glavine for two reasons. One, he gave up seven runs in the first inning of the final game of 2007, completing a Mets collapse down the stretch of epic proportions.  Two, he said he was disappointed but not devastated of the outcome. This remark infuriated Mets fans who most always felt he was a Brave in Mets clothing all along. Oh well, there will be no convincing them of the truth but…

Glavine certainly made a tactical error in not demonstrating more remorse over that final game. Even if he faked it, his departure from the Mets would not have been so conspicuous. But I got his point and in his world of family first, his point was it is just a game and although infuriating, perhaps that was his way of trying to minimize the huge disappointment he most certainly felt as an athlete. You don’t win 300 games in baseball if you truly don’t give a shit about winning. But make one thing clear. Following the Mets down that horrendous September of 2007, you simply cannot pin the Mets demise entirely on one Tom Glavine. Night after night, starting pitching failed then gave way to a beleaguered bullpen that was simply out of gas. If a team cannot hold a seven game lead in early September, how the hell can you blame one pitcher on the final day of the season? Yes I get it but think it is very unfair.

And one more thing… like Glavine or not, regardless of going into the Hall wearing a Braves cap (which of course he should), one fact will always be true. Glavine won his 300th game as a Met. He did not do it as a Brave. He did it in Chicago against the Cubs wearing burnt orange and royal blue. That can never be taken away from us, a great moment in Mets history regardless of how you feel about Glavine. Also Glavine suffered what so many other stars did when coming to the Mets. The front office has historically never put a supporting cast around a new shiny face on the team.  It’s like spending $40,000 on a car and not going with the heated seats. The same can be said in Glavine’s case. The Mets simply do not follow through and build an entire roster. They put lipstick on a pig and hope for the best. Seldom does that work.  However, let’s remember that Glavine helped the Mets become a winner again starting in 2005, the playoffs in 2006, and up to game 162 of ’07.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum and it is a business. Fans of baseball can debate for hours on end of the merits of what players deserve to be there and what ones do not. We know the greats—Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Tom Seaver, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Christie Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio and so forth. These are players that are heralded as the true greats of the game. They are players who dominated at their position either in the batter’s box or on the pitcher’s mound for extended periods of time. There is no question of their deserving of the honor to be a member. But over the years, it seems more players are getting in based on numbers alone. The fact a player stayed healthy, was very good, and amassed big numbers does not mean they necessarily were dominant during their era. But never the less, those players are getting in. Who was more dominating a hitter than Don Mattingly for a short period of time? But the powers that be say he wasn’t dominating long enough. I’m not saying that Mattingly should be in the Hall but his numbers are extremely comparable to Kirby Puckett. Puckett is in, Mattingly is not. But Piazza has the numbers and he also was that dominating player at one of the most difficult positions in all of professional sports. He should be in already and it is a crime he is not.

The writers being judge and jury without evidence, is simply wrong. There have been cheaters in this game since it started and it will continue. If not drugs, then something else will be discovered to give the player an edge. It’s ugly but it’s the nature of the business.

Mike Piazza deserves to be in the Hall. He was the dominant player at his position for over a decade. He won Rookie of the Year, MVP, helped teams to the playoffs three times and got the Mets to the World Series. No one will ever forget his home run on September 21, 2001 that united a city. And although he made the last out of the 2000 World Series, had the wind not have been gusting in so strong over Flushing Bay, it’s likely Piazza’s drive would have tied the game instead of landing in Bernie Williams glove.

If you have the proof Piazza was cheating, then show it otherwise do the right thing and vote the man into the Hall of Fame.

The Glass Half Full

During the press conference to announce that the Mets would retain Terry Collins for two more seasons with an option for a third, the Mets GM Sandy Alderson was asked why he decided to bring back Collins. He said that one of the reasons was that the Mets finished exactly at .500 over the last 100 games of the season. That is a fact. On June14th, the Mets lost to the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field. That was the 62nd game of the season with the Mets record having fallen to 24-38, 14 games under .500. They were in 4th place, 12.5 games back of Atlanta. I’m surprised Sandy didn’t mention that Terry got the Mets to third place this year instead of fourth, the way the last two seasons ended under this GM’s regime. I’m sure many will jump to criticize the remark but after looking at some of the numbers, Alderson does make a point.

In fairness to Sandy’s glass-half-full statement it should be pointed out that the Mets did play very well after that 62nd game. On Sunday, June 16th, the Mets began their best stretch of the season. After trailing 3-0 to the Cubs in the 9th inning at Citi Field, the Mets scored four times on two home runs, the second one a three run walk off from Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Marlon Byrd had also hit a home run that inning and was a huge part of the Mets playing much better.  So from then until Sunday, the Mets played .500. Actually from June 16th through the end of July the Mets went 24-18, the best in the NL East. Why didn’t they continue at that pace?

On August 7th David Wright pulled a hamstring and missed seven weeks of the season. Bobby Parnell who was doing an outstanding job as Mets closer missed half a season because of a herniated disk. He had surgery in September and should be ready by spring training. Ike Davis who was horrible the first part of the season finally got it together but then tore an oblique muscle ending his season in early September. And of course Matt Harvey, who became the number one reason to be a Mets fan this season, came up with a slight tear in his Ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow ending his season too.

Injuries were a big part of why the Mets failed to improve on the record they also recorded a season earlier. Plus there were players who did not perform up to expectations. Lucas Duda and the aforementioned Davis were being counted on to deliver power and drive in runs. Both failed to do so.  Duda in 100 games hit 15 home runs. That by itself is not as telling as the fact that he drove in just 33 runs the entire season. Davis matched Duda’s 33 so both of those players delivered a combined 66 RBI and 24 homeruns. That’s not going to get it done folks. Duda did seem to look more comfortable at first base once Davis’s season ended with injury. It would be interesting to see what he would do playing at first an entire season.  But unfortunately for Duda that experiment will only happen if the Mets are somehow able to acquire a couple of corner outfielders who can drive the ball out of the ballpark regularly. The Ike Davis/Lucas Duda tryouts are over. Perhaps they will blossom elsewhere but it seems more and more likely they will not be able to do so in New York, at least not both of them.

Ruben Tejada was making everyone forget about Jose Reyes just a season ago but this season, he really underperformed. He eventually sustained an injury and was shipped to triple A once he finished his rehab.  Tejada looked to be re-energized as a September call up but unfortunately he suffered a broken leg on an outstanding play, tripping over Justin Turner while catching a pop fly. Omar Quintanilla did a wonderful job replacing Tejada but clearly is not the long term solution at short.

So I get the spin that Alderson is putting on the season. Here’s a team that had a miserable start but took a nice turn when a) Alderson started swapping out pieces in the bullpen, b) brought up Juan Lagaras to play center and C) acquired Eric Young Jr. for left field. If you remember, the Mets opening day outfield included Collin Cowgil in center (sent down and later released), Marlon Byrd in right, and Duda in left. Cowgil contributed a grand slam on opening day and beyond that he was a total bust.  Duda is a terrible left fielder with no range and made every fly ball an adventure. Byrd was a terrific signing and gave the Mets a competent right fielder all season long until he was traded at the end of August. So with all the late season injuries, the horrendous play during April and May, the Mets still managed to play well enough not to go under the .500 mark over those last 100 contests.  Let’s not forget John Buck who hit a lot of homers in April then became what he is—a backup catcher and suffered a prolonged slump throughout the summer. Buck was later traded to Pittsburgh along with Byrd.

The Mets improved play in late June was due to very good starting pitching, a bullpen that stabilized, an outstanding defensive outfield with Young, Lagaras, and Byrd, and for a time clutch hitting. And while John Buck struggled at the plate, he was integral to helping the young Mets pitchers flourish. But the one area that needs work more than any other is the offense, especially at home.

Here’s an interesting statistic. When scoring the first run of the game this season, the Mets went 48-30 (.615). A .615 winning percentage over a full season gets a team into the playoffs. No team in the playoffs this season had a winning percentage as high. What this stat indicates is the Mets had fine pitching. Given a lead, they protected it until the end of the game 48 out of 78 times. The opposite stat is much more alarming. When the Mets scored second or not at all (shutout 8 times in ’13), their record was 26-58 (.310). Ouch. Translated it suggests the Mets were unable to come back in games they trailed. The Mets were not good at building rallies and rarer was the three run homer that can get a team back into a game in a hurry. The home run leader on the team was Marlon Byrd with 21. He was traded at the end of August for Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Wright was second with 18 and again, he missed seven weeks of the season.

In games decided by two runs or less, the Mets were a combined 41-41 so the Mets played pretty well in close games, again a sign of good pitching. But when they were behind by more than two runs, we see a record of 33-47. In many of those games, the opposition scored first. With Mets’ hitters struggling to score runs, especially in bunches, that put pressure on the pitching to hold the opposing hitters. As good as the pitching was, that’s pretty rough to do day after day.

The only category the Mets were over .500 when considering run differential was one run games. The Mets were one game over .500, winning 29 games by a single run. That’s a good sign moving forward. Their worst margin was 3 run games, losing 13 of those.  In blowouts, games decided by five or more runs, the Mets went 18 and 24. I’m not suggesting Mets pitching is without issue but clearly the offense is the one area that has struggled more so than others. As mentioned the Mets were shut out eight times in 2013. Over 162 games, the Mets averaged 3.18 runs per game. Compare that to Boston who averaged 5.27 runs per game.

The Moneyball guys will tell you that it is runs scored that counts. In 2013, the Mets were 23rd in the majors with 619 runs scored, 11th in the National League. They are not in good company. The teams scoring fewer runs were the Padres, Twins, Astros, Phillies (wow, the Phillies scored fewer runs than the Astros?), Cubs, White Sox, and Marlins. None of those teams are in the post season. Out of the ten teams that made the post season, five of them are in the top ten of runs scored (four of them division winners). The Pirates are the worst of the playoff teams at scoring runs in the majors at 17th with 634 runs scored. That’s a major reason the Bucs gave up two top prospects to the Mets for Byrd. The Red Sox scored 853 times and led the major leagues.

Home runs are important but by themselves are not as significant as driving in runs. The Mets hit 130 homeruns. The Mariners with a worse won-lost record than the Mets hit 188. The Cardinals, the top seed in the National League, hit five fewer home runs than the Mets but scored 164 more runs.  The Cardinals play in a pitcher’s park, similar to Citi Field but have more gap to gap hitters than the Mets. The Cards had 322 doubles to the Mets’ 263 and their hitters drove in many more runners when in scoring position.

Then there is the all important OPS (on base percentage plus slugging)? Slugging is the total bases divided by at bats. In OPS, the Mets ranked 29th out of 30 MLB teams at .672. Only the Marlins were worse (.627). The Cardinals were 10th at .733. The Red Sox were first with a .795 OPS. The Mets were also 29th in slugging and 25th in on base percentage. Not a good place to be if the playoffs are a team’s aspiration. When looking just at the National League the Mets team batting average (.237), SLG (.366), and OPS (.672) ranked 14th out of 15 teams. They tied for 12th with the Phillies (.306) in OBP.  The Mets were also 14th in total bases with 2035. The one category the Mets led the National League in was pitches seen at the plate (5th in the majors). Mets hitters saw 24,330 pitches during all plate appearances in 2013. That suggests the Mets hitters are good at working the count but perhaps they need to be more aggressive since they did so poorly in so many other offensive categories.

The other startling and quite obvious stat is the Mets record at Citi vs. their record on the road. The Mets managed to play a game over .500 on the road with a 41-40 record. Their home record of 33 and 48 should sound the claxons. Why such a disparity? The Mets swept the Giants in San Francisco. That’s a big ball yard very much like Citi’s. They won all three games in Target Field in Minnesota, another big park. They split four at Petco Park in San Diego. Again, another pitcher’s paradise. You can’t make the argument the Mets play better on the road because they are in smaller parks. In many cases as I have indicated the Mets did just fine in parks very much like their own digs. So what’s up with that?

I guess they take a different approach at home then they do on the road. Perhaps it’s a perception thing. Opposing players didn’t seem to have too much trouble hitting the ball out of Citi Field. There were 149 homeruns hit in Citi Field in 2013. That was good enough to be tied for 6th place in the National League for most homers hit (This is according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker). But of those 149 homers, the Mets hit just 57 of them. It’s not the road or home, it’s the Mets hitters. They don’t hit.

On the pitching side of the ledger the Mets fared much better.  They were 12th in WHIP (hits plus walks divided by innings pitched) in the major leagues, tied for seventh in the National League. This is a value that got much better for the Mets as the season progressed. The bullpen’s early season implosions contributed to this statistic not being much better when all was said and done.  In the majors, the Mets jumped up to 10th after the All Star break. They were 19th prior. Within the NL, they were 12th out of 15 teams but after the All Star break to the end of the season, the Mets staff jumped to 6th in the league.

Then there is defense. In the infield Wright was outstanding at third which is usual. Davis was generally solid at first, Murphy has improved dramatically at second but will never win a gold glove. Tejada definitely took a step backward, no doubt about it. Quintanilla did a fine job in Tejada’s absence. The outfield was dreadful before Alderson brought in Eric Young Jr. from Colorado for pitcher Collin McHugh on June 18th. Alderson had earlier promoted Lagares who instantly became one of the major’s best defensive center fielders. Lagares may not drive in a lot of runs but he saved a lot by leading the league in outfield assists with 14 as a center fielder. He was second among all outfielders throwing out 15 runners. With Byrd in right, by the end of May the Mets had one of the best defensive outfields in the game. Overall the Mets were .971 in fielding percentage, 17th in the majors. Certainly they were better the last four months of the season.

Of course the Mets can improve their pitching and defense but what they have now and what is coming up from the minors can contribute to a winning season. What the Mets need are a couple of big hitters, guys that can drive in runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark.

So while we could joke about the .500 record over the last 100 games, Alderson was honest in saying that fact does not get the Mets to the playoffs. But the point he was making was that considering the terrible first couple of months of the season, the under performers being counted on to do so much more, the injuries then the trades at the end of the season, it was pretty remarkable the Mets did go 50-50 to end the season. It was a tribute to Collins instilling an excellent work ethic in his players. He kept his players focused and hustling in every game.

Alderson was also clear that he intends to make some significant changes to the roster this off season. How that happens requires us to be patient. Nothing will happen during the playoffs and its ten days after that before teams can begin to court free agents. It will be a slow process that will play out over the winter. Am I cynical? Of course, I’m a Mets fan. How can I not be?  But I am somewhat optimistic.

If you look back over the first three years of Alderson’s regime he has been true to his word. He stated that he would do what he could to make the Mets competitive but that the organization needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. He has done that. The farm system is in much better shape now than it was before he took over. To the front office he added J.P. Riccardi and Paul DePodesta. Together they have completely restructured scouting, made fine draft picks and trades for blue chip prospects, building a foundation that all winning team needs.  He has said that he would have much more financial flexibility once some contracts expired. Specifically he is referring to the money owed to Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Those two are off the books now with the Mets owing them just the buyouts. So when Sandy says he wants to do something significant at the major league level, I believe him. I hope the Wilpons have the money for him to use. If not—well that’s entirely another story.

Sandy Alderson is either going to have to spend money on the free agent market, make trades to bring in impact players, or both. But here’s the catch. In a recent interview with the Yankees GM Brian Cashman, also in need of player influx, he made it clear. While it is a goal of the Yankees to stay below the 189 million dollar payroll threshold in 2014, it is not a mandate.  The point being the Mets are not about to get into a bidding war with the Yankees over a specific player. Forget Robinson Cano at second base for the Mets. That is not going to happen. It’s nice that Alderson says he’s going to spend money but the Mets are not the only team looking to improve their team this winter. And historically the Mets are not a club to outbid others, at least outside of Omar Minaya and you saw where those bloated contracts got us.  The good news is the Yankees need pitching more so than the Mets do so perhaps the needs of the two New York clubs will not line up so much on the market but we’ll see.

And remember, how much a team spends is no guarantee a team wins anything. Ask the Los Angeles Angels how their season went. The Phillies are now suffering from the same malady that ailed the Mets beginning four seasons ago. The Dodgers better hope they win the World Series this season because they are on the hook for many years owing millions to players who are going to grow old while in those contracts. I really hate when Mets fans say the Wilpons are cheap. They are not cheap. The Mets have supported huge payrolls over the years but what did it get them. A better criticism of the Wilpons is they did not spend the money wisely. I do believe a team that wants to contend needs to spend around 100 million dollars on payroll. Alderson is intending to do so but only if the deals can be made to help the club, not to spend money for some cosmetic reason. Everyone clamored for the Mets to sign Michael Bourne last off season. Instead the Mets got a bargain in Byrd and look who had the better season.

As I mentioned in a previous post I was struck by the sellout the last day of the season. I plus 40,000 other fans did not show up to pay tribute to the 2013 Mets. We were there to honor and remember a better time, one where Mike Piazza led the team to victory. But the day hopefully served as an eye opener to Mets ownership and the baseball front office. The fans will come. They will come in droves to enjoy that magnificent baseball cathedral they have built in Queens. All they need to do is put a team on the field worthy of their fans. The Mets have many pieces and I agree with Sandy, there were a lot of positives even though the club won only 74 games. I like to think of another time in Mets history when I was a much younger person. It was 1968. The Mets finished in ninth place with a 73-89 record, one game worse than this season. The following year… well you know the rest.

It’s Unfair

Well it’s a new year but nothing has changed as another Met gets beaten down. I am referring to Mike Piazza of course who did not get elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday on his first ballot.

Mike is the greatest offensive catcher baseball has ever produced. His stats prove that. So why did he not get the necessary 75% votes to be inducted? Because of speculation and hearsay in regard to Piazza using steroids.

There is not one ounce of evidence to support that Mike Piazza was juicing during his career. No one has come out and said they saw him do it. He never failed a test for steroids. He has not appeared on any list where other players have, including some that were on the ballot yesterday.

So what gives? Circumstantial evidence although it is weak.

Some writers conclude that Pizza must have been doing steroids because a) he was a 67th round draft pick, b) had the physique of someone who did steroids (although I do not think he had the muscular structure of any of the known users), c) that he had acne on his back and/or under his scalp depending on what baseball writer/prosecutor you are listening to, d) suffered an injury that is common among steroid users (but can happen to anyone), and e) that he played at a time when others did so therefore he must have.

Note to the attorney general. Please remove baseball writers from jury selection lists. I would never want to be a defendant in a  courtroom with these clowns on the jury.

Do I know for a fact that Piazza did not do steroids? Of course not. But because no evidence has ever been produced that proves he did and that his career arch was more typical of a non-user than a user, I conclude he did not. This is a case of not proving beyond a reasonable doubt. Piazza was robbed yesterday and there is no getting around it.

Likely there are already members of the Hall who did steroids. And if steroids is such a cheat than why didn’t everyone in the game that took them be eligible for the Hall of Fame as well the usual suspects? Did you see Paul LoDuca’s comment in the New York Daily News…  “Once again, tell the Voters to strap on the gear for 9 innings and put the numbers up Mike Piazza did. I don’t care if he used rocket fuel. … All those voters who never strapped on a jock strap … should take a vote of which owners were complaining during that era. NONE. … I took PEDs and I’m not proud of it, but people that think you can take a shot or a pill and play like the legends on that ballot need help.”  — I tend to agree. Many took the performance enhancing drug but all things being relative, few actually played to the greatness that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did.

Now I do not condone the use of steroids or any drugs for that matter (including prescription drugs that are now killing more people in America than the drugs off the street. What’s the difference between Pfizer and your local corner pusher? Pfizer has a lobby but I digress). But at the time players were using PEDs, they were not against the rules and the owners who new shenanigans were going on turned the other way while the turnstiles were spinning like never before. Writers who may have known back then turned a blind eye as well. Remember when Lenny Dykstra showed up one spring to camp looking like Charles Atlas? Dykstra even joked about it and no one said anything.

The point is players used steroids. We have lots of evidence for some players, little for others, and frankly none on Mike Piazza, just rumors. And as I stated earlier, Mike’s career arch was similar to the typical supper star. He started out as rookie of the year, became great then after 30 began to falter, ending the last two seasons with San Diego and Oakland with nothing left in the tank. At the age of 33 or 35, Mike did not all of a sudden start slamming home runs into parked buses at Shea Stadium. His numbers late in his career reflect a great player whose talents had begun to leave him. Mike is guilty by association and that is simply unfair.

The steroid era is gone. Testing is in place now with strict repercussions if caught. First offense levies a 50 game suspension followed by a 100 game suspension if caught a second time. If caught a third time, the player is gone for life. So now that brings up an interesting scenario. Suppose a player juices and puts up incredible numbers and is eventually caught. They take their 50 game suspension but then continue a brilliant career drug free and are eligible for the Hall. Does this player not get voted in because he took steroids? He fallowed the rules, took his suspension and came clean. Doesn’t it stand to reason the player should be voted in?

I understand the writers not voting in Bonds and Clemens. There is a lot of evidence that supports their use of steroids. However, they still should be in the Hall because what they did before they began to use the stuff was Hall of Fame caliber. The fact there was no testing, there was no rule, and owners did not care, it makes little sense to keep these players out of the Hall forever.

The player who got unfairly caught up in it all was Piazza. There is no proof, no tattletale toady out their making any claims. Just a writer or two questioning acne and a performance perhaps hard to believe that came from such a late draft pick. It’s ludicrous.  Piazza should be in the Hall today but he is not. Hopefully next year. In the meantime I would hope the Mets do the right thing and stand behind their super star catcher. Retire his number. Put it up on the wall for all to see come the All Star Game on July 16th. If nothing conclusive has come out in the five years since he retired from baseball, the seven years he last played for the Mets, nothing will come out in the future.

Piazza was one of the greatest catchers and clutch hitters to ever play the game. He deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame.