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.