Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I know what you are thinking, ladies and gentlemen, but don’t worry: the Pope is still Catholic. I checked.

A little while ago Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote a column that can be summed up thusly:

1) Because Mike Piazza started as an obscure non-prospect who was only drafted in the 62nd round because he was Tommy Lasorda’s godson, and then went on to become the all time home run leader for catchers, and also because he had a bad case back acne (which is commonly associated with steroid use), Joel Sherman suspects that Mike Piazza might have done steroids.

2) Since rumored steroid users (specifically Mark McGwire) seem not to be getting into the hall of fame, Sherman wonders what to do about players, like Piazza, who really seem like they probably did do steroids, even though there are no rumors or evidence that they did.

3) In order to get to the bottom of this, Sherman recently asked Piazza if he had done steroids. Piazza said no, but Joel Sherman has heard steroid denials from the likes of Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, and A-Rod, so you will forgive Joel Sherman if he remains skeptical.

4) The whole situation seems to demand that Joel Sherman, paid baseball columnist, think critically about baseball, and he is not amused. He seems to imply that it is all A-Rod’s fault.

Then, Murray Chass wrote a blog post about Sherman’s column, the gist of which is 1) I, Murray Chass, have long suspected Piazza of steroid use, and think it was good of Joel Sherman to bring it up, but 2) Sherman really did not write enough about the back acne, so he is still a crappy little man writing for a crappy little paper. Chass had wanted to write about the back acne and steroids when Piazza had played for the Mets, but was prevented from doing so, because his editors were Mets fans. In 2004, when steroid testing was implemented, Piazza’s back acne mysteriously cleared up.

He also includes this gem: “He [Piazza] 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.” You were gullible, motherfucker? You are a goddamn journalist: your job description is pretty much ‘don’t be gullible.’ The casualness with which he admits to being an utter failure at his profession is somewhat shocking.

Anyway, now, in a new book mainly about Roger Clemens, The Rocket that Fell to Earth, Jeff Pearlman has reiterated the steroid accusations, with all like sources and quotes and stuff. I would add that Mathew Cerrone’s response at the end of the quote from Perlman’s book is a very solid summary of (what I hope are) the feelings of most fans

While Sherman and Chass put together a little clinic on how you shouldn’t write about PEDs, providing shrillness, week excuses for professional failings, and a lack of actual information, there is an aspect of the Piazza story that intrigues me: Pearlman presents Piazza as entirely a product of steroids, whereas the narratives surrounding most of the prominent players accused of juicing (Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, et all) all include pre-steroid and/or post-steroid phases when they were also pretty good.

While I don’t have much problem accepting that Mike Piazza did steroids, my guess is that there was probably some reason for Piazza’s transformation from non-prospect to home-run-leader-at-his-position, beyond simply “steroids”—although I have no idea what that reason might be. It would be nice if the tone of the tone of the discussion was such that Piazza would want to tell us, but he must know that if he ever gets tempted to be honest about this, his only reward will be a decade’s worth of articles from the Chasses and Shermans of the world about why he shouldn’t get into the hall of fame.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

WBC: Japan vs. China

At some point in the future, when racism and nationalism have ceased to exist, I am going to look back to the time that I got up at four fucking thirty in the morning to watch China and Japan compete in a game that insane Americans invented, and think that I did my part.

China takes the field behind Ray Chang, a shortstop in the Pittsburgh system. Chang, who was born to Chinese parents in Kansans City, finally got picked up in informal tryouts after going un-drafted.

Japan, the defending Classic Champion with a roster that boasts plenty of big league talent, is starting Yu Darvish, a 22 year-old Japanese-Iranian phenom and sex symbol, currently playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters (the Fighters are owned by the Nippon Ham company-- they do not do battle with pigs). Darvish, if anything, makes getting up in the middle of the night make sense: he is supposed to be a wonderful, rare talent. In Japan, he is something like a combination of Leonardo DiCaprio and young Doc Gooden and although scouts have thought that he profiled as a front line starter in the American leagues for the last couple of years, he apparently has no interest in coming to the states. According to Wikipedia, he was once suspended from his high school team for smoking a cigarette in a pachinko parlor.

I am not a scout, it is the middle of the damn night, and the competition from the Chinese hitters is far from brisk, but after watching Darvish pitch four no-hit innings (after which he was replaced), he really does seem like the goods. He has an easy, powerful delivery that is amazing to watch. At no point was China remotely close to touching him.

Japan took a 3 run lead in the top of the 3rd, off of a home run from 3rd baseman Shuichi Murata, but have not scored otherwise, despite threatening repeatedly. For China, as of the 5th inning, the highlight was Ray Chang making a nifty play to throw out a runner at home.

In the 6th, Japan scored a fourth run on a hilarious balk: the Chinese pitcher was a submariner, and as he brought his hand up to throw, he just twisted his hand to throw to first at the last instant of his motion. Yeah, you’re not supposed to do that. Ichiro went 0-5, but made a good catch in the outfield.

From the broadcasters:
-only one Chinese player weighs over 200 lbs
-Something about the stitching in the ball used in Japanese baseball is more conducive to breaking balls, for which Japanese pitchers are known.

The Japanese team looks really good, and should be a serious threat in the tournament. If they were a team in the majors, I don’t think they would be worse than .500. Yu Darvish is the real deal, and the rest of the pitching also seems extremely good. Their offence seemed disappointing, but they got men on base in most innings and were consistently threatening—they could have easily had more runs. I was somewhat disappointed that I did not get to see any needless sacrifice bunts, which is apparently a feature of Japanese baseball.

The Chinese team is not good, although Chang looks like a fairly decent player. If they want to improve, I think they should use their massive amount of US debt to try and get Manny Ramirez.