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.

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