Mike Piazza Admitted Taking PEDs

Here we go again … the Hall of Fame inductees will be announced today, therefore, it’s time to talk about Mike Piazza‘s PEDs use.

Every year we see the same arguments for and against voting PEDs users into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In the case of Mets fans and bloggers, the focus is on Mike Piazza, and whether or not he did PEDs, and if he did, whether they had anything to do with his HoF production.

Arguing the latter is mostly subjective and an exercise in futility.

Arguing the former is completely pointless, because there is no argument — Mike Piazza admitted, multiple times, to taking PEDs.

For reference, MetsToday discussed Piazza’s PEDs use in a post in February 2013 and another in October 2011. Follow the links to read them.

Oh, I suppose we can argue over whether Mike Piazza was “cheating” or not when he took the PEDs. In his public admissions, he admitted to taking androstenedione at a time when it was available over the counter, and before MLB tested for PEDs. Whether you agree that “andro” is a steroid or not has already been covered in the previously mentioned MetsToday post in February 2013. Regardless of how you classify it, “andro” is still a Performance Enhancing Drug, and one that was banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1997, and, since then, banned by MLB, the NFL, NBA, USOC, and NCAA. “Andro” is also the PED that Mark McGwire slyly placed in his locker in full view for a reporter such as Steve Wilstein to find. It was a slick move by McGwire because, at the time, “andro” was legal to use in MLB, and it could be found at the local GNC or other vitamin store — so, if anyone ever accused McGwire of cheating or taking steroids, he could “admit” to taking something that was legal and over-the-counter (and not have to admit to taking who-knows-what-else that was illegal and not OTC).

Now here’s an interesting twist — if one looks past Piazza’s admitted use of androstenedione, then one must also excuse McGwire’s use of the same. Right? And if one uses the argument that Piazza took a PED at a time when MLB wasn’t testing, so it’s OK, then you have to apply the same logic to McGwire. Therefore, if one excuses both players for using “andro,” then, theoretically, one might vote for both to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And then the argument becomes whether or not both belong in the HoF based on their stats; I’ve seen/heard some people who think McGwire’s career numbers weren’t HoF-worthy.

Now, what about the argument that the PEDs didn’t help Piazza, because he was already a man-beast hitting bombs over fences in high school? Well, that’s exactly the same argument posed for McGwire. McGwire was a homerun-hitter as a high schooler, in the Alaska League, at USC, in the minors, and he hit 49 HR in his rookie MLB season. Does that mean PEDs didn’t help him to continue hitting homeruns? Heck, that’s the big question, isn’t it? And by big, I mean in all of MLB, because EVERYONE in MLB was hitting tons of homeruns in the “steroid era.” Is it a coincidence that homeruns, batting averages, and runs scored have gone down drastically since MLB began mandatory PEDs testing? Maybe. Is there a reason PEDs are banned in the first place?

What’s my position? It’s been stated before. I don’t really care about players getting voted in to the Hall of Fame. Once the PEDs era began, and the stats went into the stratosphere, individual numbers, to me, no longer held much weight. When players like Luis Gonzalez were hitting 57 homers, numbers no longer mattered to me. And when 57 homers were only good enough for third-best, that further cemented my feelings. If it were up to me, no more players would be “elected” into the Hall of Fame. Instead, there would merely be the museum, and a chronicle of the game presented within — both good and bad. Did Tyrannosaurus Rex have to be “elected” into a Dinosaur Hall of Fame? No, but the beast is seen and learned about by many millions of people who go to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. It can be the same way with the Baseball HoF — a curator or group of curators decide who and what is chronicled in the history of baseball. No more “Hall of Famers” — it’s a dumb concept, anyway, for what is a team game.

Oh, one more thing: I have a major, major issue with HoF voters who refuse to cast votes for, say, Piazza, McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell, etc., but DO cast votes for Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, etc. It doesn’t make any sense to me at all — how can someone suspect one player of possibly doing PEDs, and simultaneously decide that another player from the exact same era was 100% clean? Especially when we know that PEDs don’t necessarily make baseball players look like NFL linebackers? Just because Biggio (for example) didn’t have the bulging biceps of his teammate Bagwell, doesn’t necessarily clear him of PEDs use. Just because Tom Glavine didn’t throw 100 MPH, doesn’t mean he didn’t use HGH for recovery, for example. The ENTIRE era is tainted, and there is absolutely no way for anyone to know who was clean and who wasn’t. Case in point: the first MLB player suspended for using PEDs was Alex Sanchez — all 5’10”, 180 lbs. of him. Other players caught using PEDs — and steroids, specifically — included “bodybuilders” such as Freddy Galvis, Guillermo Mota, Everth Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Ryan Franklin, Neifi Perez, and Mike Jacobs, among others. Cheating comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but it’s still cheating.

Sound off in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Englishman in Amsterdam January 6, 2015 at 1:23 pm
    I was of the understanding that McGwire used the andro bottle to disguise his more serious, definitely illegal steroid use. Impossible to say if Piazza did the same or if he just used andro, but if it was just andro, then what? It was as legal as batting gloves at the time. Food for thought.
  2. RL January 6, 2015 at 1:39 pm
    Piazza according to his own admission did nothing illegal and nothing against the rules. to deny him from being in the hall is akin to denying Big Ed Walsh a spot and he’s certainly in.
    • DanS January 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm
      Sorry, throwing a spitball did not improve the ability to rebound day after day from normal fatigue or improve a players ability to track a baseball, crucial to the sport. This kind of argument made by PED “enablers” does absolutely nothing to improve anyone’s understanding of just what went on during the Steroid Era. Big Ed Walsh? Really?
  3. James Preller January 6, 2015 at 2:23 pm
    Brilliant, well-said, I agree with it all.

    With the numbers, I just think we all figure them out relatively. Intelligent fans know that they have to do some internal math when they encounter a player’s stats if Coors is their home field. We don’t throw the numbers away, we just sort of trim them down a bit.

    Likewise, we look at eras. Guys like Christy Mathewson and what he did in 1905. The dead ball era, the steroid era, and so on. Context, context, context.

    Mostly, though, I agree 100% on the HOF, which is an awful, out-dated museum (and I’ve slept there: true fact). Baseball should blow it up, build a modern one somewhere, and start over. Chronicle the game, all of it. One of the many problems with it is the “hall” itself, the boring plagues, one after the other. Throw that away and it’s a start. Now add much more interactive things for young fans. Stand into a batting cage (sign the waiver first) and take a cut against a Randy Johnson fastball. Announce an inning, similar to what they do in the basketball hall of fame. Race around the bases with the ghostly image of Cool Papa Bell, and so on.

    • argonbunnies January 7, 2015 at 11:10 pm
      I dunno, there’s something kind of classic and nostalgic about the HOF being a dinky little museum in a dinky little town. I’m in favor of the different sports keeping their different niches, rather than playing the “who can be most modern/badass/hip/trendy” game. Let the NBA blow people away with fast motion and bright lights; let the NFL pump up the adrenaline with loud sounds. Baseball is a more contemplative pastime, and appeals more to the crowd who rejects all that flash. There’s no point in trying to attract ADD kids until you change the game itself.
  4. Bat January 6, 2015 at 3:06 pm
    Pedro, The Unit, Smoltz, and Biggio elected.

    Piazza gets almost 70% and seems certain to get in next year unless PED allegations are substantiated before then.

  5. Mark January 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm
    This is an idiotic article. McGwire admitted to using a lot more than just Andro. Comparing the two is foolish. Also, people vote for players like Glavine over people like McGwire because there’s no evidence against Glavine. However, I do think that people who don’t vote for players based solely off the “eyeball test” are simply lazy.
    • Joe Janish January 6, 2015 at 4:18 pm
      What’s the difference between using one PED over another? Andro is OK because it was legal to purchase — even if it, like steroids, was on the banned list of substances?

      Absence of evidence is not a fair reason of determination. It could just be that a player was lucky enough not to be associated with someone who got caught. The majority of players who have “evidence” against them were mentioned by Jose Canseco, or supplied by Jason Grimsley, BALCO, Kirk Radomski, or Biogenesis. Surely those weren’t the only suppliers of PEDs from the 1980s through the 2000s.

      • MIKE January 7, 2015 at 12:09 am
        Andro was not a banned substance at the time Piazza claims to have used it so, yes, there is a significant difference between this and other PEDs. Absence of evidence is also not a fair reason for accusations. Piazza never failed a drug test during his time in the league, nor did he appear in the Mitchell Report. There is no evidence of Piazza ever using or even purchasing steroids. The only evidence that people have against Piazza is the large physique that he always had since high school (relatively speaking), some back acne, and some players who simply assumed he was on steroids
        • Joe Janish January 7, 2015 at 11:14 am
          My bad, I should have made clear; by “banned substance” I was referring to lists maintained by WADA / IOC / NFL and other major sport organizations that did not allow PEDs at the time. Point being, “andro” was categorized the same as a steroid, and therefore, in my mind, there is NOT a significant difference.

          Who, by the way, is making accusations? I never accused anyone of doing something. Rather, I am a) repeating the words of people who admitted to taking PEDs and b) pointing out that absence of evidence doesn’t equal absence of guilt.

          And as for the Mitchell Report, every bit of information contained within came from an extremely small number of sources — again, Grimsley, BALCO, Radomski, and Brian McNamee. A stathead would describe that as “a small sample size.” Like most privately commissioned reports, it’s incomplete. For example, Reds and Marlins trainer Larry Starr admitted there was rampant steroid use, but refused to name names; and do you think it’s suspicious that NOT ONE member of the Red Sox was named in the report — and that Mitchell was coincidentally an executive for the Bosox?

          As for your claim “There is no evidence of Piazza ever using or even purchasing steroids.” — did you read the part of the post where Mike Piazza admits to having taken andro? It’s referred to in the headline. Not my words, his. I don’t need to accuse people of things they’ve already admitted.

  6. Bat January 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm
    I predict next year’s inductees will be Ken Griffey Jr. (only worthy first time candidate), Piazza, and then probably one of the following:


    This is the first time in 60 years that the writers have elected four guys and therefore I wouldn’t think that will happen next year.

    I’d like to see all five of the above guys get in, but think it’s more likely that it will three guys, and Griffey Jr. and Piazza seem like shoo-ins (again, provided that nothing comes out that exposes Piazza to PED backlash).

  7. Bat January 6, 2015 at 3:41 pm
    Oops, I forgot Bagwell.

    He’ll be one of the four guys (others being Raines, Mussina, and Schilling) that get into the Hall of Fame next year with Griffey Jr. and Piazza.

    In my opinion, all four of those guys plus Edgar Martinez and Alan Trammell should get in, but it won’t happen.

  8. Dave January 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm
    Should we remove Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from the hall of fame because of their known amphetamine use, right (mentioned here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8769398/a-writer-gives-hall-fame-vote)? Amphetamines are clear performance enhancers that help with normal fatigue and improve a players ability to track a baseball. If a person is against electing Piazza (and Clemens and Bonds and other legendarily great players) because of (alleged or admitted) steroid use during the Steroid Era, he or she should be against the inclusion of players like Mays, Mantle, and Aaron because of their admitted PED use. Personally I LOVE the museum idea where the immortals of the game are recognized, warts and all, for being the most memorable players of their respective eras.
  9. DaveSchneck January 6, 2015 at 7:39 pm
    Ironically, I sent an e-mail to a friend earlier today that was more or less identical to your points above. Evidently, great minds, or deranged minds (your choice) think alike.
  10. jd January 7, 2015 at 9:24 pm
    people who equate peds to amphetamines are idiots.
    • DENNY January 8, 2015 at 12:06 am
      PED is an acronym for performance enhancing drug. Amphetamine is one type of performance enhancing drug.
  11. argonbunnies January 7, 2015 at 10:56 pm
    My PED thought is that the only relevant factors are health risks and imitation.

    If no teenager was ever going to screw up their body with steroids because of MLB, then I’m all for watching juicers throw 100 mph and sluggers hit it 500 ft. Pro athletes already do all sorts of stuff to transform themselves from being regular humans into being something else, and as far as entertainment value in games, I don’t care whether their feats derive from hard work or from a pill. The record book is a mish-mash of feats from radically different contexts, and there’s no hope of fixing that. Or do you want to change some rules tomorrow to curb the record high strikeout rates in the game today?

    Unfortunately, people of all sorts DO look to MLB for inspiration and examples, and “get here by doing steroids” is a pretty powerful message that could quite plausibly lead to kids hurting themselves with the stuff. For that reason, I’m in favor of suspending Braun and A-Rod for life, doing everything possible to catch Clemens and Bonds in lies, etc. “You use, you lose,” should be MLB’s message to kids.

    Accordingly, when it comes to Piazza, I think his example is, if not ideal, then at least acceptable. The FDA (or someone) decided that andro and creatine qualified for over-the-counter purchase, for pro ballplayers and aspiring 18-year-olds alike (14-year-olds too? I’ve never heard of GNC carding). When it comes to kids’ health, yes, there is a bad guy here putting them at risk, but it’s not Mike Piazza, it’s the FDA (or whatever govt dbags decided that safety concerns don’t apply to “supplements”).

    McGwire, on the other hand, did some stuff that had been officially declared dangerous. He tried very hard to avoid getting caught, but it didn’t work, and so he DID wind up being a bad example to kids, and therefore, in my book, he deserves whatever sanctions anyone wants to throw at him.

    Whose performance benefited more from chemicals, Piazza’s or McGwire’s, is completely irrelevant to me.

    • argonbunnies January 7, 2015 at 10:58 pm
      Footnote: I do feel bad for clean pro players having to compete against PED-fueled pro players, but I think that’s a matter for the players to work out amongst themselves.
    • Joe Janish January 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm
      The FDA “decided” that andro was OK until someone else did research for them to conclude it was dangerous; it’s been categorized as an anabolic steroid on the Schedule III list of controlled substances since 2005. In general, the FDA’s role in overseeing the supplement industry has been a complete joke — they basically approve anything that won’t kill a person on first dose, and beyond that, it’s the wild west.

      But I get your point. ASSUMING Piazza is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Maybe he is. More and more though, players in MLB sound eerily similar to prison inmates — everyone is/was innocent. Is it really possible that Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Canseco were the only MLBers to use steroids in the past 30 years? Piazza’s admission to using andro when it was legal — and the timing of his book release, which reiterated that confession a year in advance of his appearance on the HoF ballot — is far too convenient for me to accept without a bit of suspicion. As Englishman in Amsterdam says above, “I was of the understanding that McGwire used the andro bottle to disguise his more serious, definitely illegal steroid use.” — something I’ve also understood. Maybe it’s unfair, but it’s far too easy to envision a player agent — for any player who used illegal PEDs, not necessarily Piazza in particular — to advise his client to publicly admit to using andro prior to it being banned. It’s like a public plea bargain — I’ll admit to something lesser, and you’ll be happy that I admitted to something and you won’t accuse me of something worse. That strategy might have worked for McGwire, had that been his story at the Congressional hearing.

      Agreed on Braun, A-Rod, and every other MLBer who is caught — banned for life. Unfortunately the Players Association would never go for it.

      • argonbunnies January 8, 2015 at 7:34 pm
        I actually don’t believe the McGwire andro-smokescreen theory one bit. He’s no saint, and he appears to be in some level of denial over the fact that steroids might have improved his hitting, not just kept him on the field… but still, the guy’s never seemed remotely DEVIOUS.

        To intentionally leave an andro bottle just barely visible, where a reporter would have to intrude just to notice it, to the extent that many people would then critique the reporter for snooping… all as a smoke screen against steroids that weren’t yet on anybody’s radar (I mean, in 1998, literally no one cared)… there are very few players who are that crafty, deceitful, and paranoid. I don’t think McGwire was one of them.

        Piazza’s timing with the book is a lot more suspicious to me, honestly, now that you mention it. At the same time, his story is also entirely plausible. You can get pretty darn ripped on andro and creatine, and Piazza never bulged out of his skeleton far enough to make HGH or winstrol a given. If he hasn’t been caught yet, I’m guessing he won’t be, and therefore the worst example he’s providing to kids is “sucker who trusted the FDA”. Mike’s not in the “we KNOW he cheated, just can’t prove it” territory of Bonds, so kids have the option to view him as clean. Not ideal, but probably not a reason to decline to honor the guy’s career, at least in my book.

        P.S. I cannot understand the FDA. Sometimes it seems like they approve anything, and other times they require $220 mil of testing for stuff that’s been working in China for two hundred years.