Mike Piazza and the Steroid Issue

If you missed it, loyal MetsToday commenter “Walnutz15″ unearthed a New York Times article from 2002 that collected responses from New York baseball players regarding the then-recently published Sports Illustrated story focused on Ken Caminiti and steroids in MLB.

To refresh your memory (or add to it, depending on your age), SI published a controversial story about steroids in baseball (written by Tom Verducci), based primarily on conversations with Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and other admitted steroid users. If you haven’t read it, you should — and you should read it once a year, right around this time, while considering whether certain players from a certain era should or shouldn’t be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why? Because it paints a very clear picture of what was happening in baseball (MLB, minors, college, and yes, high school) at that time. I can confidently support the article because I speak from personal experience; I played with and against young men who “juiced” — at the high school, college, semipro and pro levels — and I can tell you that at least a few of them went from marginal amateur prospects to #1 draft picks and/or MLB players as a direct result of taking steroids. No, I’m not naming names; but as an example, I watched one individual go from throwing 84 MPH as a high school senior to 97 MPH as a college junior — and not because he hit a natural growth spurt or learned better mechanics. So anyone who claims that steroids can’t artificially improve a baseball player’s skill set, probably has never stepped foot on a regulation baseball field and seen the effects first-hand (and that would account for about 90% of all beat writers/bloggers/broadcasters/pundits and 99% of all BBWAA HOF voters).

Now, back to the NY Times article, which is still compelling as we review it almost ten years later. Among the players quoted — who expressed their anger over Caminiti’s expose and steadfastly denied using steroids themselves — included (among others) Jason Giambi, Mo Vaughn, Mike Stanton, and Mike Piazza. Interesting group, eh?

Just for kicks, let’s look at a few of those quotes.

The Yankees’ Jason Giambi said: ”This is a sport that’s about flexibility and staying healthy.”

”The one common thread that all the greats of the game have had is longevity,” he added. ”You don’t get that by taking shortcuts. You get that by working hard.”

Shortcuts, no. Hard work plus PEDs, though, can make one better than the all-time greats, and provide more longevity.

Mike Stanton, the Yankees’ player representative, noted that privacy issues were one argument against testing, but he added, ”I think it’s a concern for everybody.”

Yes, and it is also concerning that an MLBPA rep was an HGH user. No wonder the MLBPA refused to allow testing for so long, if the leaders were using.

Mo Vaughn said he never used steroids and was angry that Caminiti was making his admission after his playing career and ”belittling other people’s success.”

Mo probably wasn’t lying about steroids — he “was afraid of big needles” according to his HGH supplier Kirk Radomski.

Regarding, and from, Piazza:

Catcher Mike Piazza, who finished second in the M.V.P. voting behind Caminiti in 1996, repeatedly questioned why Caminiti was coming clean after retirement.

”It’s good for Ken that he’s at least getting his life back on track,” Piazza said about Caminiti, a recovering alcoholic and former drug user. ”From what I understand, steroids were one of the more milder things he’s done in his life.”

Piazza has said he briefly used androstenedione early in his career, stopping when he did not see a drastic change in his muscle mass. He said he had never used steroids because ”I hit the ball as far in high school as I do now.”

”If being big and strong is a prerequisite to hitting 70 home runs,” Piazza said, ”you’d have every Mr. Olympian contestant coming out because God knows there’s no money in body building, at least not the money we make.”

Uh-oh … Piazza admitted to using Andro. That’s a steroid, folks. And he stopped using it because “he did not see a drastic change in his muscle mass”. However, Piazza eventually found SOMETHING that caused a “drastic change”, considerng that he gained 20 pounds of mass the winter before the 1998 season.

Why am I unearthing the “old” steroid issue and dragging Mike Piazza through the mud now? Partly because of the hypocrisy of the recent Hall of Fame voting, partly because Walnutz15 pointed out a relevant tidbit from yesteryear, and also because Murray Chass has reopened the can of worms. You may remember Chass — a former New York Times columnist — stirred up controversy by discussing Piazza’s “bacne”. This past week, Chass re-hashed the debate, pointing out that Piazza (along with several other suspected PEDs users) will be eligible for the HOF vote in two years. Interestingly, Piazza’s biography should be published right before the vote; my guess is that the book will clear Piazza of any wrongdoing, and position him as a legitimate HOF candidate.

Since Piazza is near and dear to our hearts as Mets fans, and this is more interesting than discussing Boof Bonser‘s chances of making the 2011 rotation, please provide your comments. Do think Piazza’s admission to using Andro should keep him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, since a similar admission has cost Mark McGwire HOF votes? What if it comes out that Piazza used other PEDs — does he deserve to be a “Hall of Famer”?

10-11 Offseason

About the Author

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.

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