Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Did Mike Piazza tell reporters he used performance-enhancing drugs?

Posted by Lisa Swan

Fans have speculated for ages that Roger Clemens was suffering 'roid rage when he threw that bat against Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series. But now Clemens is not the only person in that rivalry accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

In his new book about Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth", which comes out today, Jeff Pearlman writes that:
"According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up.

"Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.)"
Pearlman, who writes about Piazza in the book's chapter on the 2000 World Series, continues:
"Whether or not it was Piazza's intent, the tactic was brilliant: By letting the media know, off the record, Piazza made the information that much harder to report. Writers saw his bulging muscles, his acne-covered back. They certainly heard the under-the-breath comments from other major league players, some who considered Piazza's success to be 100 percent chemically delivered."
Former Boston Red Sox first baseman Reggie Jefferson tells Pearlman, "He's a guy who did it, and everybody knows it. It's amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."

Another veteran player agreed, saying, "There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids."

According to Pearlman, when that player is asked what are the odds, on a scale of 1 to 10, that Piazza had used PEDs, the player replies:
"A 12," he says. "Maybe even a 13."

You can read more details in Pearlman's book, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth," a book I highly recommend. It is a balanced biography of Clemens. I will do a full-scale review of the book later this week.

Former New York Times writer Murray Chass, who, along with the New York Post's Joel Sherman, wrote about Piazza's back acne last month, was the first to talk about what Pearlman's book said about the former catcher. Interestingly, however, Chass did not mention what I think is the most explosive part of what "The Rocket That Fell to Earth" said about Piazza - the charge that the former catcher admitted to some reporters that he was using PEDs.

Some might say that it's ancient history to talk about whether Mike Piazza juiced up. But Piazza isn't just any former player. He is one of the faces of the Mets' franchise - remember that it was Mike who caught fellow icon Tom Seaver's last pitch thrown at Shea Stadium - and he is said to be one of the greatest-hitting catchers of all-time. Piazza is also expected to go into the Hall of Fame in four years.

Look, I like Piazza, but I also think that if he's going to be considered for the Hall, he needs to be under the same microscope that would-be HOFers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have faced. Piazza shouldn't get a pass from this type of scrutiny, even though he was a fan favorite and gave good quotes to the media.

What do you think about Mike Piazza? Leave us a comment!

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