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Murray Chass goes after Mike Piazza again

Jan 7, 2011, 10:36 AM EDT


Murray Chass, who once went off about how Mike Piazza was a steroids user because he had acne on his back, goes after Piazza again:

I have been accused of being the only writer who has publicly suggested that he used steroids, but talk to any reporter who covered the Mets and they will say of course, he did. Recently I came across this passage from a piece about Piazza:

“Two springs ago, Mike Piazza asked, ‘How can someone write that I was a steroid user because of acne? When did I fail any test?’”

That’s his defense, and he’s sticking to it. The suspicion is Piazza didn’t fail any tests because he stopped using steroids when Major League Baseball began testing.

Piazza is writing a book with Lonnie Wheeler for an advance of $800,000, and for that kind of money a publisher is going to expect something other than balls and strikes. Specifically the truth. The original author of the book, Michael Bamberger, a Sports Illustrated writer of great integrity, withdrew from the project because Piazza wouldn’t commit in writing to tell the truth about steroids.

This is dangerous territory for Chass, but you know what? At least he’s going out on a limb a bit.  I have no idea if Piazza did steroids, but Chass is at least willing to make an accusation. Say what you will about it, but it’s gutsy. More gutsy than that enigmatic “I have my suspicions” business we’ve been hearing lately. Back acne and “everyone knew he did it” is not as damning as the stuff we read about Barry Bonds in “Game of Shadows,” but it’s more than anyone has managed to throw at Bagwell.

I wish those reporters who Chass says will freely tell you that Piazza did steroids would say something.  As a wise man once said, “I prefer a straight fight to all this sneakin’ around.”

And just because someone asks this in every thread, let me clarify my think-through on this stuff: I view the business of making PED accusations and the Hall of Fame to be two distinct, albeit related things.  I don’t like baseless accusations. I think evidence-based accusations are good journalism. If there is no evidence against a guy, it’s horse hockey to withhold a Hall of Fame vote. If and when someone is determined to be a PED user through some evidence, however, voters may feel free to exercise their consciences in that regard even if I disagree on that and wouldn’t withhold a vote for a guy simply because he used PEDs.

(thanks to Jason at IIATMS for the heads up)

  1. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jan 7, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I wish we could have a higher level of honesty, courage and PROOF, for poop’s sake! His accusation is nothing without these things.

  2. BC - Jan 7, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I had acne on my back in my teens and 20’s and lemme tell ya, one look at me and you’d KNOW I never you’d steroids.
    PS. In keeping with the theme… Chass is a chipwich.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM

      PS. In keeping with the theme… Chass is a chipwich

      Don’t ever change, ever!

  3. catsmeat - Jan 7, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Piazza must have really done some damage by standing on Murray’s lawn.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I have no idea if Piazza did steroids, but Chass is at least willing to make an accusation.

    Any lawyer want to jump in here, but does Piazza have any recourse here? I know public figures have a harder time suing people for stuff like this, but is there any way Piazza can stop this? Piazza essentially has to prove a negative (that he never took steroids), but he’s screwed any way you look at this. Deny it, Chass writes of course he’d deny it (c.f. Palmeiro). Ignore it, and people will keep assuming he did (c.f. McGwire before he finally admitted it, but still didnt’ justify all the stories without proof that were written previously). Can Piazza fight back?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      His chances of being able to do anything are so small that any good lawyer would tell him not to bother (see what happened to Clemens when he sued).

      That said, you don’t necessarily have to “prove a negative.” A plaintiff, saying under oath that he never did steroids is evidence, even if it’s self-serving. Then, if the plaintiff were able to establish that the man making the accusation had no evidence for the claim himself, and if he didn’t even take any steps to check to see that his accusation was true, and if he could prove malice, that would be enough to establish the claim.

      But in most instances, it’s just bad strategy for a public figure to go after someone on a claim like this, because then his whole reputation is wide open for the defendant to discover.

      • BC - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:34 AM

        Agree. Best thing Piazza can do is just ignore this. Chass The Chipwich has had it in for him for years. He sues for defamation and what does he get? Not much. Just ignore it, enjoy the millions in the bank and wait for the HOF vote. Even if he gets Bagwellled he’s going to get in eventually.

      • evanhartford - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:49 PM

        There is a major disconnect between the court of law and the court of public opinion. The athletes, their lawyers, Bud Selig and you all don’t seem to realize or recognize it.

        The HOF voting (like the All-Star voting) is much more a popularity contest than a scientific study. The facts are important, but as we all know, perception tends to trump reality. We can go on and on about why this is wrong or how it would be better if…, but in the end this is the world we live in. You can either accept it and learn to live with it or reject it and widdle away in obscurity.

        These guys are foolishly taking advice from their attorneys instead of their publicists. They’re answering questions as if they’re sitting in a courtroom under oath. They all seem like they haven’t practiced and haven’t been coached. They keep their answers short and avoid challenging their accusers. Many of them give half-assed denials. I know if I were innocent and I felt my legacy was on the line, I’d be doing interviews left and right challenging coaches, players, strength coaches et all to say I cheated. I would challenge reporters to go out and find an accuser. I’d parade my strength coach from the late 90s in front of everyone and have him corroborate my story. I’d be speaking to kids all over the country about the dangers of steroid use. I’d join the populist movement instead of rejecting it. Is it fair? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, these guys could be doing SOOOO MUCH MORE and instead they’re “ignoring, denying and/or avoiding” the conversation. This might work in a court of law, but alas we’re in the court of public opinion. To a casual onlooker, they look guilty. That’s all that matters.

        Of course, being that OJ was found innocent of murder, we should assume he didn’t kill his wife. Right?

      • BC - Jan 7, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        Yeah, but Clemens did that and look what happened. Every shred of his life became public. The more you bark, the more people dig. And the last thing a player wants is to end up in court or in front of Congress. Piazza should just clam up and let it blow over. It’s one Chipwich reporter who’s had it in for him for years shooting his mouth off.

  5. Panda Claus - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Back acne now condemns you as a steroid user? Did anyone ever report on the backs of Bonds or were they too busy checking out his hat size?

    The acne sounds like more hormone-related or perhaps a sweat gland issue, not necessarily would that indicate ‘roids.

    For the record, my medical degree hasn’t arrived in the mail yet. Since Chass is bringing this up again, we’re to presume his degree just arrived this week. Must be on a different delivery schedule.

    • jeffrp - Jan 7, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      And I’m not a Doctor either.

      • Panda Claus - Jan 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        Well that only partially helps. While the link you provided indicates it could be a cause of acne, you can’t infer that it was the cause for Piazza, if indeed he did suffer from back acne as Chass states.

        Other causes of “bacne” include heredity, extreme sweating and wearing a backpack for prolonged periods (could that cover wearing smothering catcher’s gear during a hot summer heat wave?).

        From the information given, I don’t know, you don’t know and Chass doesn’t really know. If Chass did really have some damning proof he probably would’ve provided it. Maybe Chass should have also checked out MP’s physique a bit closer. Shrinking “berries” and increased breast size are also possible side effects for males that take steroids.

  6. nctaxpro - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    Assuming that Bamberger is telling the truth – If Piazza didn’t use steroids, what has he got to lose by committing in writing to telling the truth?

    • clydeserra - Jan 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      well there is the witch hunt aspect.I find the “tell me you didn’t” business distastful. Why do we stop there? Why not make him or other potential HOF people swear he never cheated on his wife/girlfriend?

      It has to stop. Why not ask Chass prove that steroid help?

    • clydeserra - Jan 8, 2011 at 1:13 PM

      And what is the truth? What if he tried it for a while and stopped? what if he doesn’t know, and someone can say he did?

      What level of steroid use disqualifies someone? a week? moth? year? 2 years?

  7. giant4life - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:35 AM me the nail holes are I will blast you with my fricken laser.

  8. marshmallowsnake - Jan 7, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    I still get the occasional outbreak on my back..and I am 35! Do I use steroids? No – slow pitch softball is not that important to me.

  9. apbaguy - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    I met Victor Conte at the local Target late one night a few years ago. Some of you will recall he was the BALCO CEO. The meeting was strictly accidental, he was hanging out late because of his notoriety, I was in late because my girlfriend had an “emergency”.

    Anyway, he wouldn’t discuss anything about his case or specific athletes, but we did discuss steroid and HGH effects on performance generally. Basically back acne in adult males can be an indicator of steroid use, but it would typically be accompanied by another indicator, like increased hat size, dramatic change in musculature and muscle-mass gain, etc..But sometimes because of the workout the change in physique might be primarily a loss of fat and a general leaning out of the physique. The key benefit of PED’s that I took away from that discussion was an athlete’s ability to train harder and recover quicker, thus train more often. Imagine how you’d look if you were already DNA gifted, relatively young, and you could work out twice as fast, twice as hard, and twice as often. Relating this to Piazza, back acne alone is not conclusive. In addition, you’d need some solid examples of before and after physique that would fall outside the norms for a professional athlete’s workout results.

  10. amhendrick - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    “Piazza is writing a book with Lonnie Wheeler for an advance of $800,000, and for that kind of money a publisher is going to expect something other than balls and strikes. ”

    So, have there ever been any rumors regarding Piazza about something other than PED’s that would make for a big selling book?

    • sdelmonte - Jan 7, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      Far too many. None of which I will repeat, other than to say, a book about being a 38th round draft pick chosen as a favor to his dad by Lasorda and becoming a star in LA and NYC should be interesting without extra help.

      And I also expect a chapter about how Piazza and his teammates struggled to cope with 9/11 and about that game winning homer the first night back.

    • Roger Moore - Jan 7, 2011 at 6:06 PM

      So, have there ever been any rumors regarding Piazza about something other than PED’s that would make for a big selling book?

      Yes. There were persistent rumors that he was gay, presumably because he was unmarried and too well dressed. OTOH, I’m apparently utterly lacking in gaydar, so it’s always possible that he gave off some vibe that I never noticed.

      That said, I agree with sdelmonte that Piazza’s career is interesting enough to make a good book without any shocking personal revelations about steroids, sexuality, or anything else. He had a very eventful career, even for a HOF caliber player.

  11. Space Escalator - Jan 7, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    @BC: A meme! Like Dan Shaughnessy is CHB (Curly Headed Boyfriend), Murry Chass could be CTC (Chass The Chipwich). Intarwebs: go!

    • BC - Jan 7, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      I like it!

  12. sfchamps2010 - Jan 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    I’ve been a Giants fan my whole life and i watched Piazza killed the us time and time again, but why is it ok to go after a guy with no proof PED use at all? This whole thing is out of control! Next someone is gonna say david eckstein, craig counsell, and tim lincecum are also using PEDS!

  13. aaronmoreno - Jan 7, 2011 at 2:01 PM

    “…but talk to any reporter who covered the Mets and they will say of course, he did. ”

    Shouldn’t be that hard to ask one, right? How many beat writers in any clubhouse have been asked about this?

  14. Dan in Katonah - Jan 7, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Why is Murray Chass no longer writing for the NY Times if he seems intent to continue his career of writing about baseball? Am I now allowed to speculate all sorts of untoward things about him without any foundation whatsoever? Was he forced out for something deep and dark? Can I sling stupid accusations about improper conduct without any material support? Of course not. So where does he get off publishing these things on his blog (and yes, Murray, it is a blog – you have become what you mocked)?

    As a lawyer I understand the futility and risk Piazza takes by litigating a defamation claim. It is really not worth it as you basically open yourself up to all kinds of unnecessary scrutiny. But as a baseball fan, and big fan of Piazza’s in particular, I really wish he would take on this blowhard a$$hole in court. Or maybe just punch him in the mouth.

    And allow me to insert the statement attributed to Chass in the Moshe Mandel article that was previously linked by Craig:

    Murray Chass, New York Times: “If they are going to question the home-run record because of the pills, they better go back and investigate some of baseball’s records that were produced with the aid of amphetamines. In past years, some of the game’s best players were said to have played their careers on amphetamines. So no bluenose asterisk, please, for a McGwire home run record.”

    Someone should just cut his internet connection already. He is far, far worse than a Chipwich, BC.

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