Piazza still getting lumped in with known or suspected illegal PED users absent proof
It’s usually bad form to criticize a writer in print or virtual print, but I’ll make an exception today for Bob Nightengale, whose reckless article about Mike Piazza continues to push the baseless claim that Piazza used illegal performance enhancing drugs.
Nightengale, who voted for Piazza for the Hall of Fame, tweeted out his article thus:
Nightengale’s tweet linking Piazza with Bonds and Clemens was bad enough, but his content was what drew the ire of most of the people who read the article.
What most want to know, is how exactly Mike Piazza, of whom zero evidence of PED use exists, can be a trailblazer for Bonds (who went on trial for perjury as it related to his involvement with BALCO) and Clemens (whose name appeared in the Mitchell report).
This, according to Nightengale, is how:
"These days, the man who hit more homers than anyone in baseball history, and the pitcher who won more Cy Young awards in history, just so happen to be Mike Piazza’s biggest advocates.You see, if Piazza is elected Wednesday into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, the door barring all suspected performance-enhancing drug users will be torn off its hinges.If Piazza is let into the doors of Cooperstown, it will become ludicrous to keep Bonds and Clemens out."
How would it be ludicrous to keep Bonds and Clemens — of whom mountains of evidence of PED use exist — out after letting Piazza — of whom zero evidence exists — in?
Nightengale continues by mentioning Piazza’s beginnings as a pro and unsubstantiated rumors of PED use while with the Dodgers and Mets:
"He was the 1,390th player drafted in 1988, a pick made only as a courtesy to Los Angeles Dodgers manager and family friend Tom Lasorda. From there, Piazza morphed from a junior-college backup first baseman into one of the game’s most feared power hitters, averaging 35 homers a year for his first 10 seasons.“It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,” Piazza said in his book. “I didn’t.”That statement counters concerns of PED use aired almost exclusively in private by former teammates, opponents, scouts and management who were struck by Piazza’s rise from a modest amateur career to a muscle-bound slugger who hit balls clear out of Dodger Stadium."
Nightengale is at worst lying in the first paragraph above and at best withholding facts in order to push his narrative. Either way, it’s disingenuous, and a national writer should be held to a standard higher than this.
While Piazza was drafted late, his potential as a power-hitter was never questioned. And as will be noted below, the results were there from a very early age.
Nightengale, by saying Piazza “morphed” from a “backup first baseman into one of the game’s most feared power hitters,” is ignoring the fact that Piazza, at 16 years old, was one of the most feared hitters in Pennsylvania. Nightengale also fails to mention that Piazza hit 29 home runs in his first full professional season and 23 in his second.
From reading Piazza’s autobiography, Long Shot, I knew that his power was there early, but I also found an article from 1985 that discussed it. A snippet:
In that article, Piazza is referred to as someone an opposing coach has “never had more respect for” as a hitter. His prodigious power is noted, as is how highly thought of he was. More important than those words are Piazza’s stats as a 16-year-old in high school, where he hit .514 with 12 home runs and a 1.181 SLG percentage in 72 at-bats.
If you read Nightengale’s piece, though, it’s hinted that Piazza simply became an offensive force after he was drafted. That’s patently false. And all it would’ve taken for Nightengale to know that was two minutes of research.
There’s also the fact that Piazza’s career arc was normal, unlike the majority of proven or suspected users. That could’ve been pointed out by Nightengale.
Instead, like many others, Nightengale continues to make suggestions absent proof, while failing to mention that Piazza wasn’t drafted late because of any questions about his offensive ability. Rather, it was because he didn’t have a position.
Elsewhere in his article, Nigtengale cites “former teammates, opponents, scouts and management who were struck by Piazza’s rise from a modest amateur career to a muscle-bound slugger who hit balls clear out of Dodger Stadium.” Again, this pushes the disproved narrative that Piazza wasn’t an offensive force starting during his high school days. It also pushes the claim that Piazza “became” muscle bound. If you read his high school scouting report, though, you’ll see he didn’t “become” muscle bound. He already was.
Could Mike Piazza have used illegal performance enhancing drugs? Sure. But the same can be said about Ken Griffey, Jr., Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Tim Raines, and any other random player you want to throw in there.
Nightengale and any other writer is free to write as they see fit, but to defame someone without evidence while also making insinuations that can be proven false? That’s where a line should be drawn.