COMMENTARY | It's something that fans of every Major League Baseball team can identify with.
There's that special player -- the one you hope is, and always has been, clean. If you found out that he wasn't, and his name was added to the list of those who used steroids, what would there be left for you as a baseball fan to believe in?
For the New York Mets, that player is Mike Piazza. Over the last two decades, no Met has been as popular as Piazza. From the time he joined the organization in 1998, to when they parted ways after the 2005 season, Piazza was the team's best and most beloved player. If you go to a Mets game today, you'll still see people wearing his No. 31 jersey.
Last month, Piazza, appearing on the ballot for the first time, was denied entry into Baseball's Hall of Fame. The only logical explanation -- aside from the belief that some voters will never vote someone in on the first ballot -- is that the suspicions that Piazza used performance-enhancing drugs did him in. Piazza has never been linked to PEDs, but apparently to the voters, the suspicions are enough to keep him out, at least for now.
And really, what else could it have been? Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history. He hit 396 home runs as a catcher, and throughout his career he was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Take a look at the history of the New York Mets, and you won't find a better right-handed hitter. A catcher who was a career .308 hitter with 1,335 runs batted in to go along with a total of 427 home runs, Piazza is a first-ballot Hall of Famer if there ever was one.
We're going to hear a lot from Piazza over the course of the next few weeks. His book, "Long Shot," is due out this week, and Piazza's book tour will start in New York. Piazza addresses many topics in his book, but none will garner more attention than the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.
According to the New York Times, Piazza admits to using androstenedione, which was later banned, though negative reaction to Mark McGwire's use of the supplement led Piazza to "phase it out." And he admits to taking amphetamines until they were banned. Piazza also inquired about human growth hormone before he became aware that it was a banned substance.
Sure, the book explores Piazza's days as a Los Angeles Dodger, the rumors about him being gay, and his confrontations with Roger Clemens. But what will interest readers the most is the steroid talk.
What we have is a strong denial from Piazza. Whether it's fair or not, the steroid era in baseball has resulted in skepticism across the board. We just don't know who to believe. Piazza is finding that out now.
Mets fans used to count on Piazza for the moon-shot home run, to be the presence in the lineup that the team lacked before his arrival, to electrify the Shea Stadium crowd.
Now they only hope that he's telling the truth.
Charles Costello was a beat reporter covering the New York Mets when they traded for Mike Piazza. He was at the press conference on May 22, 1998 when the Mets announced that they had acquired Piazza, and he hosted a radio show live from Shea Stadium the next day when Piazza made his Mets debut.
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