Jeff Pearlman's forthcoming book, "The Rocket That Fell to Earth," claimed its first victim when an excerpt accusing Brian Cashman of tacitly supporting steroid use was revealed. Now, Mike Piazza is added to the list, which is growing exponentially for a book that's ostensibly about Roger Clemens.
Pearlman's book features a quote from former Red Sox first baseman Reggie Jefferson, who says that "everyone" knew Piazza was using steroids, yet has remained untainted while Clemens and others get dragged through the mud. Pearlman also makes reference to Piazza's "bulging muscles, his acne-covered back" in the book.
Piazza's back acne has been all over the news recently. A Joel Sherman column in the New York Post mentioned it to make a statement about how few players could escape rumors of steroid use. Murray Chass, a curmudgeon once of the New York Times and now a blogger who refuses to call his blog a blog, picked up on that to share his own suspicions about Piazza. He never reported them at the time, although he criticizes Sherman for not doing the same, and now uses Pearlman's book as a reason to crow a bit more.
Back acne or otherwise, Piazza was going to come under suspicion. He was a 62nd-round draft choice who became one of the league's premier power hitters in an era where a lot of players were using performance-enhancing drugs. If you're looking around for someone to have second thoughts about, Piazza is right at the front of the line. It still doesn't explain why all of these back acne experts didn't do more than gaze at a topless catcher, or why it shows up in a book about Clemens, but so it goes.
More interesting is the revelation about the way the Mets responded to Piazza's non-reaction to Roger Clemens throwing a bat at him during the 2000 World Series. Deadspin shares the thoughts that Darryl Hamilton shared with Pearlman.
"I wanted to know why Mike wasn't going after him. When he was hit in the head I understood because he was shaken up. But in the World Series, why were you confused? This guy threw a bat at you, and you do absolutely nothing? You don't stand up for yourself? You don't defend your manhood? Baseball is a game of pride, and we were all getting on Mike. 'Where's your pride, man? Where's your pride?' "
Conventional wisdom holds that Piazza starting a fight and getting suspended wouldn't have done anything positive for the Mets, and, in this case, conventional wisdom is totally correct. Piazza acted like a mature adult while a snarling, hepped up on God knows what Clemens was trying to goad him into a fight. Hamilton may have been convinced that an overmatched Mets team would have been better served going into battle without Piazza, but pride isn't always about lowering yourself down to the tactics of your opponent.