Author: Craig Calcaterra


Today’s specious anti-Mike Piazza-for-the-Hall-Fame argument


Bill Madden of the Daily News took part in a Hall of Fame roundtable with two of his fellow Daily News scribes. Here is how he dismisses Mike Piazza, the best hitting catcher of all time:

But even though he never tested positive, Piazza has not been able to escape the suspicion of steroids. Some people have suggested the presence of acne on his back − and then the absence of it after baseball started testing − as sufficient proof. I don’t know from acne. But what is evident is that, beginning in 2003 when baseball had its experimental testing, is when Piazza’s career began bottoming out and he started getting injuries.

He has a point. In his age 34 season his performance absolutely plummeted, dropping down 50 points in batting average, another 50 points in OBP and about 100 points in slugging. What’s more, he couldn’t be counted on as a regular catcher anymore, and they began what, ultimately, was a failed experiment to turn him into a corner infielder. It was just a train wreck.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. What I just described was what happened to Johnny Bench in his age 34 season. Piazza didn’t dip nearly as badly when he turned 34 and he had at least three or four more productive seasons. Bench was busted and done and retired a year later when he was 35.

But please, Mr. Madden. Tell us more about all the Hall of Fame catchers who remained elite in their mid-to-late 30s.

Obviously what’s going on here is Madden knocking Piazza because he strongly believes he used PEDs. Except he doesn’t feel comfortable saying so, so he invents some statistical oddity that isn’t there in order to justify it. Never mind that Madden and his friends just as often look to mid-30s improvements as evidence of PED use, even after 2003. If you’re Roger Clemens and you get better in your 30s, it’s because you took drugs. If you’re Mike Piazza and you got worse in your 30s, it’s because you took drugs.

Just be honest, guys. Say you think Piazza was a ‘roider. Don’t pussyfoot around and make up garbage about their stats. Just say: “I’ve never had enough evidence to print it, but I think he juiced.” Sure, I’d still criticize you for that, but at least it would be based on our fundamental differences and not your inability to be honest about what you believe. To thine own self be true, dudes.

But mostly be true to the hundreds of players this kind of talk smears. Mike Piazza, ultimately, is not hurt by any of this. He’s rich, famous, presumably happy and will probably make the Hall of Fame one day.

But by creating bogus statistical arguments like this, a lot of players who aren’t in Piazza’s shoes end up getting smeared, simply because their career may look “odd” to someone. With “odd” being defined just as poorly as Madden’s take on Piazza’s career is defined above. Which is to say, everyone can be so smeared if one looks hard enough and thinks lazily or sinisterly enough. You want to go after a guy? I’m sure you can find SOMETHING or, more to the point, you can characterize something as PED-fueled.

I have no idea if Mike Piazza took PEDs. Indeed, simply being aware of baseball history from the 1990s and 2000s means that, by definition, one should not be shocked to learn that any player took them. Skinny guys AND muscular guys took PEDs. Home run hitters AND punch-and-judy hitters. Junkballers AND fireballers. Phenoms AND late-bloomers. Good players and bad.

If you think Mike Piazza did too, fine. Say so. But quit creating specious arguments to make the case your reporting can’t or won’t make for you.

Jimmy Rollins says one Phillies owner wants to be “Steinbrenner South”

George Steinbrenner AP

No, in a good way!

In an exclusive sit-down interview with’s Jim Salisbury, Jimmy Rollins notes that one of the members of he Phillies’ ownership group — a group that resembles the Giants’ multi-shareholder group more than the family-owned teams in the game — is champing at the bit to turn the Phillies into the New York Yankees if given the chance.

The minority owner: John S. Middleton, a cigar magnate, who has some big ideas:

Whether Middleton will actually be given the reins remains to be seen, but does one of the most visible faces in the franchise’s history think he should get the chance?

“I think he should. Yeah,” Rollins said.

Salisbury goes on to ask what Middleton is like, suggesting a George Steinbrenner of the South type of figure who is willing to go to whatever lengths possible to put a winner on the field.

“That’s his ambition, to be Steinbrenner South,” Rollins said.

Could be cool. Though, man, it would be odd if a headstrong and outspoken person took over the Phillies and made them a team a lot of people didn’t like and folks began to talk smack about them.


Someone suggests we use “Moneyball” to fix the U.S. government


We see “Moneyball for ____!” analogies pretty often. This time we get one for the whole dang U.S. government. Here, in the Daily Beast, after describing the basics of “Moneyball” and the 2002 Oakland A’s, the writers observe that government programs can — shocker! — be inefficient. Then say:

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to decades of social-science research, we know more about how to help struggling Americans than ever before. And in this era of impact-blind, across-the-board budget cuts, we see an opportunity. Like Billy Beane and the A’s, these lean times offer us a chance to reevaluate how we measure success and to shift our focus to what works.

I’m all for efficiency, but if you think it has been hard to get baseball teams and fans to appreciate data-driven strategies, think how much fun it will be to get politicians and bureaucrats to get on board with that. And that’s before we acknowledge that a great many of them are fully aware of the data at play but simply choose to ignore it because it doesn’t satisfy their actual ends, which oftentimes are not quant ideas like “governance.” I mean, say what you want about how the Phillies approach sabermetrics, but at the end of the day, they want to win baseball games just like every other team does. Can’t say that everyone in power sees eye-to-eye on what the ends are.

Oh, and if the plans don’t work, the government can’t just flip Josh Donaldson to Toronto, tear things down and start over.

But hey. Worth a try. Heck, let’s make Billy Beane the President of the United States. That would make us the best country in the world!

Until October!


Herman Long and a really, really convoluted Hall of Fame vote


If you think the Hall of Fame vote is messed up now, go back to the 1930s when the whole thing got off the ground and see how they figured out who to put in then.

Oh, sure, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth were no-brainers, but how did a guy like Herman Long get 20 percent of the vote? And who the hell was Herman long anyway?

Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present talks about him in this wonderfully insightful post. He tries to figure out why Long got so much support for the Hall of Fame in the 1930s but then, suddenly, disappeared from view. It says a lot about the politics of the Hall of Fame.