Murray Chass can’t let go of Mike Piazza’s back acne

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While I was initially outraged at Murray Chass’s insistence that he knows Mike Piazza used steroids because he saw back acne on him once while walking through the locker room, I have since become amused by it. And a little bit in awe of his tenaciousness in holding on to the point. He wrote this over the weekend:

Attention, Mike Piazza fans and other cynics: A report in The New York Times on Saturday about the Barry Bonds perjury case said that prosecutors said that Bonds’ former girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, “would testify to seeing physical changes in Bonds that are indicative of steroid use, including acne on his back and shoulders…”

If acne is good enough for Federal prosecutors, it’s good enough for me no matter how much Piazza and his supporters scream and whine at my mention of Piazza and the acne that covered his back until it miraculously disappeared when baseball began testing for steroids in 2003 and 2004.

No one has accused Piazza of perjury, but he better be careful with what he says if he ever has to testify under oath.

Well, if back acne is good enough for prosecutors in a comically-misguided, tragically-wasteful and nearly evidence-free celebrity prosecution nearly eight years in the making, it should be good enough for a blogger like Chass too.

Personally though? I’d wait for a bit more before I accuse Piazza of ‘roiding. My brother had back acne when he was a teenager. It was because he was kind of a greaseball who got some bad luck in the genes-that-cause-bad-acne front.  Maybe Chass’s New York Times editor back in the day had a brother like that too, because they wouldn’t let him run with these kinds of silly accusations then.

How liberating it is to be a blogger and not have to deal with such petty concerns!

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.