Mets

Keidel: The Book On Mike Piazza — We Can’t Assume He’s Clean

Mike Piazza (credit: Jonathan Daniel / Allsport / Getty Images)

Mike Piazza (credit: Jonathan Daniel / Allsport / Getty Images)

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By Jason Keidel
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Listening to WFAN co-hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on Tuesday, it was hard not to cringe when Carton said that Mike Piazza was busy signing copies of his new autobiography — as scheduled — but then fled from reporters, which was most unscheduled.

Only in the distorted world of celebrity can a man think he’ll write a book about his life, profit from it, touch on several toxic topics and then never have to explain it.

Piazza’s actions are just a microcosm of many a modern athlete, who, like a pampered child, only want to eat the sweet portions of the meal. Piazza wants only the glory and none of the gory that comes with fame. But even by the egregious, contemporary template, his hubris is excessive. He wants to make $100 million but not have his catching ability questioned. He wants to be applauded and lauded but never loathed. He wants to write a book but not answer any poignant questions about the book he wrote. But he had no problem cashing the check for $800,000 that his publisher fronted.

And maybe he wanted to take steroids but not answer questions about the galaxy of pimples dotting his broad back.

There’s no sin in sensitivity. Just don’t become a star baseball player. Just don’t take steroids. Just don’t write a book saying you didn’t take them. No, I have no proof that he juiced. But based on the aggregate weight of history, his epoch, the Jose Canseco years of steroids and subterfuge and supersized bodies and synthesized record books, anyone with a modicum of logic and objectivity would assume that Piazza took steroids.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s the first — and maybe the only — overly muscular, pimple-addled All-Star who played in the vortex of the steroid era to enter and exit untainted. Maybe he’s the only one to bring clean veins to a game that was so overtly dirty.

But would you bet on that?

Piazza made the Mets relevant for a few special years, the peak coming on a fall night in 2001 near the orange glow of embers still churning by Ground Zero. For a fleeting, enchanted moment he hit a ball deep into the dark, lifting the heavy hearts of a million New Yorkers who needed sanctuary, even for the few seconds it takes him to round the bases. Piazza was perhaps the greatest-hitting catcher that baseball has ever seen. We’d like to assume that he was clean.

But we can’t.

And the “he never failed a test” mantra doesn’t fly, since they didn’t start testing for performance-enhancing drugs until the damage was done — to the record books, to the sport, to our ability to forgive or forget.

Considering how fragile he is under his muscular, vascular body, it’s rather ironic that he is best known for thriving in New York City. Piazza’s skin is so paper thin that he held an impromptu press conference to declare that he wasn’t gay. There has always been a palpable anxiety to Piazza, a lack of gayeties throughout his professional career which always seemed so incongruous considering his privileged position in the sport and in society.

Which makes you wonder why he decided to write a book about it.

Feel free to email me at keidel.jason@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

Do you think that Piazza isn’t being completely truthful? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…