At Home Plate: Piazza should join Hall of Fame

The only question about Mike Piazza’s Hall of Fame candidacy should be which hat he will wearing on his plaque: Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Mets. But because he played in the “Steroid Era,” Piazza’s quest for the hall has been put in jeopardy.

Unlike the other steroid users on the ballot, Piazza has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs or admitted to using such drugs. The one knock on Piazza is the disappearance of back acne once testing began in 2004.

Piazza played DH for the A's at the end of his career. Photo by Llima, used under creative commons license.

Piazza played DH for the A’s at the end of his career.
Photo by Llima, used under creative commons license.

Back acne is a common side effect of steroid usage, but keep in mind Piazza was a catcher so the acne could have just as easily been caused by the excessive perspiration from all the equipment.

To keep Piazza out of the Hall of Fame on the first ballot based on the suspicion that back acne is related to steroid use would be a travesty against baseball. Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, and the numbers prove it.

Imagine catching nine innings and focusing on calling pitches all game, and yet being the main offensive weapon on your team. That’s what Piazza did for more than a decade.

He maybe didn’t have the best throwing arm, but his pitchers lauded him for his game managing ability. And of course, the man could flat-out hit.

He finished his career with a .308 batting average, 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI and a .922 on-base plus slugging percentage. Piazza was also a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger award winner.

These numbers certainly warrant Hall of Fame consideration for any player. However, these are the numbers of a full-time catcher who constantly played banged up. For Piazza, these are first-ballot Hall of Fame numbers.

So the main issue here is whether the voters will keep a player out of the Hall of Fame based on the suspicion of steroid usage. Jeff Bagwell, who has career numbers similar to Piazza, has yet to receive the call, yet he was played a position (first base) that is not as taxing as catcher.

If Piazza is elected to the hall but then either allegations or a positive steroid test arise, then the hall would be faced with a difficult situation. Would that player be removed after being enshrined?

That would be a concern for the Hall of Fame, but it should not factor into the voters’ opinions of players. The voters are supposed to judge a player based on what’s already known, not on hypothetical situations.

The results are scheduled to be released Jan. 9. Will back acne cloud Piazza’s Hall of Fame chances, at least on the first ballot? We will find out soon enough.

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