Tag: Mike Piazza

Baseball Hall of Fame 2016: Induction Ceremony Start Time and TV Info

Baseball’s Hall of Fame will open its doors to two of the most impactful hitters in recent memory when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza enter the Cooperstown, New York, shrine Sunday.

Griffey and Piazza entered Major League Baseball at the opposite ends of the hype spectrum when they were drafted in 1987 and 1988, respectively.

Griffey, the son of Ken Griffey Sr.who was one of the core players of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine throughout the 1970swas selected first overall in the MLB draft.

Piazza did not appear to have much hope of reaching the big leagues, as he was selected in the 62nd round. The draft now ends after Round 40.


2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

When: Sunday, July 24

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Clark Sports Center; Cooperstown, New York

TV: MLB Network

Live Stream: BaseballHall.org

Piazza was selected because Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda knew his father, Vince, and both men were convinced Piazza could be a special hitter, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

The younger Piazza made the most of his opportunity, becoming a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger. He finished his career with 427 home runs and a .308/.377/.545 slash line with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida (now Miami) Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.

Piazza proved to be one of the greatest hitting catchers in the history of the game, and he regularly demonstrated his ability to hit with power to all fields.

Baseball-Reference.com shared some of his numbers:

His induction speech figures to be emotional, because Piazza was a long shot to make the major leagues, let alone earn a spot in Cooperstown.

“I’m definitely going to cry,” Piazza said, per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News. “I’m trying to figure out what medication I’m going to need without being loopy. It’s going to be tough.” 

Piazza made the Hall of Fame with 83.0 percent of the vote, while Griffey made it with 99.3 percent of the vote.

Griffey had a magnificent career with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, finishing with 630 home runs. He was a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, a seven-time Silver Slugger and the 1997 American League MVP.

Junior played from 1989 through 2010, finishing his career with a .284/.370/.538 slash line.

Whistle Sports shared some of his highlights:

Fans recognized him as one of the two greatest players in the game (along with Barry Bonds) during the first part of his career with the Mariners, and most expected Griffey to continue putting up eye-catching numbers when he went to the Reds in 2000. However, while he was productive with the Reds, his sensational career was slowed by injuries after he arrived in his hometown.

Griffey topped the 40-home run mark six times during his career with the Mariners, but he hit the 40-homer mark only once with the Reds. Additionally, he had a .300-plus batting average seven times in Seattle but just once in Cincinnati.

Griffey never played in a World Series during his career, and that’s one of the reasons why the Hall of Fame ring means so much to him.

“It might be on the gate when you ring in,” Griffey joked, per Casey McGraw of the Times Union. “It might be like the Stanley Cup, I might take it around, do some things with it; brush my hair with it. I’ll figure out something, but it’ll be seen.”

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Mike Piazza to Have No. 31 Retired by Mets: Date, Comments and Reaction

The New York Mets announced Monday that longtime catcher Mike Piazza will have his No. 31 jersey retired by the franchise on July 30.  

Adam Rubin of ESPN.com added that Piazza will be only the fourth uniformed team member in Mets history to have his number retired. Piazza played for the club from 1998-2005.

The 12-time MLB All-Star spoke about the impending number retirement, thanking majority owner Fred Wilpon and COO Jeff Wilpon in particular, per the team’s official news release: “It is such a tremendous honor to have my number retired alongside the great Tom Seaver. My time as a Met was truly special and I want to thank Fred, Jeff and the entire organization for this incredible gesture.”

MLB Network Radio’s Casey Stern was among those who approved of New York’s decision:

Piazza spent approximately eight of his 16 seasons with the Mets and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016.

After enjoying a fine start to his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Piazza settled down in the Big Apple for the majority of his remaining playing days. He wasted little time making a tremendous impact, leading the Mets to a World Series appearance in 2000, where they lost to the New York Yankees.

Because of how tremendous a hitter Piazza was with a career .308 batting average and 427 home runs, his prowess at the plate overshadowed his defense.

Although he wasn’t the best at keeping runners in check on the basepaths, other facets of Piazza’s game as a catcher were respectable. He was most adept at blocking stray pitches and framing the ball for extra strikes, per FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Lindbergh.

On the strength of his unique accomplishments in the batter’s box alone Piazza deserved to have his jersey retired. It took until the fourth ballot for his bust to be in Cooperstown, so perhaps it’s fitting Piazza will become the fourth Met to have his jersey retired.

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Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza Announce Baseball Hall of Fame Hat Selection

When you think Ken Griffey Jr., the first picture that pops into your mind is of the precocious young star who took the game by storm in Seattle. When it comes to Mike Piazza, it’s hard not to settle on him leading the New York Mets to a Subway Series showdown against the Yankees.  

Now, both players will be immortalized forever in those states. Griffey announced Thursday that he’ll go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner, while Piazza followed suit by announcing his cap will don the Mets logo.

“I think I did most of my damage as a Mariner,” Griffey said, per Lance McAlister of ESPN 1530.

Griffey and Piazza essentially split their primes between two teams. Griffey spent his first 11 MLB seasons in Seattle, earning 10 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and the 1997 MVP Award. Three times he led the American League in home runs, and he also led Seattle to its first playoff-series victory in history during the 1995 season.

Griffey subsequently signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds, where he spent parts of the next nine seasons. While he put up 40 homers and made the All-Star team during his first year with Cincinnati, injuries derailed Griffey’s prime and rendered his overall Reds experience a disappointment.

He made three All-Star appearances and was the 2005 NL Comeback Player of the Year winner, but his contributions paled in comparison to his Mariner days.

Making it all the more obvious is the fact Griffey returned to Seattle for an aborted two-year stint to finish his career. He retired midway through the 2010 season amid ineffective play, although few in Seattle will remember those waning days. They’ll remember “The Slide,” “The Catch” and all those long bombs that went soaring over the Kingdome roof.

Unfortunately, one thing we all remember will not be immortalized: Bob Nightengale of USA Today confirmed Griffey’s hat will be worn forward rather than backward.

Piazza’s decision was a little more murky. The greatest hitting catcher of all time spent his first six-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that plucked him from obscurity when no one else would have drafted him. He became a superstar in Los Angeles, racking up five All-Star appearances and as many Silver Sluggers while emerging as a dominant offensive force.

A pair of trades midway through 1998 sent him to New York, where he’d spend part of the next eight seasons. Piazza never quite reached the individual season heights as a Met that he did as a Dodger, but he had far more postseason success. The Mets made the 1999 National League Championship Series and 2000 World Series with Piazza playing a starring role, becoming one of the best players in franchise history.

“Once I just tried to do my best, the fans responded,” Piazza said, per the Hall of Fame’s official Twitter. “I’m blessed to have played here.”

The decisions here in both cases aren’t remotely shocking. However, with Griffey becoming the first Mariner enshrined, the announcement becomes all the more historic.


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Voters Must End Mike Piazza’s Unfair Hall of Fame Waiting Game

Mike Piazza, the best offensive catcher in baseball history, isn’t in the Hall of Fame. And nobody can really explain why.

Yes, you will hear phrases like “stain of the steroid era” and “cloud of suspicion.” But these are the facts: Piazza was never suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. His name did not appear in the Mitchell Report, and it hasn’t surfaced in any subsequent PED revelation.

All we have is rumor, conjecture and innuendo. So far, that’s been enough to keep him out of Cooperstown. Now, with the 2016 class set to be announced Wednesday, it’s high time this capricious waiting game comes to an end.

This is Piazza’s fourth go-round on the Hall of Fame ballot. His vote total has climbed each year, starting at 57.8 percent in 2013 and reaching 69.9 percent last year. The threshold for enshrinement is 75 percent.

So, it’s looking good for Piazza. The reluctance to let him in, on the other hand, does not look good for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters.

First, let’s just get the unimpeachable stats out of the way. In his 16-year career, Piazza hit more home runs (427) and posted a higher OPS (.922) than any qualified catcher in history. He won National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1993, made 12 All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting seven times.

His defense gets mixed reviews, though in 2013 Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus made the case for Piazza as the ninth-best pitch-framer of all time.

What’s undeniable is that his bat stands above even greats like Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Yogi Berra.

On the numbers alone, Piazza is a first-ballot shoo-in. Instead, he’s been tossed on the heap with tainted sluggers like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The difference is that McGwire admitted to using PEDs, and there is ample evidence that Bonds and Sosa did as well.

With Piazza, there’s only guilt by association. He was a big, strong guy who hit a lot of homers during a time when other players were using PEDs.

Last January, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News admitted as much when explaining why he snubbed Piazza.

“I decided to withhold my vote on Piazza,” Madden wrote, “the reason being I did not want to vote somebody into the Hall of Fame who I would then find out two or three years later had, in fact, been a steroids cheat.”

With that logic, why vote for anyone? Even the seemingly cleanest player could turn out to be a PED user in retrospect. Better keep them all out, just in case. Don’t want any egg on your face.

As I’ve made clear in the past, great players from the steroid era, like Bonds and Roger Clemens, belong in the Hall. To me, it’s a museum commemorating the most transcendent talents in baseball history, not a reward for good behavior.

But even if you think PED use disqualifies a player from enshrinement, you have to draw a line somewhere. Did the player test positive for a banned substance? Is there documentation and strong circumstantial evidence suggesting he did? Fine, leave him off your ballot.

But if all you have is a sneaking feeling—or, in the case of Murray Chass, the fact that you noticed acne on Piazza’s back—you are unfairly playing judge, jury and executioner.

BBWAA voters can do what they please, of course. This is an entirely subjective process. But we don’t have to like it.

Did Piazza use PEDs? It’s certainly possible. He did admit to using androstenedione early in his career, according to a 2002 New York Times report by Rafael Hermoso and Tyler Kepner. At the time, though, “andro” was a legal substance; MLB didn’t ban it until 2004.

Piazza also told Hermoso and Kepner that he never used steroids because “I hit the ball as far in high school as I do now.”

Whether you believe him or not, he’s never deviated from that statement. And no hard evidence has emerged to refute it.

Was Piazza a 62nd-round pick who came out of nowhere to become an offensive force? Yes. Did he hit the bejeezus out of baseballs during the 1990s and early 2000s, a time when PEDs permeated the game? Yes, again. Did he have pimples on his back? Apparently.

Is that enough to keep the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history out of the Hall of Fame?

Here’s hoping the answer, finally, is “no.”


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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What Is Holding Voters Back from Sending Mike Piazza to Hall of Fame?

If you think Mike Piazza is worthy of Cooperstown, you’re not alone. For the third year in a row, he drew votes from the majority of the Hall of Fame voters.

…But not quite enough to actually get into the Hall of Fame.

A candidate needs 75 percent of the vote to be elected into Cooperstown. When the voting for 2015 was revealed on Tuesday, four players were over that threshold: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

Piazza, however, juuuuuuust missed with 69.9 percent. Though an improvement over the 62.2 percent he received in 2014, it means another year of waiting for the former Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets great.

Piazza is surely disappointed, but don’t expect to hear him complain. When it comes to the voting for the Hall of Fame, he knows what the deal is.

“The way history has always gone, it has always been a process,” Piazza told Ted Berg of USA Today. “In this day and age there’s so much attention on it, and now there are so many outlets for analysis that it gets more and more scrutinized.

“Hopefully it happens. I’m optimistic, but it’s out of my control.”

Going forward, Piazza should continue to be optimistic. He may not be in yet, but ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark noted just how close he is:

There’s a good chance Piazza will get those votes. Support for him has increased each year he’s been on the ballot, and one thing that’s for sure is that it’s not what he did on the field that’s holding him back.

Piazza is often cited as the greatest offensive catcher ever and rightfully so. Beyond being a career .308/.377/.545 hitter with 427 home runs, Piazza holds the following distinctions:

Piazza has other things going for him as well. He broke in as the National League Rookie of the Year in 1993 and went on to become a 12-time All-Star and a 10-time Silver Slugger. And though his overall postseason numbers are lacking, he was a monster in the Mets’ run to the World Series in 2000.

Meanwhile, stuck in the shadow of the accolades and gaudy offensive numbers is Piazza’s defense. He’s not regarded as a strong defensive catcher, but SI.com’s Jay Jaffe highlighted two studies that disagree.

In 2006, Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference.com (via Baseball Prospectus) made a case for Piazza as one of the best catchers ever at keeping the ball in front of him. In 2013, Max Marchi of Baseball Prospectus used pre-PITCHf/x data to highlight Piazza as one of the 10 best pitch framers of all time.

So though Piazza struggled to throw out runners, he was basically Jonathan Lucroy before Jonathan Lucroy was Jonathan Lucroy. If he played today, he’d be regarded as a good defensive catcher and, therefore, hardly a one-dimensional superstar.

In all, Piazza’s career accomplishments say he clearly belongs in the Hall of Fame. That he’s not is snubbery. Snubbery most foul.

So why isn’t Piazza in the Hall of Fame yet? It’s fairly obvious that it’s because a good percentage of the voters are essentially the anti-Yogi Berra:

They may not know anything, but they suspect everything.

Despite the apparent invalidity of it, you sometimes hear Piazza’s poor defensive reputation cited in Hall of Fame columns. But as far as reasons for denying him a vote, it pales next to suspicions regarding performance-enhancing drugs.

It’s not hard to find examples. Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe lumped Piazza in with the “Roids Boys.” Marty Noble of MLB.com referenced his suspicion of Piazza. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com cited the “steroid specter.” And so on.

That Piazza has a PED cloud hanging over him shouldn’t be news. He gets one of those by default simply by virtue of being a slugger from the 1990s and early 2000s, but that’s not all there is to it.

For beginners, there’s the reality that Piazza told The New York Times in 2002 that he briefly used androstenedione, which is best known as the stuff that was in Mark McGwire’s locker in 1998. Even in giving Piazza his vote, Paul Daugherty of The Cincinnati Enquirer brought that up.

As the New York Post highlighted in 2013, Piazza claimed in his biography, Long Shot, that andro is the strongest substance he ever took. But some believe he was into much heavier stuff, with the most common suspicion being over what was on Piazza’s back during his playing days.

Specifically, acne.

To my knowledge, Joel Sherman of the New York Post was the first to raise suspicion over Piazza’s back acne in 2009. But nobody has beat the drum like former New York Times writer Murray Chass, who wrote in ’09:

Not that reporters spend their time in clubhouses looking at guys’ bare backs, but when a reporter is talking to a player at his locker before he puts on his uniform shirt or after he takes it off and he turns around to put something in or take something out of his locker his back is what is visible. And Piazza’s acne was always visible. Teen-age kids never had such a problem.

Now as naïve as I might have been about steroids, the one thing I knew was that use of steroids supposedly causes the user to have acne on his back. As I said, Piazza had plenty of acne on his back.

As far as circumstantial evidence of more heavy PED use goes, there’s more than just back acne.

For example, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News is suspicious about the back end of Piazza’s career, writing, “Piazza’s career went downhill fast and he began being plagued with the kind of injuries often related to steroids in 2003, the year testing began.”

Some voters have also raised suspicions about the beginning of Piazza’s career. Dan Lewis of SB Nation compiled some writing on that last year, with the common theme that there’s just no way Piazza could go from being a 62nd-round draft pick to a Hall of Fame-caliber producer without help.

Of course, it’s possible to poke holes in these suspicions.

Yes, Piazza may have used andro, but it’s definitely notable that Major League Baseball didn’t even ban andro until after the Food and Drug Administration banned it in 2004. Until then, it was perfectly legal.

Yes, Piazza may have started declining in 2003. But he was in his mid-30s at the time, and the injury that undid him was a bad groin strain. A catcher breaking down upon hitting his mid-30s shouldn’t be suspicious, and groin strains have been around a lot longer than steroids.

Yes, it is rather unbelievable that Piazza rose from being a throwaway draft pick to an all-time great. But as Lewis took care to highlight, Piazza always projected to be a big guy with a big bat. So in a sense, he did indeed become what he was supposed to be.

As for the back acne argument, the best counter-argument for that can be summed up in one word: Seriously?

But then, it doesn’t really matter whether the PED suspicions that cloud Piazza’s Hall of Fame case are valid or not. All that matters is that they exist, and that there are enough writers clinging to them to keep him out of the Hall of Fame…for now.

As somebody who wants to see Piazza in Cooperstown, all I can say now is that this is regrettable. But the good news, such as it is, is that it’s short of a tragedy. 

Piazza’s situation would be a tragedy if he was nowhere close to getting into Cooperstown. But he is close. Very close. Close enough to get in a year from now, anyway. If not, it’s going to happen eventually. Sooner or later, Piazza will be in the Hall of Fame.

And when he is, the suspicions that played a part in keeping him out will be water under the bridge.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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It Is Time to Open Up the Baseball Hall of Fame to Mike Piazza

During his 16 years in the major leagues, Mike Piazza compiled a career batting average of .308 with 427 homes runs.

Piazza, who was the 1,390th overall draft pick for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 1988, batted .300 or better for nine consecutive years between 1993 and 2001. He also had nine seasons with 30 or more home runs, and his 1997 season, where he batted .362 with 40 home runs and 124 RBI, was arguably the greatest single offensive season by any catcher in history.

Piazza’s best years came with the Dodgers between 1992 and 1997 although he did hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons with the Mets and also provided New York fans with arguably their most memorable post-September 11 baseball moment.

While Piazza was never known for his defense behind the plate, he is, statistically speaking, the best hitting catcher of all time and by no small margin.

But despite Piazza’s otherworldly offensive production from the catcher position, he has not yet been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during his first year of eligibility and improved to 62.2 percent this past year, both well short of the 75 percent needed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

So how is it even remotely possible that the doors of Cooperstown have not yet swung wide open for a player who put up the type of offensive numbers that Piazza did throughout his career?

Well, the answer to that question is quite simple: Rumors have taken over the BBWAA, and cold, hard factsand even logicevidently cease to exist when it comes to the Hall of Fame’s induction process.

Piazza was never implicated in any formal steroid investigation, including the Mitchell Report, which was put together by former United States Senator George J. Mitchell at the direct request of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Aside from some shadowy whispers, which have circulated around the world of baseball for virtually every single player who managed to find success during the steroid era, the only real allegations of steroid use by Piazza came from columnist Murray Chass, formerly of The New York Times, who essentially accused Piazza of steroid use due to acne he had seen on Piazza’s back.

While other worthy players, such as Jeff Bagwell, have been kept out of Cooperstown due to nothing more than rumors, Piazza’s situation is slightly different in that we are talking about the greatest hitting catcher of all-time and a player who should have been a sure-thing, first-ballot selection to the Hall of Fame.

Piazza’s poor defense behind the plate during his career is nowhere near enough to overshadow his offensive production and keep him out of the Hall of Fame if the BBWAA was looking strictly at on-the-field performance.

What has happened with Piazza is that the BBWAA has taken it upon itself to play judge, jury and executioner when it comes to alleged steroid use and the Hall of Fame.

While baseball might be America’s favorite pastime, the Hall of Fame selection process has become about as un-American as any formal judgment process in this great nation of ours.

Players are no longer innocent until proven guilty; they are simply guilty if a handful of writers believe the rumors that have spawned out of thin air without any real shred of evidence.

It makes no difference that there has never been a spec of true evidence pointing towards Piazza’s use of steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug. All it takes is more than 25 percent of the BBWAA voters to believe these unfounded accusations, such as those made by Chass, to keep worthy individuals such as Piazza out of the Hall of Fame.

And that is simply not right.

If any member of the BBWAA has any hard evidence that Piazza used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug during his career, he or she should come forward now and present that evidence.

Heck, if any writer is sitting on this kind of evidence, he or she should write a book on the subject. It would almost certainly be a bestseller amongst baseball fans.

But if not, it is time for the BBWAA to get over its newly formed God complex as it relates to the Baseball Hall of Fame and open the doors of Cooperstown to a player who is more than deserving of the honor.

Mike Piazza belongs in the Hall of Fame, and it would be a true tragedy if he is excluded from this elite baseball club due to nothing more than unfounded rumors and accusations.


Unless otherwise specified, all statistics for this article came from Baseball-Reference.com.

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Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza Broken World Series Bat Sells at Auction for $47K

If you’re looking for a unique piece of baseball history—or collecting evidence of the anger issues caused by rampant steroid usage—you missed out on a gem.

According to Jim Baumbach of Newsday.com (h/t Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com), the broken bat Roger Clemens infamously hurled at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series sold at auction for a cool $47,800 this weekend.

While the buyer preferred to remain anonymous, the item’s seller was former New York Yankees strength coach Jeff Mangold, who claims he saved the broken bat from disposal and kept it as a souvenir.

“I’ve had it for 13 years, mainly in the office here at the house,” Mangold told Baumbach. “It’s time for it to move on.”

Mangold says Piazza’s Mizuno Pro bat still has Yankee Stadium dirt embedded in it from Clemens throwing it across the field.

Of course, the Yankees pitcher famously said he never meant to throw a shard of wood at Piazza in the first place.

Clemens claimed he thought the broken bat barrel was the ball, which makes sense considering throwing it at the baserunner is the quickest way to force an out, or something.

On the bright side, the shattered bat once thrown with ill intent will now be used for good. Mangold says he plans to donate a portion of the auction profits to the CJ Foundation for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and use the rest to pay for his children’s college tuition.

Indeed, a product of the former Clemens-Piazza feud is helping sick infants and putting kids through school. Now, it’s time for Sammy Sosa’s corked bat to step up and do its part for the rain forest. 


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2013 MLB Hall of Fame: How Voters Should Judge the Steroid Era

The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame class has been all over the news lately.

The announcement comes Wednesday, Jan. 9., and this year marks the first time that the some of the game’s greatest but also most controversial players—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling—are eligible to be elected.

MLB Network has brought in everybody and their mother to give their two cents on who should be elected and how the era should be evaluated based on the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs.

Opinions on the subject are widely varied.

Some experts and observers accept that it was just the era that these players played in and are willing to overlook cheating to include players like Bonds, who despite admitting to unknowingly using steroids, is still the all-time home run leader.

Another option was to induct them later and hold them off of the first ballot as protest. Some say that any player suspected should be kept from baseball immortality.

One final opinion that has been posed by former reliever Dan Plesac and others—one that I find completely absurd—is that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, where either everyone should be withheld or everyone should be considered as if they did nothing wrong.

Starting with allowing them in or postponing their admission: cheaters are cheaters. Bonds used a substance and he even admitted it. Inducting Bonds, who forever put a black mark on the entire league, into the same class as role models like Cal Ripken Jr. and Jackie Robinson goes against everything that the Hall of Fame should stand for.

I’m also of the belief that it withholding a vote until a certain amount of time has passed is silly. Either the player is a Hall of Famer or not. In the end, it’s not like there are different tiers of the Hall of Fame.

On the subject of penalizing anyone suspected, that goes against everything America stands for. As citizens, we are innocent until proven guilty and that should carry over to baseball.

It’s pretty easy to say who definitely took drugs. Positive tests and admissions of guilt are valid proof that players cheated. Therefore, they should never be Hall of Famers. It’s a much tougher call on players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, such as Roger Clemens. I am a Clemens hater, mostly because I really dislike the Yankees and the World Series broken bat incident with Mike Piazza.

But he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, nobody could ever prove that he took steroids. Whether or not you believe that he was clean is your opinion, but just because you think he cheated doesn’t mean that he did. Clemens is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and if Ryan Braun stays clean and productive, he should make it too.

The all-or-nothing proposal is just silly. Making sweeping generalizations is usually not smart and that’s how stereotypes form. Penalizing players for just being in the steroid era, whether or not they had any link to steroids at all, is just wrong. Players should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

In summation, every player is different, so each should be evaluated individually. If they have been proven guilty, they are out. If they are not proven guilty, they can be considered. In my opinion, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire are out. When Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon become eligible, they are out too. Clemens, Bagwell and Piazza deserve to be in.

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Mike Piazza: 5 Reasons Why He Will Be a First Ballot Hall-of-Famer

Every year, the Baseball Hall of Fame chooses its newest members through the Baseball Writers Association of America. The writers place up to 10 votes on the ballots, and whoever garners 75 percent of the vote is elected. 

The 2013 ballot includes some big names. Among them include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Mike Piazza

Out of all the candidates for election, Piazza looks to be the one with the best shot at election.

Having spent 15 years behind the plate—14 if you count the awful first base stint—hitting the most home runs by a catcher and earning numerous honors, both as a Met and a Dodger, there is almost no doubt that Piazza deserves to be a first ballot Hall-of-Fame elect. 

Here are five reasons why. 

Begin Slideshow

Best Backstop in Dodger History: Campanella Gets the Slight Nod over Piazza

Note: This is part of a series for Baseball Digest in which I pick each Major League team’s best player/coach at every position. The complete Yankees list is up on the website. The complete Dodgers list will go up early next week. Some of it can be viewed early at SoapBoxSportsByte.

Roy Campanella

Of anyone on this list, Campy might get the strongest challenge from a fellow Dodger. Mike Piazza was only with the team for five years, but his Dodgers WAR is just 8.6 wins short of Campanella’s career mark.

In those first handful of years of his career in Chavez Ravine, Piazza put up some of the greatest offensive seasons in the history of the catcher position. He clubbed at least 30 home runs in four of the five years, never batted under .318, and had four seasons over 6.0 WAR (including an insane 9.4 win 1997 season when he put up 40 HR, 121 RBI and a .362/.431/.638 line).

In all five seasons, Piazza finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting, including two second-place finishes.

Over those five seasons, Piazza was by far the most valuable catcher in the Majors, with WAR that topped second place Pudge Rodriguez by 33 percent. He was the fifth most valuable player in the entire major leagues, just a half of a win behind third-place Jeff Bagwell and about ten wins short of Barry Bonds.

His .331/.394/.572 line speaks a few thousand words that aren’t worth taking the time to write.

Moreover, his skills as a receiver had yet to deteriorate. Fangraphs has him at around defensive replacement level for four of his five years in Dodger blue. He was actually well above average in his rookie campaign.

By contrast, Campanella was the second ranked Major League catcher over his career. He was also the 12th-ranked batter. His defense was likely not as good as everyone perceived it to be; he only had one season that ranked well above replacement level in this regard.

So why does the Majors’ first black catcher get the nod over it’s first catcher to marry the Playmate of the Millennium amid rumors of homosexuality?

Let’s take a look at the names that were ahead of Campanella. The one catcher who finished ahead of Campy in WAR was Yogi Berra, who (according to messianic statistician Bill James) is the most valuable player in the history of the position.

Of the 11 batters who finished ahead of him, only teammate Gil Hodges was not a Hall of Famer.

The catching position has generally been one where any substantial hitting ability is viewed as a godsend. Hodges played first base, a position where offensive production is an expectation rather than a bonus.

Campanella, along with his contemporary, Berra, was a revolutionary of the position. For the first time, teams were began to try to extend their futile pursuit away from primarily defensive receivers and towards backstops who could provide some pop.

Realizing that an offensively capable catcher would give their prospective team a massive advantage over other teams and their anemic backstops, front offices began to place emphasis on coaxing production out of the second half of their batteries.

From the beginning of professional baseball to when Campanella retired in 1957, just five catchers had a higher WAR than Roy’s career mark of 43.1. All five are Hall of Famers.

From 1958 to the present day, 14 different backstops have reached that mark.

Only Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter are Hall of Famers. Thanks to his disastrously non-commital response to questions about testing positive (“Only God knows”), Pudge may or may not join that club.

Thanks to his mind-blowing statistics, Piazza would have likely gotten the nod had he stayed with LA for his entire career.. But even such, he played in an era where those stats were far from aberrational.

It’s simply hard to be that wowed by his achievements, given the fact that he played in the era of bloated biceps, cap sizes and statistics, an era when even Brady Anderson could be confused for Babe Ruth.

If that’s not enough, to lend a grain of salt to Piazza’s achievements, consider the fact that Jason Kendall finished his career just half of a win shy of Roy Campanella’s career mark.

Yes, that Jason Kendall.

Jesse Golomb researches and writes for BaseballDigest.com. He is also the creator and writer of SoapBoxSportsByte, a blog that incorporates statistical analysis as well as fan perspective into daily pieces on the MLB, NFL and NBA.   He can be followed on Twitter @SoapBxSprtsByte, or contacted by email at golombjesse@gmail.com.

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