Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good vs. Bad Guys in the Roid Court of Public Opinion

In the roid court of public opinion there are good guys and bad guys. Some guys seem to get a free pass while others can't seem to talk about anything but roids. Why the discrepancy?

The bad guys include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Floyd Landis. The good guys include Jason Giambi, Lance Armstrong and now apparently Mike Piazza.

I have fallen victim to my own bias. Whether or not I liked a guy rather than looking at the facts clouded my judgement in the past. A prime example was Mike Piazza after the allegations raised in Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth.".

Piazza is beloved in New York. He was a part of closing down Shea Stadium and opening Citi Field. More importantly, he was a part of the post 9/11 healing process. In New York's first game after the tragedy, Piazza hit a monster home run starting a Mets rally. I don't recall if the Mets won the game, but I remember the significance of that game and the HR and how it made me feel. Could one man and a home run lift the spirits of a grieving city...hell yeah. It was an unreal moment for a baseball fan in New York and one that earned Piazza tremendous goodwill in the community...even amongst Yankee fans.

Awhile back, someone raised doubts about whether Piazza played clean. Back then, I was flabbergasted. I had Piazza's back. At the time, I was telling people the overwhelming evidence is out there against Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. This was during the height of "Game of Shadows." There was nothing at the time to raise any doubts over Piazza. Yet, there were whispers.

Now one can openly ask questions and look at the actual data. How does an unheralded prospect get drafted in the 62nd round as a favor by a family friend, Tommy Lasorda, and then go on to be the greatest hitting catcher in major league history. Could everyone have missed the boat on this talent?

When one looks at the numbers, it's even more striking. After his first 470 minor league at bats (AB) over two seasons, Piazza had 14 home runs (HR), an average of one HR per every 33.6 AB. When he moved on to Bakersfield, CA he reduced that number in half to 15.5 AB. Throughout his minor league career, he had 1,390 AB's and 66 HR's for an average of a HR every 21.1 AB.

Once he made the leap to the majors and faced better pitching, he averaged a HR every 14.7 AB from 1992 - 2002. When MLB instituted the first form of steroid testing with survey testing in 2003, Piazza's average HR per AB plummeted for the remainder of his career to a HR every 22.4 AB. Coincidence, old age, injuries and / or wear and tear from catching all these be the judge.

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