The phrase "makes me want to die" gets tossed around a lot these days. We see people demanding death because of small inconveniences, minor changes in plans, and, most unlikely of all, articles about baseball. It's getting to be a bit melodramatic.
But if there was one baseball article that could make you, the educated internet audience, and me, the furiously self-deprecating blogger, want to curl up into a tight ball of nothingness, it's this opus by noted garbagesmith Murray Chass on...well, who knows. Let's just dive right in to this tale of horror so delightfully known as..."Biggio, Piazza Fanatics Say it Ain't So!"
The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, third edition, of which I have four copies and don’t know why,
Early guess from afar, Murray: slow onset senility.
offers three derivations of the words "fans."
Or I guess just massive incompetence. Seriously, this article begins by using a BASEBALL DICTIONARY to define a word. We're through the looking glass here, people; Webster can't continue past these gates, and the OED died a few FJM's back.
I’ll take the first [definition], fanatics.
As opposed to "devices meant to cool manually or electronically" or "decorative fashion accessory." Probably a good call.
I can attest to the fanaticism of fans of individual players, in particular Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio. I have learned of their fans’ passion by having the audacity to mention them in connection with the use of performance-enhancing substances.
Well, yes, fans do get attached to players and can be fairly aggressive about defending them. But to be fair, Murray, your accusation of Biggio is premised on a casual observation about his size, and your critique of Piazza comes down to back acne. So maybe those fans have a point and it's not cool to trash a person's entire legacy just because you're hoping for some page views and notoriety.
Haha, just kidding: there is literally no other better reason to do anything than personal gain. Way to go, Murray Chass, you Frankenstein's monster run amok.
Piazza fans did not react as indignantly this time as they have in the past.
"Damn!" Chass intoned, "Is my troll game down? Am I losing it?"
Perhaps they have come to expect it. Only 17 percent of readers who responded defended Piazza.
"Nah, they mad." he smirked as he wrapped himself tighter in his Jack Morris jersey, in front of a burning fire tended with Barry Bonds Donruss cards. "They mad."
Forty-eight percent, on the other hand, expressed outrage, or at least questioned the inclusion of Biggio on the list of former players on the Hall of Fame ballot for whom I would not vote because of their known or suspected use of steroids.
Look, I'm gonna share a little industry secret with you. See how "expressed outrage" and "questioned the inclusion of" are conflated there? Chass makes sure we know he knows they're not the same by including "at least," but the framing of the sentence makes it clear that the 48% number (which, hahahah, come on) that Chass is using here includes those who were furious (probably a small percentage) and those who questioned the choice (many more). Still, rhetorically, it looks as if Chass has the high ground amongst all these "fanatics."
Basically it's terribly dishonest rhetoric that would demean the professionalism of anyone beside the blackened husk of Murray Chass' carapace.
Many of the Biggio backers said he had never been cited as a steroids suspect, but they were wrong.
Well, they weren't wrong if they were speaking about an official citation or anything beyond journalistic speculation. But hey, why bring reality into this?
Three years ago, this headline appeared on the web site of NBCSports Hardball Talk:
Instead of quoting Pearlman directly, the web writer Craig Calcaterra quoted him from a podcast he was on.
1) Note how Calcaterra (quite reasonably) included the word "believes" into his headline. That indicates a vast realm of subjectivity that Chass seems to miss entirely. For instance, I "believe" that the FBI is responsible for the death of Fred Hampton. But guess what? I'm not exactly able with that evidence to start a massive campaign to reveal the truth of that fateful day. And why not? Because what I believe doesn't actually impact what people understand to be true.
2) The diminutive "web writer" sounds like something J Jonah Jameson would call Spider-Man during one of his more addled moments.
3) The last time the word website was plausibly two words, Prodigy could be considered a viable ISP and web gateway.
That’s one of the problems I have with bloggers. They don’t seem to want to do their own work. All the better and easier if they can get it elsewhere.
I'm sorry, what exactly is different about quoting Pearlman directly and paraphrasing him from a podcast with respect to doing one's own work? Craig explicitly said it was Pearlman's opinion and reported it -- rightly -- as a piece of minor news/opinion.
Does Murray Chass not know that attributed citation isn't plagiarism? Does Murray Chass not understand that some journalistic bodies exist to aggregate and distribute news without putting a spin on it? Is Murray Chass unaware of the basic principle of journalistic integrity?
Trick questions, all: Murray Chass has officially cited "knowing things" as something he is expressly against.
Pearlman wrote books about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and their alleged steroids use. He addressed Piazza in the Clemens book:
"He’s a guy who did it, and everybody knows it," says Reggie Jefferson, the longtime major league first baseman. "It’s amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."
"There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids," says another major league veteran who played against Piazza for years. "Everyone talked about it, everyone knew it. Guys on my team, guys on the Mets. A lot of us came up playing against Mike, so we knew what he looked like back in the day. Frankly, he sucked on the field. Just sucked. After his body changed, he was entirely different. ‘Power from nowhere,’ we called it."
When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, to grade the odds that Piazza had used performance enhancers, the player doesn’t pause.
"A 12," he says. "Maybe a 13."
That's one of the problems I have with sportswriters. They don't seem to want to do their own accusations. All the better and easier if they can unreliably cite opposing players anecdotally and assume total validity like a bunch of suckers who have never even heard of an unreliable source.
Also hahaha, who actually answers "a 12 or 13" when asked to grade something on a scale from 1-10?
Piazza fanatics went bonkers when I cited his terrible long-time case of back acne as a possible telltale sign of steroids use. "Bacne," they referred to it with ridicule.
If by "it" Chass means "back acne," then the bacne epithet isn't unique to Chass. As millions of sad weaklings (hi) in gym class will tell you, bacne predates Piazza. If it was unique to Piazza, then we'd expect some sort of good Pizzaface/Piazza mashup at the very least.
Now, if the thing being referred to with ridicule is the "accusation" of Piazza based on "a possible telltale sign of steroids use," then that is unique! But it's well deserved of course: it's not everyone who could use a possible (wishy-washy), telltale (circumstantial), sign (non-conclusive) of steroids use (unspecific) as a piece of damning proof of character bankruptcy. What a goddamn hero you are, Chass.
However, in an affidavit for George Mitchell’s 2007 report on steroids in baseball, Jason Grimsley said that Glenallen Hill, who was named in the report, "had the worst back acne he’d ever seen."
Yet Piazza’s fans still scoff at the acne evidence.
This actually reminds me of a Law and Order, where Sam Waterston's classic prosecutor Jack McCoy brings to his gruff DA boss a piece of evidence that connects a suspect to a murder by way of a pure coincidence involving a completely different, barely related crime, hoping that it would serve as means to get a conviction.
As memory serves, DA Adam Schiff beat Jack until he passed out.
Wrote one supporter: "I had back acne for many years and, this might be tough to believe, I’ve never used steroids. Eventually, it cleared up."
I’ll bet it didn‘t clear up when baseball began testing for steroids.
"Dear Mr. Chass -- I'm not sure what the beginning of steroid testing has to do with my unfortunate back acne. It did clear up with time, but I imagine it did not coincide exactly. Please clarify the significance here?
-Signed, Bacne in Columbus"
That’s when Piazza’s back cleared up. Through 2003 acne covered his back. Once testing began, no more acne. The Piazza fanatics don’t want to recognize the timing of the change in his back.
Not even worth making fun of this, really. It's just a sad misunderstanding of cause and effect. I have literally seen time travel assassination theories with more considered and compelling proof than this.
Piazza, however, denies in his book, published last year, that he used steroids. What else do you expect him to do?
So, anonymous accusers -- which, you'll recall, Pearlman used -- are okay, but non-anonymous players defending themselves against accusation are guilty before being proved innocent? Exciting catch-22!
Ryan Braun denied that he used illegal substances, too, until the evidence overwhelmed his lies. Then he quietly accepted his suspension and missed the last 65 games of last season.
"You don't know when to keep your mouth shut, do you Pizza boy?"
Non-sequitur because -- as it will be clear to anyone who actually, unlike Mr. Chass, lives in a coherent reality -- Braun isn't Piazza. Also, how does one guilty party make another party, who has been accused of a completely different crime, guilty by association? THROUGH BASEBALL MAGIC THAT'S HOW.
Biggio’s fanatics have demanded to know what evidence I have that proves Biggio used steroids. I never saw him use, but more than half a dozen players, teammates and opponents, say he used.
You know what we called this in the 50's? The New York Yankees! Haha, just kidding, we called it McCarthyism and a fucking witch hunt, you inarticulate hack, Murray Chass.
I was ready to vote for him last year until I heard of his use.
From, I will remind you, SIX PLAYERS. Six humans on this planet have told me that 9-11 was an inside job. And shockingly, I am not taking to the streets in shocked revelation.
Do I expect him to admit his use? Not if he has eluded detection this long and faces no more tests. All players who have used have denied having used until they are caught. Denials are meaningless.
But then why are accusations meaningful? Do you grasp the Kafkaesque double bind here, Murray? If I am innocent, all I can do is hope I am not accused because, at that point, literally nothing I can ever do -- save god himself coming out of the clouds and affirming my innocence in tongues of fucking fire -- will help me prove my innocence.
I want to remind you all who are mad at me for drawing attention to an intentional troll: this was the exact logic that got people BURNED AT THE STAKE FOR WITCHCRAFT. This is the rhetoric of the French Reign of Terror. The man is a new age, unintelligent, loathsome version of Robespierre.
The arguments supporters make for players are often humorous.
Said the leering undertaker as he sharpened his axe.
Craig Calcaterra, the NBCSports.com guy, wrote last week about my view of Biggio and asked, "Who, besides Chass, ‘strongly suspects’ Craig Biggio of steroid use? I can’t for the life of me think of anyone who has made such an accusation in public."
I, uh, I don't see anything humorous about that? Is it conceptual?
I feel sorry for Calcaterra. I am sure he is much younger than I am, but he is already having memory problems. Remember this headline on your column, Craig:
See: my definition of "belief." Pearlman might believe that, but to believe something and to level a public accusation are different things. Vastly different! Legally, conceptually, even casually.
But sure, let's choose now to turn into a born-again textual scholar, Chass. You'll need a new dictionary, though; that tip's free.
Rob Neyer is another blogger who has a problem with me. As if he had nothing better to write about – and if he didn’t his employer should dock him a day’s pay (I receive no pay for this column so don’t suggest the same for me), he wrote his entire column about my Hall of Fame ballot.
Neyer writes a number of articles every day. Also, you know who Neyer's employer is. Also, calling Rob Neyer a "blogger" is kind of disingenuous.
But hey, at least you don't get paid for this. Day's brighter already.
That actually is a popular exercise among bloggers because they are jealous of the baseball writers who get to vote. They think they can do better, but they can’t vote and it pains them.
Let it be said here: I think I can vote better than Murray Chass. But I am not jealous, nor do I really give a damn about the Hall of Fame. I wouldn't trade my life for his and his nonsense perch of vitriolic, inauthentic pap for anything. If getting a vote for the BBWAA means I have to become a vindictive toad, then I'd pass ten out of ten times.
Oh, hey, like Neyer did when he left ESPN and gave up his vote.
Anyway, Neyer doesn’t think I voted for enough candidates. Even though I said I wasn’t voting for steroids-related candidates, Neyer wrote, he "can’t seem to find room on his ballot, or in his heart, or deep within the recesses of that powerful intellect, for Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, or Larry Walker."
Well, Rob old buddy, sorry to have to say this, but my standards apparently are higher than yours. I considered those players and concluded they weren’t Hall of Famers. When you get to vote, vote for them and anyone else you want. When you get to vote.
Give a serious reason as to why those guys aren't Hall of Famers and Jack Morris is. Seriously, give one good argument. You can't without sounding like an incoherent hack.
When I say I don't care about the HoF, I mean that I don't think brick and mortar make a ballplayer's career. What I do care about is that the people voting maintain some sense of consistent and coherent argument and don't just vote in their friends. Because I have some hope that not every baseball writer is a gladhanding nepotist. Obviously naive, I know.
By the way: ROB NEYER GOT TO VOTE. Despite the asinine "didn't attend enough games in person" bullshit that the BBWAA gave early on. He was a member of your club and left; you can't use the high and mighty inclusive tone when that's the case, Chass.
Meanwhile, I want you to know that there are readers who appreciate what I write.
Those poor unfortunates.
Here’s an e-mail from one of them:
"Truly outstanding. No one from the PED era should be voted into the HOF, no players, managers, executives and, certainly not this commissioner.
"Innocent-until-proven-guilty does not apply to the HOF. I’ve lived in Houston for 30 years, and I have little doubt that Craig Biggio was a PED user. He quacked a bit too much like a duck.
Keep in mind -- this is who Chass is hoping will convince you that he is right. This is basically me supporting an article I wrote based on a call from WIP that I heard once.
If he didn’t use, he had the platform to condemn their use, or at least offer a mild rebuke. Neither he nor any other player from that era has a right to complain.
Well, have you received benefits from slave or sweatshop labor? Did you live through a period of world history with unspoken discrimination? Spoken discrimination? Did you speak out every single time? Boy, I sure hope so, or else you have no right to complain!
Perhaps I have a right to complain.
I spent 5 days in St. Louis watching McGwire hit 60, 61 and 62 — flew to Houston Tuesday morning for a meeting and back to St. Louis that afternoon to catch the game. Dupe! A hundred years of stats — stats that meant something to me — were brushed away. I suspect Biggio will get in this year, but it’s wrong."
"HI, I THINK I CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT A LIFESTYLE THAT AFFORDS ME THE FINANCIAL PRIVILEGES NECESSARY TO SEE LITERAL BASEBALL HISTORY CASUALLY BECAUSE I THINK PROBABLY THAT HISTORY IS NOT LEGITIMATE IN SOME WEIRDLY MORAL WAY AND I VOTE."
"Tony La Russa. Let’s see. He managed in Oakland, home of Canseco and McGwire, arguably the birthplace of PED use in baseball. He managed McGwire in St. Louis. I suppose it’s just coincidence that the Cardinals consistently outperformed their apparent talent. I suspect that La Russa was not only aware of PED use but was knee deep in it.
Hahaha, there are few who hate the Cards more than I do, but come on. If you think, say, the 83-76 2006 Cardinals outplayed their apparent talent because of steroids, then please, by all means, make the case that a 269/337/431 team line is some sort of terrible statistical aberration. I'm waiting.
"I might be more willing to believe Joe Torre was what we lawyers call consciously indifferent, but he got the benefit, didn’t he. I heard this story from one of my sons’ college teammates. He was in pitcher in the Xxx’s organization. After his rookie minor league season, the pitching coach suggested to him that he needed to gain 35 pounds in the offseason. When he protested the impossibility of such a gain, the coach told him, "You know what you need to do." He didn’t and was cut a week into the following spring training. Torre’s players knew what they needed to do."
Reliable sources: vetted political staffers, people who witness a crime, insiders, friends of your son who played some ball that one year and had a story about an unnamed coach.
Finally, an announcement that will disappoint Neyer, Calcaterra and the reader who, like those two bloggers, said they were delighted that this was the last time I would be voting for the Hall of Fame. Sorry, guys I never made it definite.
Ooooh, you really pissed in their Cheerios now, Chass! I'm sure they're super furious now!!
Well, at least you made the people you hate feel important at your expense. That's true revenge.
I said "barring a change in my thinking," this could be my last vote. My thinking has changed, and all of you critics can blame yourselves.
"Thinking" used here, of course, in the loosest possible sense.
How could I relinquish my vote knowing how much it annoys you? I plan to vote a year from now even if I just send in a blank ballot. You would love that.
And thus an old man closes his column fulminating at invisible enemies, rallying around his delusional fans, and maintaining his position as a cultural warrior powered by spite. Really, it's sad. Really, we shouldn't make fun. Really, we should be compassionate.
...no, seriously though, screw Murray Chass and screw this article.