Tag Archives: mike piazza

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Shoebox Greetings for the Hall of Fame

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Why Eckstein Matters. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

I apologize that my Hall of Fame column came later than usual this year. I actually handed in my ballot at the last minute. I was searching all over the house for it, then my wife told me she lost it. And while she told me she lost it, she lit the ballot on fire right in front of me. I told her tampering with a Hall of Fame ballot was a federal offense. She said it wasn’t at all and that she was leaving for Ibiza for two weeks with her special friend Marco.

Luckily, I was able to send my choices in by teletype. It’s good to know that the BBWAA still uses the latest technology. Do you know it took me forever to find a teletype machine in my newspaper’s office? And when I did, it was covered in dust, banana stickers, and somebody growing a potato in a jar. When I started in this business, we used teletype to send info back to the newsdesk, and as far as I’m concerned, no machinery has improved on it since. You can keep your Blackberrys and iPans and whatnot. Also, my editor won’t let me get one because the last time I was issued a company cell phone, I gummed up the keys with Mallomar residue.

When Jack Morris failed to get into the Hall of Fame yet again, I poured out a bottle of Yoo-Hoo in his memory. In truth, I knocked over a bottle of Yoo-Hoo onto the hood of my editor’s car, but I retroactively dedicated it to his memory. That and the sizable repaint bill, which is coming out of my paycheck. I had no idea Yoo-Hoo was so caustic.

It’s too bad that we’re letting so many people vote for the Hall of Fame that didn’t watch some of the eligible candidates play. If you look at Morris’s pure numbers, of course he doesn’t belong within a mile of Cooperstown. In order to understand his greatness, you had to have seen him in action, and then remembered that action many, many years later, when most of the finer details are rather hazy in your memory and mixed up with other things you’ve seen on TV. I, for one, will never forget that time I saw Morris pitch a 15-inning complete game and knock in the winning run to save an inner city rec center, aided only by his grit and determination and most of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I truly believe that you can only judge a player if you’ve actually seen him on the field, preferably from a press box view, while ingesting a Skitch Special. That’s when you anchor two hot dogs and a hamburger together with a shish kebab skewer, then drop it into a deep fryer. Some stadiums were better than others in making it for me. The guys at Wrigley were the best; they’d always have two Skitch Specials waiting for me when I showed up at game time, along with a fully charged defibrillator.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite players was Jimmy “Shoebox” O’Leary, backup utility man for the Senators. No one really knows how he got that nickname; some say it’s because he was born in a shoebox, others say it’s because he lived in one. I can’t tell you now why he was my favorite player back then. His batting average always hovered around the Mendoza Line, he couldn’t field worth a lick, and he got a nosebleed every time he ascended the dugout steps.

Still, I thought he was the greatest player in the world when I was six, and to honor that memory, I vote for his induction into Cooperstown every year. My fellow writers keep telling me I’m insane, that he’s not on the ballot, and that they’re going to drum me out if I don’t stop doing this and also bringing my homemade scrapple to the meetings.

If I’m disappointed that Morris failed to get in, that’s how pleased I am that Jeff Bagwell was also denied. As I’ve discussed before, there’s no hard evidence Bagwell ever did steroids, or soft evidence, or even some sort of evidence-mist. However, he did play at a time when many other people may or may not have done steroids at some point or another, and the fact that he didn’t speak up about it is a mark against his character. If someone was around that much cheating at that time and said nothing, they’re just as guilty as those who committed the act. If there’s anything I’m sure of after spending most of the last 30 years in locker rooms, it’s this.

I’m not looking forward to next year’s ballots, full of proven cheaters like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, cheaters by association like Mike Piazza…now that I think about it, it will be easier to vote than ever before. I’ll just draw a huge frowny face on my ballot, check off Morris, write in Shoebox, and be done with it. More time for homemade scrapplin’.

* * *

And now it’s time for Some Things I Think About Things I Think!

  • Tim Tebow has brought joy back to the NFL. Anyone who says something bad about him should be caged.
  • In this strike-shortened season, the play in the NBA has really fallen off, based on what I assume from not having watched a single game so far.
  • Love him or hate him, Shia LeBoeuf is here to stay, folks.
  • I’ve started an online petition to keep egg nog lattes at Starbucks all year round. I have 12 signatures, each from someone named Mike Rotch.
  • Alex Ovechkin is going to have to do a lot more to get my attention. Like play a sport other than hockey.
  • I don’t care for that “Partying Rock” song by L.S.M.F.T. Give me the Little River Band any day of the week.
  • Albert Pujols’ decision to leave St. Louis for the glamor of Hollywood is truly selfish, as it means I will probably have to drive from LAX to Anaheim several times this upcoming season.
  • Insider’s tip: Take a bag of microwave popcorn, poke a tiny hole, pour M&Ms inside, and seal it up before you pop. The result is a delightfully gooey mess and it tastes a bit like metal.
  • Have you guys heard about radishes? Crazy!
  • Stayed up late last night to watch a few old episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. I really think that show holds up, and the roaring laugh track really helped mask the sounds of Marco and my wife upstairs.
  • Treat yourself to some fried spaghetti this week. You’ll thank me.

The Gift Basket Contents of Major Leaguers, Past and Present

Yankees star Derek Jeter, one of New York’s most eligible hunks since his split with longtime gal pal Minka Kelly, is bedding a bevy of beauties in his Trump World Towerbachelor pad — and then coldly sending them home alone with gift baskets of autographed memorabilia.

The Yankees captain’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kiss-offs came to light when he mistakenly pulled the stunt twice on the same woman — forgetting she had been an earlier conquest, a pal told The Post. – NY Post, 12/13/11

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: small picnic basket filled with plush centaurs

STEVE GARVEY: a bad check and a lecture on fiscal responsibility

JOHN KRUK: three jars of his own homemade pomade/gravy

DAVID WELLS: A case of Natty Lite, a convenience store display of Slim Jims, and a gift card to Bass Pro Shops

CJ WILSON: Youth of Today compilation, large bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap

DARREN DAULTON: step-by-step instructions on how to see into the secret, alien 7th dimension

JEFF KENT: a bag of Hall’s cough drops that happened to be left in the front seat of his car

OLD HOSS RADBOURN: tincture of laudanum, bone chilling stare on your way out of the hotel room

CURT SCHILLING: two-months of free gametime on World of Warcraft

JAMIE MOYER: hand-whittled doorstops–lady’s choice of duck or bear

ROGER MCDOWELL: can of “peanut brittle,” trick gum, pair of Bill Robinson’s cleats charred in successful hotfoot attempt

LUKE SCOTT: detailed manifesto on how the Illuminati and the Swiss bankers’ cabal are keeping evidence of Obama’s Indonesian citizenship from the American public

MANNY RAMIREZ: five pairs of tent-sized pants, several women’s hormone supplements

MIKE PIAZZA: Rush Limbaugh book-on-tape set, complete Cannibal Corpse discography

BABE RUTH: syphilis

“This One’s Got a Chance!”

It’s still the best game I ever went to. And for the reason why it’s the best game I ever went to, I hope I never see a better one.

Thanks to Amazin Avenue for posting this video.

Michael More, Roger, and Me

piazza_si.jpgA recently leaked excerpt from Jeff Pearlman’s upcoming book on Roger Clemens (The Rocket Who Fell to Earth, which sounds less like a sports tome and more like a David Bowie album) alleges that Mike Piazza used performance enhancing drugs. And by alleges, I mean Pearlman says Piazza totally did them.

Although–unless there’s more in the book than the excerpt contains–the accusations come mostly from unnamed sources, all of whom say some variation of “Yeah, we’re pretty sure he did it,” without any specifics. Same goes for the one former player who went on the record: Reggie Jefferson, who’s most famous for having a hissy fit and quitting baseball for good when the Red Sox left him of their playoff roster in 1999.

And if you want an idea of how much of a douche Jefferson is, consider the first line of the article linked above: “This is not how Reggie Jefferson expected to begin the playoffs, taking care of his newborn infant daughter in Tampa.” ‘I coulda been playing against the Indians right now, but NOOOO! I just had to come home and take care of this stupid baby!’

However, according to Pearlman, Piazza confided that he used PEDs on occasion to reporters off the record. Pearlman’s theory is that Piazza did this to make it an open secret and thus cut off further questioning on the subject.

Bottom line: You can’t imply something like this in a book and not be damn sure you won’t get sued over it. And the best way to ensure you won’t get sued is to print the truth. So I felt it only fair to address this subject, since I’ve hammered Roger Clemens at every opportunity. And hammered. And hammered.

Part of me wants to split hairs and say that it’s unclear when Piazza used PEDs and for how long, whereas Clemens’ use is pretty well documented: the post-Boston tail-end of his career, when it looked like his career might be over.

I’m tempted to say that you could jam needles in your ass til the cows came home and it still wouldn’t enable you to differentiate a fastball from a changeup in a split second, while Clemens used PEDs to pitch effectively way beyond retirement age.

But who’s to say that PEDs didn’t help Piazza recover more quickly from the various dings and cuts associated with catching? And how do I know it didn’t help him bat better (as opposed to slug better, which I’m sure it did)?

So am I now forced to admit that Mike Piazza is really no better than Roger Clemens? No, I am not.

First off, the use of PEDs doesn’t upset me. As far as levels of cheating go, I put it below spitballers and bat corking. To me, it’s more like the widespread use of amphetamines in baseball, which goes all the way back to the 1950s. They’re both artificial chemical means to improve one’s performance.

Plus, MLB’s anti-drug policy was such a joke for so long that it practically dared players to do steroids. It was like putting a sack of money out on the street, with a sign that said PLEASE DON’T STEAL.

Granted, I like baseball better now that it welcomes Good Pitching again. Now that batters no longer look like overstuffed sausages stitched together. Now that we have fewer of the Mark McGwire style players–guys who can hit titanic homers and do absolutely nothing else. Now that players no longer shorten their lives to hit a few more dingers.

But I’ve never gotten fist-shakin’ angry over the whole steroids thing. Because first of all, baseball ain’t the only offender on the PED front. How many linebackers you think aren’t juicing? Football fans don’t give a shit, though, because no one cares about numbers in football. No one cares about the players in football. Fans just wanna see Football:The Sport presented to them every Sunday in the fall, by any means necessary. Sometimes I wish baseball fans could look at their sport the same way.

And if you know anything about the history of baseball, you know that steroid use is way low on its list of crimes. For 15-20 years, tons of guys did steroids. And yet the game endures.

What tons of guys didn’t do is try to end other players’ careers by throwing at their heads, because they couldn’t get them out any other way. Or start some weird drama by hurling a shattered bat during a World Series game–and somehow not get kicked out of that game because they’re too big to get kicked out of such a huge game. Or get all their reporter buddies to write glowing articles about how they owe all their success to an intense workout regimen. Or protest their innocence when all the evidence pointed elsewhere. Or cajole Congress into giving them hearings to prove their innocence because they’re tight with the sitting President’s family.

Nope, last I checked, there was only one very special breed of asshole who did that.

There are several levels of Sports Hate. Lowest are the guys you really don’t hate, you just hate the fact that they always beat Your Team, and your hatred is actually a sign of respect (for me, this would be John Smoltz).

Then there are guys who you hate because they always beat Your Team, and who you can’t prove are douchebags, but you just know they’re douchebags (Greg Maddux, Derek Jeter).

Then there are guys who you hate because they always beat Your Team and you know they’re douchebags because they’ve provided ample evidence (Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds).

And then there are enormous douches whose douchiness breaks the lowly bonds of douchery and passes into supervillainy. Roger Clemens resides in this pantheon, and I have no problem singling him out for an extra fiery, hellish hate that rages like a thousand suns.

If I have to readjust my thinking on anything, it’s my attitude toward fans of players on other teams who juiced. We all know the obvious offenders, and I’ve wondered to myself, “How could those morons root for [fill in the blank]?”

I now realize I was one of those morons. I mean, I always knew I was. I just never had to confront that reality head-on like other fans did.

As usual, Faith and Fear in Flushing said it much better than I could. Ultimately, what did any of these players really do, other than hit baseballs really far and make people happy? And how many of them jacked those homers off of players who were just as “dirty” as them?

So if you cheered for Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire or Brady Anderson or Ken Caminiti, I won’t judge you for that.

In turn, don’t judge me for rooting for someone who almost single-handedly willed the Mets back from the dead in 1999. Someone who put the capper on a 10-run rally on our Most Hated Rival. Someone who hit the most titanic homers I ever saw, and the most important one I ever saw.

So, we got a deal?