It may be wishful thinking but maybe the Mitchell Report was Mike Piazza’s revenge. The big news of the report is that Roger Clemens – widely regarded as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history – was a regular steroid user. In hindsight, it shouldn’t be all that shocking. Clemens, like Bonds, had had an extraordinarily successful career into his mid-30s. Then, suddenly, he got even better – dramatically better at an age when other athletes were noticeably declining.
Back to Piazza. He was roundly criticized in 2000 for not being “tough enough” to stand up to Roger Clemens. Here’s the backstory:
Clemens’s 2000 season was punctuated by a pair of notorious moments involving New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza. During a July 8, 2000, game between the Mets and the Yankees, Clemens threw a high inside fastball to Piazza which bounced off Piazza’s hand and hit him squarely in the head. Piazza had previously enjoyed great success as a hitter against Clemens (including a grand slam against Clemens one month earlier), which was widely seen as Clemens’s motivation. The incident and its aftermath received intense media coverage. Piazza bitterly criticized Clemens, while the Mets were assailed for not “protecting” their star catcher (retaliating by hitting an important Yankee batter). And when both the Yankees and the Mets reached that year’s World Series, there was great anticipation regarding the two men’s first confrontation since the beaning.
In Piazza’s first at-bat of Game 2, his bat shattered, sending a large piece of the broken bat shard flying in Clemens’ direction. Clemens picked it up and threw the broken bat down toward the first base line, missing Piazza but clearing the benches of both teams.  Clemens later claimed that he was “fielding” the broken bat, having mistaken it for the baseball. His explanation was widely ridiculed.
In the aftermath of the incident, many felt Piazza hadn’t been tough enough – that he should have gone out to the mound and decked Clemens. After all, Piazza was a big guy, the team leader, he needed, reasoning went to step up.
Perhaps today was his revenge. Perhaps today he showed baseball and baseball fans what honor and integrity are all about.
It may yet come out that Piazza was a steroid guy just as much or more than Clemens was. He was certainly part of a Mets team where some players were using the stuff. But at this moment when baseball fans are looking for a silver lining and where parents are trying to explain why multi-million dollar athletes – Hall of Fame athletes – are cheating, perhaps he is a figure to honor.
Instead of lowering himself to Clemens’ level by attacking him, Piazza took a higher ground. He gave honor and dignity to the game he was playing – rather unlike Mr. Clemens.
I’m a baseball fan. I’ve been a Mets fan all of my life. I could have this completely wrong. But on this dark day in professional baseball I’m looking for something honorable and good and noble. And this is the best thing I’ve got.