March 6, 2009
Murray Chass, The Muckraker That Could’ve Been
by: Tino Evangelou on Mar 6, 2009 12:38 AM | Filed under: News

In case you missed it, Murray Chass’ blog-that-isn’t recently featured an article on Mike Piazza and his now famous back acne. Chass’ post was inspired by Post writer Joel Sherman, as Murray makes abundantly clear in the most vindictive way possible:

Baseball writers spend a lot of time in press boxes together, and the close and frequent proximity does not always foster positive relationships. For example, Joel Sherman of the New York Post and I do not have any kind of relationship. We have not talked for years. There’s no need to bore you with the reasons why. But the other day his column caught my attention. Not many of his columns do. He writes them, after all, for the New York Post.

Sick burn! A little over a week earlier mortal Chass enemy Sherman had written a piece rueing the unanswered questions of the steroids era, in particular some rumors that surrounded Mets legend Mike Piazza. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a lifelong Mets fan whose favorite player during my formative years was none other than the catcher in question. I didn’t find anything particularly irksome about Sherman’s column, however – I think that if Alex Rodriguez showed us anything, it’s that nobody was “above” the steroids era, and we may never know who really and wasn’t a user. I think that was Sherman’s point. The mention of Mike Piazza, his back acne, and the rumors surrounding it in the press corps are simply meant to drive the point home using a beloved New York sports figure. Fine. I can deal with that.

While corroborating Sherman’s observations about Piazza’s back acne and the questions surrounding his meteoric ascendancy to baseball superstardom, he mentions that he, Murray Chass, was going to be “the man” to break the back acne controversey years ago, if only it wasn’t for his superiors at the New York Times:

When steroids became a daily subject in newspaper articles I wanted to write about Piazza’s acne-covered back. I was prepared to describe it in disgusting living color. But two or three times my editors at The New York Times would not allow it. Piazza, they said, had never been accused of using steroids so I couldn’t write about it.

But wait, I said, if I write about it, I will in effect be accusing Piazza of using steroids and then someone will have accused him of using steroids. No can do, I was told. I always took the veto to stem from the Times ultra conservative ways, but I also wondered if it maybe was the baseball editor, a big Mets’ fan, protecting the Mets.

There you have it: Murray Chass’ attempt to be the crusader that brought down Mike Piazza, Juicer, was snuffed out by the Times’ devious Pro-Mets agenda. Gotcha. Not at all self-serving or ridiculous. He was that close. It’s a good thing Woodward and Bernstein didn’t have obstacles like that to deal with or Nixon would’ve gotten off clean. Am I saying Richard Nixon and Mike Piazza are comparable? Yes. Yes I am.

Chass took it a step further. He was about to step off his throne to write Sherman an e-mail congratulating him for his good work. Unfortunately for Joel, he never mentioned that Piazza’s acne mysteriously vanished when drug testing began in earnest, or that he ever asked Piazza about his personal relationship with steroids:

Sherman never asked Piazza about his acne, at least not that he made known in the column. He had raised the subject of steroids, but he didn’t ask about steroids-induced acne. What a letdown. What a disappointment. I didn’t send an e-mail.

Take that, Sherman! Murray manages to pull off the vindictive and self-righteous double pretty well here. There’s also a convoluted reference to Proactiv in there (I’m sure they’re grateful for the free publicity to Murray’s legions of readers), but the basic idea is this:

  • Mike Piazza had back acne.
  • Back acne is a side effect of steroid use.
  • Therefore, Mike Piazza took steroids.
  • Murray Chass was going to ask the tough questions before being derailed by the Mets media conspiracy.
  • Murray Chass won’t miss a chance to take cracks at a (still-employed) colleague.

The irony of this is that Murray Chass used a blog to “jump on the pile” as far as the Piazza issue is concerned, except he decided to try to convince everyone that it was really him that was making the tackle all along. The most rational take on the subject comes from Rob Neyer, who brought the Chass “column” to my attention (I can’t say I would have ever thought to look at his “non-blog” otherwise). I tend to agree that it’s circumstantial evidence, but given the sad fact that the steroids era has a guilty-until-proven-innocent air about it, it sure doesn’t look very good. Even a Mike Piazza fan like me can admit that.

But please, spare us the holier-than-thou retroactive indictments on the industry and on your colleagues, Murray. They’re petty, they’re small, and they’re certainly not going to win you any plaudits for bravery a decade after the fact.

4 Responses to “Murray Chass, The Muckraker That Could’ve Been”

  1. Comment posted by Simons on March 6, 2009 at 9:22 am (#935598)

    Spotted: Times columnist having a hissy fit in the courtyard of Constance Billiard. xoxo

    This was the funniest thing I’ve read all year. You killed it Tino.

  2. Gravatar
  3. Comment posted by Simons on March 6, 2009 at 9:43 am (#935614)

    *Billard.* I ruined it :(

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  5. Comment posted by Joe Sokolowski on March 6, 2009 at 1:59 pm (#935884)

    Great write up Tino, really spot on.

  6. Comment posted by Ramon on March 6, 2009 at 3:42 pm (#935963)

    Great article. Spot on Murray Ass.

    But lets call a spade a spade. Piazza was probably a juicer and a half. If so he should go down with all the other phonies like Big Mac, Bonds, and Clemens.