“Last week™s column on Mike Piazza has drawn more reader e-mail than any of the 97 columns that have appeared on this site,” boasts former NY Times baseball scribe Murray Chass, loathe to credit any portion of the blogosphere for this remarkable upturn in traffic. Instead, under the guise of giving one of Piazza’s defenders a chance to respond, Chass scoffs at the (former) New York Catcher‘s early feats of strength, asking “if Piazza was such a good, strong hitter, why wasn™t he drafted before the 62nd and last round?”

Darrell Sparkman, a teammate and roommate of Piazza’s at the University Of Miami,  said it was tasteless to write about Piazza™s acne-covered back and argued that Piazza œhas long been known for his tape measure shots.

œWe used to call him the best Six o™clock hitter in the nation, batting practice was at six, Sparkman wrote. œMike was in the cages hitting every chance he got. When he was at home he was working out or hitting the tire in our backyard. He had a batting cage at his parent™s home. He would tell us of the hours spent in the batting cage over Christmas Break. He was a hard worker and a great hitter with tremendous power.

œPeople have made comments about Mike for years, he continued. œIs he gay? Hell no. Steroids? Absolutely not. He didn™t have some major physical transformation. He was a big strong guy and grew in to his body.

In addition, Sparkman said, Piazza œhas had back acne for years, adding, œHe wasn™t taking steroids when we were at Miami, I can tell you that as can our other roommates. As painful as it probably was, his back acne was a source of humiliation back then.

Sparkman™s e-mail raised some questions. Just because Piazza didn™t use steroids as a college player, what did that have to do with the possibility that he used them as a professional player?

œMike wasn™t drafted because he could not play a lick of defense, Sparkman said in his second e-mail. œHe alternated between third and first, and was very slow. When you are projected as a DH coming of college, your chances aren™t that great. Mike couldn™t hit the breaking ball or off speed pitches when he was younger. Through hard work he learned how to do it.

The problem with that explanation is baseball organizations will always find a way to take a good hitter who has no position and work with him on his inadequacies. If Piazza was as good a power hitter as Sparkman said he was, someone, certainly the Dodgers, would have taken him before the final round.