Murray Chass and the Very Real Health Risks of Eating Poinsettias

by Andy 

“Hey Kid, Don’t Eat Those Poinsettias. I Know a Kid Who Knows A Kid.”

I sat at home watching the Poinsettia Bowl on ESPN. Bowl season might be my favorite time of year – through all the antipathy, acrimony and arguing, college football still manages to put together a solid slate of evenly matched games.

I guess you could say the Poinsettia is my second favorite flower-themed bowl behind the Rose Bowl. If college football ever decides to bring back the Bluebonnet Bowl, I imagine the Poinsettia Bowl will be bumped down a notch in my personal bowl interest hierarchy.  

I’m not a huge fan of Poinsettias anyway.

I’ve always wondered why someone would name a college football bowl after such a lethal plant? Poinsettias are highly toxic and can be deadly if consumed. Growing up, I knew a kid down the street who knew a kid from his old elementary school that had died from eating one – supposedly it was on the front page of the newspaper, but I missed it. I recently saw something else about the dangers of Poinsettias on Facebook; there was a whole elaborate meme devoted to it… it was posted by my wacky aunt who also posted about there being 5 Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays this month, which, according to her, only happens once in 952 years.

So, while watching the Poinsettia Bowl, I flipped open my laptop and did a little research. 

It turns out that Poinsettias might not be as dangerous as we think. They might not be dangerous at all. If eaten, they may cause diarrhea or vomiting but not death. I went to The Mayo Clinic’s website as they have a whole story devoted to it and in the first sentence, Jay L. Hoecker writes “Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia plants are not poisonous.”

That’s pretty convincing evidence.

The Mayo Clinic wouldn’t lie, would they?

I continued my research. Website after website, the evidence was piling up against Poinsettias being dangerous. Am I living a lie? What about the kid down the street? What about my wacky aunt?

I accepted that Poinsettias were dangerous although I had no facts to support it. I wasn’t even interested in looking for evidence. I accepted the premise and went on about my day… and made sure not to eat any Poinsettias on the off chance they were offered.

But, ultimately, I was wrong about Poinsettias.

…which brings me to Murray Chass.

Chasing Tail

Murray has decided to accept certain myths and opinions as fact without doing any of the necessary research to validate these premises. Murray cannot find any evidence or logic supporting his case, but, like the kid down the street and my wacky aunt on Facebook, he continues to pass off his assumptions as fact and has caused undue duress to an already injured process.

And, by continuing to perpetuate all the lies and bad information, he’s forcing a narrative that puts innocent people under unnecessary suspicion.

Chass, a long time member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, wrote a piece for his blog (which I’m not linking) that stated he was not including Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio, among others, on his Hall of Fame ballot because they’re “strongly suspected of having cheated.” Biggio, huh? Seriously?

I’ve defended Bagwell on a number of occasions, and I understand why. Jeff Bagwell hit a lot of homeruns, he was a muscular guy and he played smack-dab right in the middle of the steroid era. While someone could guess as to whether or not Bagwell did steroids, the fact remains that there has been absolutely no evidence pointing to Bagwell as being a dirty player. As the steroid accusations and finger pointing took over most all of the Hall of Fame debate, I knew Jeff Bagwell’s name would come under suspicion and ultimately felt that the complete absence of evidence would eventually exonerate him and clear his name.

The BBWAA members have had years to make a case against Bagwell… this year is his third year of Hall of Fame eligibility, plus the mandatory five-year grace period between his retirement and eligibility, plus his fifteen-year career – and nothing. At no point has anyone made a coherent case linking Jeff Bagwell to steroid use. Yet the steroid narrative still haunts Bagwell, and the public patiently waits on the damning evidence (or any shred of evidence) linking him to steroids.

It is pointless and lazy, an exercise in futility. Murray Chass is chasing his tail.

But we all knew we’d have to defend Jeff Bagwell – but Craig Biggio, too?

It is beyond asinine to accuse Craig Biggio of anything other than using entirely too much pine tar and possibly sticking around a few years too long. As Craig Calcaterra pointed out, I can’t think of anyone other than Murray Chass who “strongly suspects” Craig Biggio of having used steroids.

Chass says that he’s voting for Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Jack Morris. He goes on to say that he’s considering Frank Thomas. How can he suspect Bagwell and Biggio are dirty and not Glavine, Maddux, Morris or Thomas? For the record, I don’t believe any of these guys are dirty, but I’m not sure how Murray is able to determine guilt among all of these players – did Frank Thomas never take steroids? Did Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine never have a teammate who used? How do you pick and choose? I don’t understand how Chass can point to someone like Biggio and not the guys he’s voting for.

But this is the current climate of the Hall of Fame voting process.

Murray’s Own Muddy Footprints

Investigative reporting and journalistic integrity has been replaced by stanza upon stanza of lazy blog filler and the molestation of contemporary history into a perverted form of self-important public masturbation. Writers are now forced to write about other writers’ writings – the Hall of Fame discussion has inched away from the sport, and the spotlight shines directly on the key holders who believe their Hall of Fame vote is bigger than the candidate and bigger than the sport.

And, yet, many of these shameless writers look down their nose at Deadspin for buying a Hall of Fame vote citing the corruption and contamination of a sacred process while refusing to wipe their own feet when they walked through the door. It seems as though that was Deadspin’s entire point.

It is irony at its finest.

Bagwell or Biggio’s name didn’t appear anywhere in the Mitchell Report. No former teammates ever implicated either of them as users. They never confessed to anything. There were never needles found. There weren’t any copies of checks made out with “for steroids” written in the memo section. There isn’t a single ounce of credible evidence pointing towards Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell using steroids – but according to Murray Chass, we should string ‘em up anyway.

The fact that Murray Chass sits behind a typewriter and make wild accusations about players he knows nothing about is exactly what is wrong with the Hall of Fame process. Chass cannot be considered a credible custodian for the Hall of Fame when he obviously has no idea what he’s even talking about.

Did Murray Chass lose all of his integrity in a Ponzi scheme?

Is Murray Chass an al-Qaeda Operative, Sexual Deviant or Both?

But throwing out accusations willy-nilly to fill a blog isn’t as hard as you think.

It would be highly irresponsible for me to accuse Murray Chass of being an al-Qaeda operative. Yet, but according to his own logic, how do we know that he’s not one? Can we prove his innocence? Maybe the same can be said about Murray Chass being a sexual deviant? Does he get his jollies from wearing a full body latex onesie? I don’t know. I have absolutely no evidence saying that Murray Chass is a sexual deviant… but, then again, I have absolutely no evidence that Murray Chass is NOT a sexual deviant.

What are we to believe?

But, follow me here, Murray Chass worked for the New York Times in 2003. As you may or may not recall, there was a very scandalous plagiarism incident in the New York Times that culminated in Jayson Blair and a few editors being fired. Murray Chass has just as much of a connection with known plagiarists as Craig Biggio has with known steroid users. After decades and decades of hard work, is it fair to assume that Murray Chass may have plagiarized some of his work because he worked for the same company that employed people who were guilty of plagiarizing?


It isn’t fair to assume that Chass plagiarized his work because we’re logical people and not ignorant assholes. However, it would be nice if Murray Chass afforded others the same courtesy.

This is shameless. This kind of logic is shameless. It’s irresponsible.

Murray has absolutely no problem with running people through the mud in order to fill his blog – and that’s a shame.

But, still, this issue is slathered in hypocrisy and slapped between two ironic sesame seed buns.

Playing Both Sides

We have to ask ourselves, what in the world was Murray Chass doing while these juiced up baseball players were running amok and ruining the sport? As a writer, wasn’t it Murray’s responsibility to have an elementary knowledge of what was going on under his nose? Where the hell was he?

To me, this is the most interesting aspect of the Hall of Fame debate – the likes of Murray Chass are interested in discrediting and defaming the careers of so many people while his own career hasn’t been adequately scrutinized. Murray isn’t above scrutiny and his level of culpability in the steroid era needs to be examined. The steroid era witch-hunt shouldn’t be exclusive to former players up for Hall of Fame induction.

During the 1998 baseball season, Murray Chass was writing about “the most captivating and chronicled sports chase in recent decades.” Murray goes on to say that “ordinary people, even casual sports fans, have become caught up in the McGwire-Sosa onslaught, too.” Perhaps that’s where Murray was – caught up in the “electrifying atmosphere” brought on by the homerun chase. Maybe he was too caught up to ask any serious questions about performance enhancing drugs or maybe he just willfully ignored bits and pieces of the evidence because it didn’t jive with his narrative du jour.

…or maybe I just know a little bit of the story and am filling in the holes with what I think happened?

But maybe Murray knew something about Bagwell or Biggio that others weren’t talking about? Maybe he had some knowledge then or has access to information now that he didn’t have then. Perhaps the ghost of Ken Caminiti came to him in a dream and snitched on his former teammates.

Let’s roll with this logic for a moment – if Murray had the same suspicions in 1998, why did he choose to stand idly by instead of freeing the sport from cheaters? Why didn’t he crack the case on Biggio and Bagwell then when the evidence is so overwhelming today? Did he just miss it? Was he fooled? Or did he knowingly ignore it?

And what new information is around today regarding Biggio or Bagwell that wasn’t around then?

No. Murray knew about the pills in McGwire’s locker. Murray knew about Androstenedione. He knew guys were using “nutritional supplements” while putting up mammoth numbers. But, during the “electrifying” homerun race of 1998, it just wasn’t a big deal. He didn’t adequately investigate it.

…and he reported it in the New York Times.

He didn’t scream from the mountaintops or examine the story further, to him, it just wasn’t a big deal. He could have blown the whole thing up then and there. But, no - he didn’t adequately investigate it.


Murray took advantage of the situation. He knew something was wrong, he knew there were dirty players, but he chose to put that story on the backburner. It is conceivable and very likely that he knew the magnitude of baseball’s drug problem, but instead of blowing the whistle and stopping it, he wrote glowing headlines about the homerun race. 

By doing nothing, Murray has plenty of culpability in the steroid era.

There were players who took performance enhancing drugs and set fire to baseball’s record book, but writers like Murray Chass chose to sit on their water pails and let it burn rather than make attempts to investigate the problems surrounding the sport. He didn’t have any names and didn’t know who was selling or what was being taken – but he knew something was happening and he didn’t look hard enough. He had bigger fish to fry, how could Murray possibly have time to ask tough questions about potentially tainted records, pill bottles or dirty needles when he had to write so many “McGwire, Sosa Have Restored Baseball’s Soul” headlines?

In 1998, Chass wrote that McGwire, a player he knew was taking a “testosterone-producing pill,” was restoring baseball’s soul.

And, in 2013, he’s burning everyone and anyone at the stake for it.

But, we all know, there is plenty of blame to go around.

The Cash Price of Integrity

Murray has some sort of audacity to cast stones unto others when he’s trying like hell to avoid some of the blame. He likely didn’t buy or sell steroids, he likely never injected it, maybe he’s never seen steroids – but his willful ignorance and suspicious pussyfooting allowed the steroid era to thrive. Baseball has a black eye and Murray Chass is hoping and praying we didn’t see his series of sucker punches he threw.

Murray cashed in on this then and he’s trying to cash in on it now. He has separated himself from the truth, an act of betrayal divorced from a very recent and traceable history.

How can he determine who is and isn’t to blame when he isn’t even willing to blame himself?

I guess you can’t put a price on integrity when you’re trying to pay for your own relevance.

This is who Murray Chass is – or has become. Murray Chass is lazy. Murray Chass is willfully ignorant. Murray Chass is your wacky aunt who posts about the financial implications of “five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays” on her Facebook account. Murray Chass is unaccountable. Murray Chass is unapologetic. Murray has no rhyme or reason for what falls off his fingertips and into his blog.

And, Murray Chass is a Hall of Fame voter.

The reason why we believed Poinsettias were dangerous is because we were told that and it was pounded repeatedly into our brains. After awhile, the myth became a fact. By irresponsibly throwing people’s name into the steroid debate, Chass is molding these myths and opinions into believable facts – and that’s the true danger. He is turning Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio into something they are not – and that’s the true danger. His lies are ruining legacies – and that’s the true danger. 

Murray Chass owes nothing to baseball. He’s been a writer more than twice as long as I’ve been alive. He’s acknowledged as one of the best sportswriters of his generation and one of the best of all-time. He’s written books, he’s won awards and he’s even found himself showcased in a Hall of Fame exhibit – he’s paid his dues, and he’s had a great career. He doesn’t need to market the sport to fans; he doesn’t have to sell us the game. As a Hall of Fame voter, he needs to provide the future with an accurate and valid depiction of players and events. He has a responsibility to the legacy of the game to make sure certain names and achievements are adequately recognized and preserved – and by using his vote as a lame attempt to correct a mistake that he contributed to, he’s failing to do the job entrusted to him.


Posted at 11:56am


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