Saturday, March 5, 2011
The perfect time for Piazza
You know, there is a lot of things I don't get about the ownership of the New York Mets. I don't get why it took them so long to solve the Tony Bernazard issue. I don't get why they seemed to bungle so many public relation situations like the dismissial of Willie Randolph.
But first and foremost, I don't get why Mike Piazza's number has not been retired.
The Mets have very little history to be proud of. There's Tom Terrific and the Mets of '69. There's the juggernaught of 1986. There's the nice (but incomplete) Subway Series season of 2000.
Even when the Mets have what seem will be timeless icons in the making, it manages to go wrong (I'm looking at you Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden!)
So when you have an honest-to-goodness, sure fire, first ballot Hall of Famer with a strong tie to your organization you had damn well better make sure he's so entrenched to your team that no one doubts it.
The Mets HAVE made some nice moves when it's come to Piazza. He got a great celebration when he broke the all-time record for homeruns by a catcher. He got a very nice send off when he left the team and got a nice mini celebration when he returned as a Padre the following season. He was part of the last pitch at Shea (with Tom Seaver) as well as part of the first pitch at Citifield (also with Seaver).
This is all nice. It's not enough.
Let me tell you a story about my friend Tom.
Tom is a big baseball fan (he's a Yankee fan, but let's not hold that against him). He's big into the history of the game and he and I have had endless debates about the Hall of Fame. Tom covers the Yankees (and Mets) for Newsday (first as a photographer and lately as a Videographer for the website) so he's been around both organizations quite a lot.
So for years, he's been trying to get my (and my kids, including his Godson Alex) to make a trip up to Cooperstown.
However I refuse to go. Yet.
We started having the talk about going as long as 13 years ago. I was holding out.
"I'll go," I told him, "the next time a player goes in as a Met."
"So we're never going?" he replied.
My thought was this: Gary Carter was going on the ballot for the Hall of Fame that year (this was 1998). Carter had made it no secret that he wanted to go into the Hall as a Met. At the time, the Hall didn't decide what team's cap the players wore when they went in and generally allowed the players to choose if they had a preference and it wasn't a ridiculous one (like Wade Boggs going in as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray for example). I figured Carter would get in in his first or second year... go in as a Met and we'd make the trip to celebrate.
Ah, the best laid plans...
So first off it takes the voters six years to elect Carter in (which was ridiculous in itself. A year wait yes... two I could see... MAYBE three... but the fact he had to wait six was unreal) so he doesn't go in until 2003.
And second, Dave Winfield and George Stienbrenner changed the whole way the Hall of Fame worked.
2001 saw Dave Winfield go into the Hall of Fame (something he very much deserved). However, he chose to go in as a Padre instead of a Yankee. This, after the Yankees were to give him a 'Dave Winfield Day'. This irked George Stienbrenner to no end and rumors that the Padres paid Winfield a million dollars to choose a Padre cap circulated. Winfield actually had spent more time as a Yankee, it was argued, so why would he choose the Padres? Steinbrenner raised a huge stink about it and the Hall of Fame committe responded by taking the choice away from the players. 2001 would be the last time a plaer could choose the cap that would be on his plaque.
Why is this relevant? Because the Hall of Fame ignored Carter's request to go into the Hall as a Met and placed him in as a Montreal Expo instead.
So of course the trip never happened. Tom brings it up every year.
Back to Mike Piazza.
In 2013 Piazza will be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. As the greatest hitting catcher of all time (with apologies to Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and Carlton Fisk), I cannot imagine he will not go into the Hall in his first year of eligbility. Even if he doesn't by some bizarre reason, he'll make it in 2014.
And when the time comes, Piazza woud like to go in as a New York Met. He has been quoted (more than once) as such.
Unlike Carter in his Expo/Met split, Piazza actually played for the Mets longer than he did for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He played six and a quarter seasons for the Dodgers (of course he only had 69 at bats in 1992 so he was only a Dodger for Five full seasons and a half really).
He played seven and a half seasons for the Mets.
He never won a playoff game as a Dodger, making the postseason only once.
He won a number of postseason series with the Mets, including going to the World Series in 2000.
If you look at his overall best seasons they were 1995-97 with the Dodgers and 1999-2001 with the Mets.
He hit 169 HRs with 563 RBIs for the Dodgers.
He hit 220 HRs with 655 RBIs for the Mets. (and that was with missing half a season in 2003 to injury).
(Yeah. I'm trying reassure myself. Shaddap.)
In any case, there should be no reason Piazza will go into the Hall as a Met... but stranger things have happened. So why take chances?
The Mets need to take total possession of the image of Piazza. Right now, when you look at Tom Seaver, you think "Mets". You don't think "Reds". The same has to be with Piazza. Have a Mike Piazza Day. Retire his number. Offer him a position in the front office or the Broadcast booth (he's actually pretty good) or as a scout or a coach or something. ANYthing.
Make sure that when the HOF committe has to choose that cap, they think "Piazza? Met. All the way."
With all of the issues the owners have... with the doubts about the on-field team most people seem to have... isn't this the perfect time to start garnering some good vibes? Wash away the crap for a while and do something the entire fan base will not only get behind, but will love.
My God. What are you waiting for? Do it already.