Ever since Fred Wilpon announced he was considering selling off 20-25% of the franchise, several potential, interested buyers have been coming forth. The most realistic group so far has been one led by Martin Luther King III, the son of the great Civil Rights leader. But one has to wonder what would be best for the New York Mets–a buyer who just has a lot of money, or one who has the money but also has tangible ties to the game, or better yet, the Mets.
That’s where Mike Piazza comes in. Piazza, who is now retired, was once one of the top hitters in the game, and is arguably the best hitting catcher in baseball history. While he was drafted by and rose to stardom with the Los Angeles Dodgers, “Pizza Man” also spent eight memorable seasons with the Mets. In fact, during those eight seasons, the Mets reached the playoffs two times–including the “Subway Series” World Series against the New York Yankees.
Before Mike Piazza came to the Mets in exchange for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz, the team had not reached the playoffs since 1988–a drought that left most fans discontent with the franchise. However, Piazza’s presence during the late 1990′s and early 2000′s signaled a change for the first time in a decade. The Mets became a competitive team–one that rivaled their cross-town rivals. This type of momentum and winning mentality, again, is needed.
As generous as the Wilpons have occasionally been in terms of dishing out contracts over the years, their knowledge about running a competitive franchise has always been suspect–especially when Fred brought his son, Jeff Wilpon, into the picture. As a prospective owner, Mike Piazza would have a broader understanding of roles within the franchise due to his first-hand playing experience. For instance, Piazza would understand the importance of hiring a manager who could keep a team unified on a long road trip and even properly manage a bullpen. He would also realize that superseding a general manager’s decision–merely based on ego–wouldn’t bode well for the team.
Despite citing interest to return to baseball in an executive role, it’s unlikely Piazza, who made over $120 million in his on-field baseball career, will form a group to purchase the Mets. But if the Wilpons are serious about selling a minority stake in the franchise, one has to hope the new owner will at least care about winning as much as the players and fans do.
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