Ben Berkon recently wrote an post about how the Mets trading for Mike Piazza was one of the most Amazin Moves in franchise history. Indeed he is right, and Piazza is often regarded as the greatest Mets hitter of all time. Furthermore, the former backstop seems like a lock for Cooperstown and has stated that he’d like to be inducted as a Met. Of course, it’s not quite that easy.
Beginning in 2001, the Hall of Fame began choosing which team cap would be represented on the player’s plaque. There had been some notable instances over the years regarding cap selection, including Nolan Ryan choosing to go in as a Texas Ranger, despite spending only five years their as opposed to nine with the Houston Astros and eight with the California Angels, and Dave Winfield electing to be inducted as a San Diego Padres given his feud with the late George Steinbrenner. The Hall now makes the decision, and coincidentally, Gary Carter (the second greatest catcher in Mets history) was forced to go in as a Montreal Expo, despite his desire to sport the Met logo instead. But fear not Met fans, for Piazza should become the second player to be enshrined with the Met cap in Cooperstown.
The other team cap vying for real estate on Piazza’s head is the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with which he began his career. Dodgers fans weren’t too kind to Mike when he made his periodic returns to Dodger Stadium, but that doesn’t mean the Hall won’t seriously consider their team as an option. There are no set list of criteria for selection (besides the eligibility requirements, such as playing for ten years and appearing on the ballot five years after retirement), there seems to be a general consensus that basic statistics and length of time playing are two important factors.
Piazza posted a better slash line with Los Angeles, batting .331/.394/.572 as opposed to .296/.373/.524 with New York. His best offensive season (1997) also came in LA, when Mike hit an incredible .362/.431/.638 with 40 homers and 124 RBI, finishing second in the National League MVP voting for the second straight year (he lost out to Ken Caminiti in ’96 and Larry Walker in ’97) and producing a WAR of 9.3 (not that Cooperstown looks at WAR, but by comparison, his highest WAR while in New York was 5.5). He also garnered the Rookie of the Year Award with the Dodgers in 1993.
What tilts the scales in favor of the Mets is the fact that Piazza has played more games wearing blue and orange. For his career, Piazza played 972 games as a Met (which could’ve been more had it not been for all of the injuries) as opposed to 726 with the Dodgers. Playing more games in New York allowed him to hit 220 home runs as an Amazin, compared to 177 with Los Angeles. He also made two post appearances with the Mets, including the 2000 World Series. With the Dodgers, Piazza also reached the postseason twice, in ’95 and ’96, but both times they were eliminated in the first round.
And then there are the intangibles, what Piazza “meant” to each franchise. I can’t speak for Dodger fans, but for the Mets, Piazza was a game changer. The day he was acquired the Mets became a legitimate playoff contender and the franchise’s credibility was restored (at least temporarily). He helped the Mets get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1988, and the World Series since 1986. He was the slugger in the lineup and his post-9/11 home run is forever etched in my mind. It’s a little subjective of me to say, but I believe Piazza had a larger impact in New York than LA.
Of course it’s the Baseball Writers Association of America who will have the final say, not Piazza, Met fans or me. Either way, I expect Piazza to be inducted on the first ballot, or maybe the second if something goes awry, in 2013. I will then make my long pilgrimage to Cooperstown to hopefully see the second Met inducted into the Hall of Fame
Tags: 2013 Amazin Move Atlanta Braves Ben Berkon Cooperstown Hall Of Fame Ken Caminiti Larry Walker Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Kaufman Mike Piazza Most Valuable Player MVP Playoffs Queens Rising Apple Tom Seaver Trade World Series