This afternoon, Piazza spoke with Mike Francesa on WFAN. Since most of the topics that were discussed during today’s interview have already been covered by Piazza in recent days, Rising Apple was looking to report on questions that were new or responses that varied from what Piazza has stated recently. Here are the highlights, followed by Rising Apple’s thoughts on his Hall of Fame candidacy (after the final question).
His thoughts about being traded to the Mets-
I was completely spinning…this was a minute by minute ‘you’re going here, you’re going there.’ I was very excited to come to New York and especially Shea Stadium…I knew the challenge, and I knew the Mets were slowly building a very interesting team and a very colorful team…I had a little bit of apprehension, but once I got here and the way the guys just took me in, I knew it was meant to be.
On the 2000 World Series-
I hate to say it wasn’t in the cards, because it was so close for us. I truly feel like we could’ve won that series. It wasn’t meant to be. That’s one of the big, sad things in my career – that I didn’t get to win a World Series.
On steroids, and it being unfair that he didn’t get into the Hall of Fame based merely on suspicion-
(Regarding denying that he used steroids) I just don’t understand what part of ‘no’ people don’t understand.
Was he ever tempted to use steroids?
I had too much respect for the game…it’s just something I didn’t think about…the supplements that I took were available over the counter. Once I realized they were becoming scrutinized, I knew that I had to stop them.
Does he think of himself as a Met or a Dodger?
I’ve had some great moments with both teams. I think at least my more memorable moments I feel are with the Mets. There’s no question about it. I can’t completely discount my Dodger days because they were a huge part of my life…but coming here and all the emotions and all the pressures were that much more intense, and I was able to have a pretty good career here. All these memories and all these moments as you mentioned. There’s no question that that’s something for me that is very special. It’s something I’ll obviously never forget. I’ll wake up at night and think about a pitch or a memory. It haunts me in a good way.
What does he think about when he puts his career in perspective?
Proud and humbling at the same time…it was a checkered past, it was up and down, trials and tribulations. A lot of happiness, a lot of sadness and frustration as well. It’s a true American story…a story about passion and about love for baseball. I just wanted to share it with people.
If he has a son (Piazza and his wife are expecting their third child), does he want him to be a baseball player?
For the Mets. They may need a catcher some day.
What keeps him busy these days?
Coaching with the Italians (in the World Baseball Classic). I love the Classic…it’s something that’s near and dear to me. I’m involved with the Italian American foundation…I’ve been having fun and been enjoying the fact that I can watch a game now and not really care who wins…I live in Miami…just take it day by day and enjoy life right now.
Who was he closest to on the Mets?
I loved Lenny (Harris). Lenny was great, Pat Mahomes was one of the funniest guys I ever played with…Al (Leiter).
Could he ever be a coach or a manager in the majors?
You never know…I’m enjoying my family now…one day maybe when the kids are a little older I’ll get that itch.
…At this point, it comes down to this: Barring evidence or an admission, it’s impossible to prove that Mike Piazza (or any other player who ever played baseball and hasn’t been caught cheating) ever used performance enhancing drugs. Could he have? Sure. But so could have Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas, John Cangelosi, Pat Kelly, or anyone post 1987 who you feel like naming.
Do Mets fans want Piazza to be innocent? Of course we do. Are we a bit biased? Probably.
Still, Piazza’s name never appeared on a list of cheaters. He never failed a drug test. There isn’t an anecdote from a named or unnamed player, coach, or executive who claims to have ever seen Piazza using illegal performance enhancing drugs, or who states that Piazza told them he was using. Piazza’s numbers never spiked in an odd way, and they tailed off as expected as he got older. He’s been denying the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs since 1997.
You want to tell me Piazza was taken in the 62nd round? Fine. I’ll counter with the fact that Kurt Warner was plucked from obscurity, and that Tom Brady was an afterthought in the NFL Draft. I’ll also counter with the fact that Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, watched Piazza hit when he was 16 years old. What did Williams say? That Piazza was better than he was at that age.
People bashed Piazza for not releasing his book until after the Hall of Fame vote because they thought he might be hiding something. It turns out he wasn’t hiding anything. He could’ve refused to address the steroids rumors in the book, but he spoke openly about them. After coming out with the book, he could’ve let the contents stand alone. He hasn’t.
Mike Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher of all time. There isn’t a shred of evidence linking him to illegal performance enhancing drugs. He’s denied cheating since he was first asked about it 16 years ago.
He’s behaving like someone who has nothing to hide, and the odds are that he’s right. If he isn’t elected to the Hall of Fame next year, the way the voting is conducted should be changed. Frankly, keeping him out again would be an absolute disgrace. The writers need to use their judgment and get this right.
When Piazza is inducted, there’s no question it should be with a Mets cap on his plaque. He had his more dominant years with the Dodgers, but hit more home runs and had more RBI’s as a Met. He played with the Dodgers for six plus seasons and the Mets for nearly eight. If you simply look at those factors, it’s a toss up. However, when you take everything else into account, it becomes a no-brainer.
Piazza had his biggest moments as a Met. He guided the team to the Playoffs in 1999 and to the World Series in 2000. In the first sporting event in New York City after the September 11th terrorist attacks, he hit one of the biggest home runs in the history of the city. He was so beloved by the fans that he was given an awe inspiring sendoff during his final game with the Mets in 2005, and was welcomed back as a Padre in 2006 with one of the loudest, most prolonged ovations I’ve ever heard (I was there). Piazza is revered in New York, while he hasn’t set foot in Dodger Stadium as a non-player since he was traded 15 years ago. He’s been asked over and over since his retirement which cap he wants on his Hall of Fame plaque, and the answer has been the Mets each and every time.
If the writers get this right, Piazza will get that wish next year.