Mike Piazza’s case for glory


A distressed city needed his support, and he delivered it. A passionate fan base craved his power, and he unleashed it. And meanwhile, a record book silently waited for a 62nd round pick who would become the greatest hitting catcher in the history of baseball to do his thing.

This is the Mike Piazza I grew up with, a man I admitted and respected during the steroid-ridden era of the early 2000’s. In a sense he was the perfect poster boy for little children who only saw cheaters like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa rewrite the record books.

I didn’t have a ballot to fill out for this year’s Hall of Fame class, but if I had the honor of having a say in the process, Mike Piazza would be in the same hall as guys with the first names of Hank, Babe, Lou and Jackie.

Because I never knew the Piazza who “definitely took ‘roids” or “was a blatant cheater.” Why can’t overachievers get the credit they deserve without a steroid convinced entourage from the media?

Statistically speaking, Piazza was not only the greatest hitting catcher of his generation, but he was also the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He hit 427 home runs (1), drove in 1,335 runs (4), and contributed a .308 lifetime batting average, good for third among all catchers. His .545 slugging percentage is nearly 50 points better than Javy Lopez’s, who was is second in the category for backstops.

Baseball-Almanac compiled a list of every catcher in the Hall of Fame and compared their stats. Where does Piazza rank among them?

Well, Piazza has a .308 lifetime batting average, good for third on that list. His on base percentage is .377, good for fourth on that list. And his power makes him the most effective offensive backstop on the board, dominating in the home run and slugging percentage categories.

But one of his biggest calling cards is far away from the stat sheet. “Memories define us. They display our individually,” someone once said. Piazza took those words to heart.

A grieving city found themselves at Shea Stadium on September 21, 2001 following the attacks on the country just 10 days earlier. And in the first professional sports event in New York City after the horrific tragedy, Piazza did this:

Amazin’ Avenue published a fantastic article titled “Debunking the Mike Piazza steroid myth.” In it, they explore that Piazza, in fact, did not take steroids.

"“There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids,” says another major league veteran who played against Piazza for years. “Everyone talked about it, everyone knew it. Guys on my team, guys on the Mets. A lot of us came up playing against Mike, so we knew what he looked like back in the day. Frankly, he sucked on the field. Just sucked. After his body changed, he was entirely different. ‘Power from nowhere,’ we called it.”When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, to grade the odds that Piazza had used performance enhancers, the player doesn’t pause.“A 12,” he says. “Maybe a 13.”"

That was written in Jeff Pearlman’s book about Roger Clemens, The Rocket that Fell to Earth.

"“Somewhere along the line, there is every chance that Mike Piazza or Jeff Bagwell will get my vote. Right now, I have little choice but to look at them skeptically. (Again, the MLBPA sacrificed the right to be innocent until proven guilty.) Bagwell hit for virtually no power in the minor leagues and finished with career totals similar to those of Juan Gonzalez, who is not in. Piazza was a 62nd round draft pick — the 62nd round doesn’t even exist anymore, for goodness sake — who turned into one of the greatest power-hitting catchers of all-time.”"

That was Tony Massarotti of Boston.com writing why this year shouldn’t be the year that Piazza gets inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he is entitled to his own opinion, where is the concrete evidence backing this up? In fact, is there any evidence to back this up?

And the answer is no. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a big deal. And for the Mets and Dodgers star, the difference between getting inducted in 2014 and 2021 is quite a large difference.

Gone are the days of the overachiever. If you’re good, you’re accused of being on steroids. But that shouldn’t be the case. “Power from nowhere?” That’s comical! Anybody who watched the kid play in high school saw his potential in the batter’s box. While he was drafted as a favor by longtime friend and Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, but that was because he lacked a position – not because of questions about his bat. Are you trying to tell me that every success story is courtesy of steroid use?

In fact, here is his scouting report, courtesy of Amazin’ Avenue:

Mike Piazza was the greatest-hitting catcher of all time and a fan favorite. There is no legitimate reason why he has been on the outskirts of the Hall of Fame for this long.

The time has come. Today is the day when Mike Piazza should receive the news that he’s been elected to Cooperstown. It may not happen, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t already long overdue.