It was a muggy and rainy day that might’ve lead to the game being called on any other night.
But they weren’t going to call this game as it was the night the Mets were retiring Mike Piazza‘s number 31. With the 31 inside a home plate mowed into centerfield, the Mets were ready, and nothing was going to stop the night.
Then Piazza would come through the Mets dugout that seemed to have most of the players there, and the crowd erupted.
The video introducing him was spot on making sure to put an emphasis on his post 9/11 home run
The only thing missing from the tribute was Mets fans giving him a curtain call after he homered off former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.
Speaking of former teammates, there was some surprise that there weren’t more of his old Mets teammates there. Frankly, I was shocked there was no John Franco, but you don’t know the scheduling issues that would prevent people from coming. For example, you know White Sox manager Robin Ventura would never be able to make it.
You still didn’t notice it too much with who was there. There was old fan favorite Cliff Floyd. The best Mets second baseman of all time Edgardo Alfonzo. The last player there was the first Mets pitcher Piazza ever caught, Al Leiter. Since leaving the Mets, Leiter was never treated properly by Mets fans for how great a Met he was, but on this day, he would be with a loud standing ovation. Then we finally saw the number unveiled:
Piazza honored everyone including the fans. He took in the moment as Mets fans did as well. His induction to Cooperstown was a coronation, but this was a celebration with 42,207 of his closest friends. There would be no roomfor booing as Piazza would remind the fans when he brought up the Wilpons. That’s the power of Piazza – he can get the fans to stop booing the Wilpons.
He gave a poignant speech letting the fans know that for as long as his 31 hangs in Citi Field, he will be with all of us. As he parted, he tried to inspire everyone saying that whenever the team needs inspiration, they need only look up to left field and remember that old Mikey is with them.
After he threw out the first pitch from home plate to Leiter, it was game time
Yes, there were some jokes about Piazza not doing it to Alfonzo at second. The real joke was what followed. The team either didn’t listen or was too undermanned to draw from these inspirational words.
The game itself. It was never going to match the beauty of that ceremony, but it didn’t need to be that ugly. The team never heeded his parting advice.
Given how the Mets have been playing, and the lineup that was put out there, the loss was no surprise. The Mets starter AAA cast-off Justin Ruggiano in center, a reall defensively challenged Kelly Johnson at first, a 43 year old Bartolo Colon on three days rest, and of course Neil Walker. Not even facing the worst starter in baseball Jorge De La Rosa could revive this offense.
It was just a brutal game that saw Terry Collins get tossed in the fourth, and frankly, most Mets fans didn’t stay for much longer than that it a 7-2 loss.
Overall, the only thing worse than the loss was knowing that Tom Seaver was physically unable to attend the ceremony. It was still a great night, and years from now, I will always remember seeing this for the first time.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes was put on the DL before the game.
Every single one of us has our favorite players. Growing up, I loved Gary Carter. If I had a blog back in 1997, it would’ve been named ElectGaryCartertotheHallofFameNow.com.Finally, in 2003, The Kid was finally elected in the Hall of Fame. I wanted him to go in as a Met and for him to have his number retired by the team.
There would be controversy over his cap. To understand the controversy, we have to go back in time a bit. There was a time that players were not selecting caps due to the team they felt most closely aligned or where they accomished the most. No, players were selecting caps based upon financial incentives.
Dave Winfield received $1 million to wear a Padres cap on his Hall of Fame plaque when he was inducted in 2001. Winfield going into the Hall as a Padre wasn’t an egregious choice. He started his career there, and he played eight years there as opposed to nine with the Yankees. He did have better numbers with the Yankees, but he was also treated awfully by them. Steinbrenner dubbed him Mr. May to deride his production in a pennant race. Steinbrenner hired gamblers and private investigators to “dig up dirt” on Winfield to get out from under the contact. So no, it’s not surprising Winfield chose the Padres cap and the $1 million.
Winfield wasn’t egregious, but it was the sign of a larger problem. That problem would come to a head with Wade Boggs. There were rumors that Boggs negotiated in his contract that he would enter the Hall of Fame as a Tampa Bay Devil Ray. It forces the Hall of Fame’s hand, and they began the process of selecting player caps, even if it was against a player’s wishes. As we saw with Andre Dawson, it’s a move that benefitted the defunct Montreal Expos.
On the one hand, it’s a move that had to be made. You couldn’t have players and teams negotiating this away in one year contracts towards the end of a player’s career. The Hall of Fame does have some responsibility to preserve history. On the other hand, the Hall of Fame has overstepped its bounds a bit. Remember they did allow Reggie Jackson to enter the Hall of Fame as a Yankee (5 years) as opposed to the Athletics (10 years). They allowed Nolan Ryan to enter the Hall of Fame as a Ranger (5 of his worst years) instead of an Astro (9 years) or an Angel (8 years).
Carter played 12 years for the Expos, and 5 with the Mets. Based on the Jackson/Ryan standard he should’ve had his choice even if Carter was an Expo through and through. However, Carter wanted to go in as a Met. The Hall of Fame decided he would go in as the first Montreal Expos; a decision Carter did not object.
Unfortunately, the decision cost him. The Expos moved to Washington a year and a half after his induction. The franchise almost immediately unretired the number of their first Hall of Famer. Also, it cost Carter his chance of the Mets retiring his number 8.
As we saw with Mike Piazza, the Mets have set an exceedingly high standard for retiring numbers. For their players, the Mets have reserved that honor for players who have entered the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap. With one decision made by the Hall of Fame, not by Carter, Carter was cheated of his chance to have his number retired by the Mets. Sadly, even if the Mets reverse course, the day honoring Carter will be melancholy with his untimely death at the all too young age of 57.
If Carter isn’t there to enjoy the honor, I believe the moment has passed. As much as I may have wanted it one day, I don’t think the time is now. If the Carter family feels differently, I certainly would change my tune.