When Mike Piazza first came to the Mets, he was treated as the rock star he was. With him finally came the dreams of postseason berths and World Series titles.
Then something bizarre happened. He struggled, and he was booed. I still don’t understand it, but it happened. Piazza was incredible when he came to the Mets. With the Mets floundering, Piazza took his play to another level carrying the Mets ever so close to the Wild Card. With the treatment he received, Piazza had every reason to walk, but he didn’t he stayed. He wanted to be a superstar in the biggest market.
Cespedes came to the Mets, and he was a rock star. His coming to the Mets coincided with them taking control of the NL East. Unlike Piazza, Cespedes never received the boos. To that extent, he was a bit lucky. After Cespedes was hit on the hand, his play declined. He went from Babe Ruth to Mario Mendoza. In the final 18 games of the 2015 season, he only hit .220/.288/.373 with one homerun and four RBI. However, the NL East was sown up. He wasn’t going to receive boos.
The closest anyone would come was in the World Series. He missed player introductions before Game Three. After an uneven postseason, he fell apart in the World Series. He misplayed Alcides Escobar‘s flyball into an inside-the-park homerun. He hit .150/.143/.150 with six strikeouts in the series. Perhaps it was the shoulder injury. Maybe it was the moment.
No one would boo. Fans don’t boo you in the postseason unless you’re Bobby Bonilla. However, his play was poor enough that fans were initially ready to let Cespedes walk.
However, with an initially less than optimal offseason, Mets fans wanted Cespedes back. He wanted to come back too. All of what drove Mets fans crazy has been forgotten. Fans are re-embracing him. They love the cars. They love his little quirks. It’s a second honeymoon. That doesn’t mean that the fans won’t boo him this upcoming season.
Cespedes is notoriously streaky. As far as fans are concerned, he’s the face of the team. One long cold streak coinciding with a struggling Mets team could bring out the boo birds instead of the parakeets. It’s exactly what Piazza had to deal with 18 years ago. It’s the reason why Cespedes and Piazza need to talk.
Piazza can walk him through what it means to be a superstar in New York. He can tell him how to deal with the booing. He can share how the fans lifted him up when he needed it. He knows the ins and outs of being the a superstar on the Mets. That’s what Cespedes is now.
Fortunately, Cespedes has a Hall of Famer he can lean on to prepare for it.
With one bold move, the Mets completely transformed their team with the acquistion of Mike Piazza. While he was not immediately adored (he was replacing the injured fan favorite Todd Hundley), he became a beloved Met.
To understand the Piazza adoration, you first have to understand what was happening. Honestly, I think things were worse in 1998 than they were now. The Mets were in year 10 of a rebuild from the glorious 80’s teams. That involved every player Mets fans loved leaving the team. The first step in the rebuild was The Worst Team Money Could Buy. This started some depressing baseball.
After that was the Vince Coleman firecracker incident. There was also the Bret Saberhagen bleach incident. The fans took everything out on Bobby Bonilla, who would wear earplugs to drown out the booing. It’s hard to see a team lose without trying. It’s worse to see a team try and be incompetent in doing so.This all set the Mets back years. Throw in the 1994 season ending strike, and you had the nadir of Mets baseball in my lifetime.
Nope, it wasn’t quite the nadir yet. The rebuild for the 90’s Mets was based on the same theory as the current Mets. It was based upon pitching. The problem is it didn’t work in the 90’s. The Mets entrusted Generation K to Dallas Green. All of the arms burned out. They were all injured under his watch. The Mets switched to Steve Phillips and Bobby Valentine, and things started getting better. It’s hard to imagine it, but 88 wins felt like the Mets had actually won something.
Part of the reason is the Mets acquired Mike Piazza. He came to the Mets in 1998 and he hit .348/.417/.607 with 23 homers and 76 RBI in 109 games. He did what Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes did in 2015. He carried the team for almost a whole season. He transformed the team. The Mets had no choice but to bring him back.
In 1999, he became the second Met to hit 40 home runs in a season. He led the team to the playoffs (even if they needed a play-in game to get there). He hit a homerun in the 1999 NLCS that I seriously thought was going to help propel the Mets to win Game 6 and complete the then impossible:
In 2000, he again led the Mets to the postseason. For much of that year, he was considered an MVP candidate. Unfortunately, the Mets lost as Piazza’s ball didn’t carry far enough. It was a shame because Piazza was the reason Mets fans had pride. He was the reason the Mets fans believed they could win it all. He was the reason the Mets could step toe to toe with the Yankees.
They did. There were some epic games between the two teams back when the Subway Series mattered. Everyone remembers the Matt Franco single, but they forget the two Piazza bombs in that game:
Did you see where that ball went? How epic was that bat flip? He was a dangerous and feared hitter. It’s why Roger Clemens went after him not once but twice. But getting back to the home runs, it was one of several huge home runs he hit for the Mets. Do you remember the homerun he hit against the Braves capping off a huge comeback:
I remember being there that night. It was insane. That homerun sums up his tenure with the Mets perfectly. Even against teams like the seemingly unbeatable Braves and Yankees, the Mets always had a chance no matter how bleak the odds were. Seeing those highlights made me a little emotional. That reminds me of this moment:
To me, that’s still the greatest homerun ever hit. If you didn’t forever love and respect Piazza before that night, you did now. It’s part of the reason why after he left Mets fans still cheered him. I know I returned in 2006 for his first game back. It was important for me to cheer the man that meant so much to Mets fans:
I remember the constant standing ovations and cheering his name. I just wish I was there for the next night when he got a curtain call:
Seriously, how many visiting players get a curtain call? This moment shows how much Piazza means to Mets fans. We loved him. It seems he loved us back. He came back to close out Shea and open up Citi Field. He is now the guy who throws out the first pitch at World Series games.
Whether it’s today or in the future, Mike Piazza will be a Hall of Famer. He deserves it. Mets fans deserve it. It’s important to a of us. We want to see him recognized for all he did for the Mets and all Mets fans. My favorite Mets teams were the ones with Mike Piazza. He’s my favorite Met. He’s my favorite player.
It’s important to me and all Mets fans he gets elected to the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps, the Mets biggest free agent remains unsigned. No, not Yoenis Cespedes. I’m of course referring to Keith Hernandez. As Adam Rubin reported, Keith remains unsigned. Most people expect him to return. I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t.
We know this isn’t the first time it was rumored that Keith was leaving SNY. There was his infamous 2009 sign-off where he hinted he may not return. As we know, Keith returned, and he has been a part of the Gary, Keith, and Ron (GKR) booth ever since. So, why is this time any different?
For starters, we had the Bobby Ojeda situation last year. Every Mets fan seemed to enjoy his work. I believe that was because Ojeda didn’t mince words. He called it as he saw it. Mets fans appreciated it regardless of whether we agreed with him or not. Unsurprisingly, it was reported the issue was money. Ojeda was replaced with Nelson Figueroa, who was presumably cheaper and definitively less critical.
We don’t currently know what the reason why Keith’s deal hasn’t been completed. We also know this isn’t the first time this offseason it was rumored the GKR booth was breaking up. There were the rumors Ron Darling may be poached by NESN to call Red Sox games. It turns out there was nothing to the rumors as Ron never had any conversations with NESN. I still question how those rumors arose.
What we do know is the Mets have been penny pinching this offseason. Instead of $12.5 million a year for Daniel Murphy, it’s around $9 million for Neil Walker. Instead of $9 million for Jon Niese, it’s $7.25 million for Bartolo Colon. Free agent Tyler Clippard earned $8.3 million last year, but the Mets did bring back Jerry Blevins for $4 million. Then there’s every Mets fans’ favorite, Cespedes was paid $10.5 million last year, and he remains unsigned (he seems to want double that). In his stead is the $5.75 million Alejandro De Aza. The total savings of those moves is $14.3 million.
Sure, I didn’t include the $8.25 million to Asdrubal Cabrera. That would reduce savings to $6.05 million. However, I also didn’t include the retirement of Michael Cuddyer, which took $12.5 million off the books. In total, that’s $18.55 million in savings. The Mets have increased revenues and attendance, and yet, they’re still cutting corners. Put aside your feelings on the wisdom of these moves, it’s fair to say the Mets saved money in each mechanation.
With that in mind, why should we feel the Wilpons will act differently with SNY? They already did it with Ojeda. Is Keith really immune to cost cutting measures? I’d argue no, and admittedly fans are partially to blame.
Be honest with yourself. If Keith is gone, will you stop watching Mets games in 2016? Of course not. You’re watching them to see if they can go back to the World Series. As we all know, there is higher attendance figures and higher ratings when a team is good. The Mets could hire Joe Buck and Bobby Bonilla to call the games, and you’d still watch. It may be on mute, but you’d still watch.
That’s the reason I wouldn’t be surprised if Keith wasn’t re-signed. The Mets are good again. SNY doesn’t need GKR to help drive ratings. They have a good team to do that. With all that said, I still believe Keith will be back next year.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he wasn’t.