MIke Piazza

BBWAA’s Responsibility in Hall of Fame Voting

There has been a recent push by the BBWAA to expand the amount of players that can be voted for in any particular ballot. 

On the surface, the request is extremely reasonable. They want to eliminate limits or increase the limit on the number of players you can vote for in any ballot. It’s a great argument. If there are 15 players who are truly Hall of Fame worthy, you should be able to vote for 15 players. However, there is a subtext to the request:

The voters really voicing this opinion want the PED guys to go into the Hall of Fame. That’s their prerogative. They have a vote and can do with it as they please. Other voters who disagree can do the same. Looking over last year’s voting, the highest percent of the vote amongst confirmed steroids users went to Roger Clemens with 37.5% of the vote. It seems the overall electorate has spoken on how the PED guys should be treated. 

So the 37.5% are really left with a choice. Do you continue to vote for players like Clemens, or do you vote for someone else. Admittedly, it’s not an easy decision. You’re stuck between voting for someone you seem worthy or voting for someone who you deem deserving but may not be as good. For example, do you vote for Clemens or Curt Schilling?  Schilling had 39.2% of the vote last year. 

The question is how each voter views their job. Is it their job to vote for the 10 best players (assuming there are 10 worthy candidates), or is it their job to elect worthy players into the Hall of Fame? This is probably the first time this has been an either/or proposition. In their history, members of the BBWAA have voted both ways. 

There are voters who write-in the name of Pete Rose each year. Why?  There is no way Rose can be elected. Even if Rose received a write-in vote on 75% of the ballots, he’d still be ineligible. This is nothing more than taking a stand on principle. 

On the flip side, we see voters who vote for players they once deemed not Hall of Fame worthy. Jim Rice went from 29.8% of the vote in his first year to 76.4% in his last year of eligibility. Unlike Bert Blyleven, Rice didn’t have a new statistical approach to the sport to support him. No, it was a separation from his poor relationship with voters as well as superlatives thrown his way like his being a feared hitter. 

The person who finished third the year Rice was elected was Andre Dawson with 67.0% of the vote. The next year he was elected with 77.9% in his ninth year of eligibility. The top vote getter not elected was the aforementioned Blyleven with 74.2% of the vote. Behind him was Roberto Alomar with 73.7% of the vote. They would both be elected the next year. It was Blyleven’s 14th year on the ballot and Alomar’s second. 

You see the pattern. In fact, anyone who has received over 64.8% of the vote on any year has eventually been elected to the Hall of Fame. Eventually, the voters tend to coalesce around a candidate to get them elected regardless of their prior thought process. 

Going back to Clemens and Schilling, for whom should a voter cast their vote?  If the idea is to elect candidates who are worthy and can actually be elected, you vote for Schilling. If you follow the Hall of Fame voting patterns, you vote for Schilling. Regardless of how you feel about PED users, is it worth it to block Schilling’s path to the Hall of Fame so you can enter a vote for Clemens?

If you think both are worthy, what purpose does it serve to not vote for Schilling?  If you’re complaining there isn’t enough spots, you need to vote for the most electable candidates. If you aren’t, you are effectively acting as a voter who makes a distinction between first ballot Hall of Famers and non-First Ballot Hall of Famers. Effectively, you are saying Schilling belongs in, but only after Clemens makes the Hall of Fame. 

If you think someone belongs in the Hall of Fame and they have not been linked to PEDs, you must vote for them. This isn’t limited to Schilling. It incorporates anyone who is on the ballot whether it be Mike Mussina or Mike Piazza. Really, it incorporates anyone you deem Hall of Fane worthy. If there are any spots left, then vote for the Clemenses of the world. 

Not voting for Schilling means you subscribe to a tier system in the Hall of Fame; a tier system that does not exist. It has to stop. 

Ricky Henderson Used Steroids*

No, no he didn’t. There’s absolutely zero proof in my or anyone else’s possession that Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson used steroids. To make such a claim would require pure speculation of specious or non-existent evidence. That’s the point. I can use the same arguments used against other players to construct a narrative that Henderson used steroids. 

In 1980, Henderson has his first full season in the big leagues. From day one, he had the look of a Hall of Famer. He was an All Star and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting. Keep in mind, as a young player in the early 80’s , Henderson looked like this:

  

Look at how slender he was. Of course he was. He was a leadoff hitter who started his career with single digit homers and tremendous stolen base numbers. He had a 130 stolen bases in 1982 while hitting just 10 homeruns. At that point, both were career highs. 

Henderson would go to the Yankees and eventually return to the Athletics again. This time, however, he would be teammates with two of the most notorious steroid users in major league history: Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. He had a manager in Tony La Russa who actively looked the other way. It’s no wonder that in 1990, at the age of 31, he had a career high in homers at 28. He went from a 10 homerun guy to a 28 homerun guy. Because we didn’t know then what we know now, he won the MVP award that year.

Henderson would continue to be an effective everyday player until he was 40 years old. In his age 40 season, he played in 121 games hitting .315/.423/.466 with 12 homeruns and 37 stolen bases.  Keep in mind, we know 40 year olds can never, ever be effective baseball players. Of course that season, Henderson looked like this:


Look at the increased muscle definition. He went from a guy who hit 9 homers to a guy who hit 28 homers.  He is a guy that was an everyday player until he was 42. He played until he was 44. There is no other possible explanation for this other than he used steroids. 

Why didn’t that prevent the voters from keeping him out of the Hall of Fame?  Probably because this isn’t evidence. It’s pure speculation.  Unfair speculation at that. Personally, I don’t think Henderson used steroids. I have no proof that he did. Any “proof” I have here is satire instead of evidence. The reason is because none of this prevented voters from electing him to the Hall of Fame. 

However, this is what voters have been using to keep Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza out of the Hall of Fame. Both were contemporaries of Henderson with muscle definition, and yet they reserved the judgment for Piazza and Bagwell. It’s as inconsistent as it is unfair. 

I’m in the school of keeping steroid players out of the Hall of Fame. However, I require proof that someone cheated. I’m not going to play a guessing game because if I did, I just as easily have used the same criteria to keep Rickey Henderson out of the Hall of Fame.  Keep mind Henderson received 94.8% of the vote. That’s a very large percentage of people applying different standards. 

For Hall of Fame voting, all I ask is you have a standard and apply it universally. There may be reasons to keep Bagwell and Piazza out of the Hall of Fame, but perceived steroids use isn’t one of them.  It wasn’t sufficient to keep Henderson out of the Hall of Fame. 

I Ordered the d’Arnaud

Today was supposed to be the day I was able to put baseball aside for a little bit. Game 7 was supposed to be last night. However, I was reminded of the Mets blowing the World Series because:

The reason for the free AM crunch wraps?  It’s because the Royals were able to steal a base during the World Series. The steal that got us free breakfast was Lorenzo Cain stealing second in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the World Series. He would score to bring the game to 3-2. 

Overall, the Royals were 6/6 stealing bases off of Travis d’Arnaud in the World Series. This includes a whopping 4/4 in the deciding Game 5. It caused me to sarcastically text my Dad and brother during the game that when we say we wanted d’Arnaud to be like Mike Piazza this isn’t what we meant. Look, I know there are many elements to what causes stolen bases, but a catcher loses the benefit of the doubt when he can’t reach second base. 

In any event, it’s hard to say the Mets lost the World Series because of d’Arnaud. There were so many different elements that it’s hard to point a finger at d’Arnaud. I also don’t think it’s a reason to move him out from behind the plate because he does everything else well. 

He’s a terrific pitch framer, who makes sure his pitchers get that borderline strike call. As the stats suggest, his work behind the plate gets his pitcher not just the corner but a little off of it. Also, he’s a good hitter. His triple slash line this year was .268/.340/.485. To put that in perspective, another great Mets catcher, the late great Hall of Famer, Gary Carter, hit .262/.335/.439 for his career. 

Is d’Arnaud as good as Piazza or Carter?  No, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good catcher for the Mets. All he needs is a little health and to work on his throwing mechanics a bit. (Note: I’m not comparing him to Mackey Sasser. Not going to happen). 

In any event, I had my AM crunch wrap courtesy of a stolen base in the World Series. A World Series the Mets should’ve won. Hopefully, I’ll have one next year because of a Juan Lagares‘ stolen base. 

Fifteen Years Later Harvey was Leiter

It’s funny to think in the year Yogi Berra died, the feeling I walked away with from last night was “its déjà vu all over again.”

Fifteen years ago, I watched the Mets lose the World Series in five games. I remember believing that the better team didn’t win. The bounces went the wrong way. The Mets failed to execute in the late innings. They just couldn’t get that big hit when needed. I remember thinking of the Mets could just win Game 5, they could still win the World Series. 

Al Leiter started Game 5 and gave the gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen from a Met. He went 8.2 innings throwing 143 pitches. He was just in there too long. After getting the first two outs via strikeout, he let up three successive hits giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead. I still thought the Mets had a chance. I thought Mike Piazza tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. Cruelly, it fell just short. 
Last night, Matt Harvey was every bit of Al Leiter’s equal. He too put the Mets on his back and had eight incredible innings. Truth be told, Harvey had a game for the ages. If he doesn’t come out for the ninth, his final line is 8.0 innings, four hits, no earned, one walk, and nine strikeouts. It should’ve been a game that was talked about for years to come. 

Instead, Harvey came out for the ninth. He allowed a walk and a double. The talk will forever be about how Terry Collins left him in instead of how great he was. It’s just like 1999. No one talks about how great Leiter was. They talk about Timo Perez and Roger Clemens. I fear this World Series will be talked about over Collins’ use of Jeurys Familia and the late inning defense. 

However, I’ll always remember Leiter’s Game 5 performance. If I ever had the chance to meet him, I’d shake his hand and thank him for it. Sure, the Mets lost, but I respected that performance. He wanted in that game every bit as Harvey did last night. If I met Harvey, I’d shake his hand and thank him for last night too. 

They both fell just short, but they gave it their all. Last night was just as painful as it was 15 years ago.  In some ways, it hurts even more so.  I may not have seen a World Series in either year, but I saw something special from two extraordinary local guys. They did themselves and their teams proud. They made me proud to be a Mets fan. 

They deserved a better fate. Instead, they have my profound respect. Thank you. 

Dream Come True

It’s finally happening tonight. I’m going to a Mets World Series game. In my house, I have three unused tickets from 2006, 2007, and 2008. Worst yet, I was at the games that were the reason why I couldn’t used the tickets. 

Tonight, there won’t be any Adam Wainwright curveballs. There won’t be any implosion from Tom Glavine. Jerry Manuel isn’t here to summon Scott Schoeneweis from the bullpen. There is nothing standing in the way from the Mets from playing a World Series game tonight. Better yet, I’m going. 

I’m going with my Dad and brother. We’ve been waiting our whole lives for this moment. We were crushed when we couldn’t go in 2006 – 2008. I know I’ve carried that pain for nearly a decade now. I’ve carried that pain through all the years of bad baseball. I wasn’t sure this day would ever come. But now it’s here. 

On top of all of that I get Billy Joel singing the National Anthem. I get my favorite Met of All Time, Mike Piazza, throwing out the first pitch. I get to be there when the Mets turn this series around. This is better than I ever could’ve imagined. It makes sitting there watching the Mets lose in 2006, 2007, and 2008 all worth it. 

To make it all the better, I will be there with my Dad, the man who made me a Mets fan. I’ll be there with my brother. The person I’ve sat next to during all the wins and all the losses. Tonight is the night we’ve been waiting for. 

LETS GO METS!

Mike Piazza Takes the Torch

Tonight it’s official. The torch has been passed. The face of the ex-Mets has officially become Mike Piazza. He’s throwing out the first pitch before the first Mets home World Series game. 

This spot used to belong to Tom Seaver. He’s still the greatest Met to put on the uniform. He just might be the greatest right handed pitcher ever. That will never change. However, he’s 70 years old.  We don’t know how much the Lyme disease has taken out of him. If he’s not here, it means he can’t be here. It’s sad, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten. However, someone needs to take up that mantle. Someone needs to throw that first pitch. 

There are plenty of options from the 1986 team. With the start of SNY, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling have become even more beloved. There’s always Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. If you’re looking for some October magic, look no further than Mookie Wilson

But no, tonight is for your franchise’s best player. Without Seaver being available it’s Piazza. He’s the guy who was the Mets. He lead the team to the postseason in 1999 and 2000. He hit the post-9/11 homerun. He is the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He will be the second one to wear a Mets cap in the Hall of Fame. With all he’s meant to the Mets and their fans, he should be a part of this

So while the Mets come home, so does Mike Piazza. This time he comes home as our best player just like it was in his playing days. 

This World Series is for the 80’s Kids

In many ways, 1980 is a very important marker for the New York Mets. I’m not using this year because this is the year Nelson Doubleday (RIP) purchased the Mets. Rather I’m using this date to create a demarcation in Mets fandom. 

Those fans born between January 1, 1980 – October 27, 1986 are a distinct group.  Most likely you are part of a group who went to their first Mets game with their father at Shea Stadium. Your childhood home with its ramps and neon figures are gone. As a result, this same group probably brought their son/daughter to their first game at Citi Field. 

As your first Mets game was at Shea Stadium in the 80’s, this was what you knew the song “Meet the Mets” to be:

It blared on the loudspeakers outside Shea. It was part of the intro to the WFAN games. Speaking of which, up until this past year, you only knew of the Mets on WFAN.  Now, they’re on WOR, and you’re version of “Meet the Mets” has disappeared. 

You also grew up with Tim McCarver when he was good. You mostly grew up with Fran Healey, who was never quite as bad as advertised. You knew and loved Bob Murphy, but Howie Rose and Gary Cohen are your guys. You love Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling as players, but if you’re being honest, you really know them more as broadcasters. 

You were raised with four divisions, no Wild Card, and no Interleague play. It was baseball when it was more pure, but in some ways, it seems less fun in retrospect.  The rivals of your youth all moved to the NL Cental. In their place was the never lose the division Braves. 

Mostly, it’s been cruel to be born in this timeframe. The Mets won a World Series in your lifetime, but it was a World Series of which you have little to no recollection. It’s a cruel twist of fate for something so prominent in your team’s and baseball’s history occurred when you were alive, and you really can’t remember it. At least not all of it. 

Your only true World Series experience was the Subway Series, and the Mets lost it to the hated Yankees. To make matters worse, Mike Piazza made the last out on what seemed at first glance to be the game tying homerun, and Derek Jeter was the World Series MVP. 

Thsnkfully, things are looking up now. We saw Generation K falter, but now we have the stud muffins succeeding. We seem to have the team that can have long sustained success like those 80’s teams. However, we’re now old enough to enjoy it. 

We now have a Mets team in the World Series that’s the only show in town. No sharing the spotlight. This is our moment. This is the World Series we get to enjoy and remember. So if you’re from Long Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Queens, and Connecticut, Lets Go Mets!

That’s the cheer for the New York Mets!

Wish Mike Piazza Was Here

From the moment he arrived in 1998, Mike Piazza brought the Mets to another level. The Mets went from young and improving to a playoff team. 

He was joined by some terrific Mets along the way. Edgardo AlfonzoJohn OlerudRobin VenturaAl Leiter, etc. However, Piazza was the man. He was (and still is) the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game. With some bad luck and some other factors, the Mets didn’t win the World Series when Piazza was with the Mets. 

The Mets missed their shot.  The Mets were beset with hard times and bad decisions after that. However, Piazza still had his moments: 

However, he never got his chance to go back to the playoffs, to win a ring. I thought about that in 2006. I was hoping the Mets would bring him back like they did Lee Mazzilli in 1986. I understood why they didn’t. 

Paul Lo Duca had a terrific year. Piazza was still a capable starting catcher with pop in his bat. You couldn’t ask either to sit on the bench. You also don’t want to invite the controversy. It still doesn’t mean I didn’t miss him, especially with Ramon Castro being the backup catcher. 

For the first time since 2006, the Mets were in the playoffs. For the first time since 2000, the Mets are in the World Series. There was a time it was all because of Piazza. He’s retired now on the cusp of the Hall of Fame. It’s where he belongs. 

I just wish he was here. 

Thank You Mike Hampton

In 2000, Mike Hampton became the first Met ever to win the NLCS MVP. He was 2-0   He didn’t allow a run. He pitched a complete game shutout in the clinching Game 5. 

He was terrible in his only World Series start. He allowed four earned in six innings, and he wasn’t even that good. He was critical of Mike Piazza for not starting a brawl after the Roger Clemens bat throwing incident. He made this statement even though he tied the rubber in Game 2, and he never sought retaliation. 

After the season, he left the Mets for Colorado due to the school system. I’m sure the eight year $121 million contract didn’t play a part. He warned every boo that would be rained upon him on every return trip to Shea Stadium. So why am I thanking him?

David Wright. Wright was the compensatory draft pick the Mets received when Hampton signed with the Rockies. Because Hampton left, we’ve had Wright’s terrific career. He’s been an All Star, MVP candidate, and the Captain. His career so far merits Hall of Fame consideration. 
Now, he’s going to play in a World Series. It may be nine years after than we thought, but Wright has led the Mets to the World Series. It wouldn’t have been possible if Hampton didn’t do to Colorado. 

So, thank you Mike Hampton for leaving town. We were better off for it. 

It Was Worth the Wait

My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:

In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play.  Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:

The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:

In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:

In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day: 

The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad. 

Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis CespedesDaniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:

All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special. 

We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”