How is it that the best hitter at his position is not in the Hall of Fame? The fact that Mike Piazza is not in Cooperstown just proves how much of a mess the baseball world really is. By playing in the “steroid era”, Piazza has been placed in baseball’s rogues gallery under the premise that he could have used steroids. While no hard evidence has come out on Piazza, despite having seven years to find evidence, the Hall of Fame continues to let other players in. How about Frank Thomas? He played under the same circumstances as Piazza but hasn’t been marred by the steroids acquisitions? What happened America? I thought this was the land where you were innocent until proven guilty? Mike Piazza is a Hall of Famer, and here is why.
While Frank Thomas was a first round pick in the MLB Draft, most people forget about Piazza’s long and hard road to the top. Piazza was selected in
62nd round, and he was drafted by Tommy Lasorda because he was doing a favor for Piazza’s father. In the minors, he had to learn to play a new position, catcher, and prove that he could make it to the majors. In 1993 Piazza erupted on the Major League scene where he won the National League rookie of the year by hitting .315 with 35 homers and 112 runs batted in. With the Dodgers Piazza became one of the most feared hitters in baseball and changed the way we looked at catchers.
Most major league catchers don’t get remembered for their bats. They play a physically grueling position that takes a toll on their bodies. If a catcher can start 140 games for a team, it is considered a good season. Most teams would be happy with a good defensive catcher who could call a game. Then they’d stick that catcher at the bottom of the order and hope they could scrape out a few hits here and there.
This changed with Piazza who was the polar opposite. He became a slugging catcher with a lethal bat. He broke the stereotype of defense first, offense second for the catching position. If anything he was one of the worst defensive catchers in history. Piazza was a trend setter, he changed the game. Now we look at catchers to not only catch well, but also to be competent hitters. Look at Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, and Matt Wieters to name a few. While Piazza’s prime was in Dodgers’ blue, his greatest impact was in Queens where he became an icon of the Big Apple.
On May 22, 1999, New York baseball changed forever. The New York Mets traded for Mike Piazza and brought his big bat to the big apple. For a franchise that had been terrible in the early 90s, and were fresh off a season where they missed the playoffs, the Mets needed a savior. With Piazza’s help the Mets became a contender by making the playoffs in 1999, and then the World Series in 2000. Most importantly he gave the Mets a superstar. In a time where it seemed like all Mets fans were bring drowned by the constant snickering and boasting of Yankees’ fans during their dynasty, Piazza gave the Mets a voice in New York. While the next few seasons would be tough, Piazza continued to produce at a high level and eventually Piazza passed Carlton Fisk’s record on May 5, 2004 for the most home runs hit by a catcher. That day he belted number 352, a number that no catcher is close to catching.
In most cases, this would have been Piazza’s shining moment, the one everybody remembers, but it isn’t. He’s known for an event bigger then baseball.
On September 11th, 2001, a horrific and unspeakable attack happened to our country. 10 days later, the Mets played the first game since the terrorist attacks that rocked this country. There was an uneasiness that hung in the air. Is this what we should be doing? Is it too soon? Is it safe? It was hard to cheer through the tears and fear. That night, the Mets were losing 2-1 in the eighth to their arch rivals the Braves. Then a crack rang throughout Shea Stadium breaking the silence. Piazza had smashed a fastball over the centerfield fence to give the Mets the lead, 3-2, and gave the crowd something to finally cheer about. Piazza did something that became more than a baseball highlight, he gave a city devastated by disaster hope and helped to begin the healing process.
After a second straight snub from the Hall of Fame, it is clear that Piazza is being cheated out of Cooperstown. While playing the most physically grueling position in the sport, a position that beats players up and wears them down, Piazza still was an offensive force. Despite his decline in his last few seasons, Piazza finished with a career .308 average, 427 home runs, and 1,335 runs batted in. He was a 12 time all-star, 10 time silver slugger, and rookie of the year in 1993. With all these statistics, the way he dominated when he played, and by being the best offensive player at his position in history, Piazza being snub just proves the bureaucracy of baseball writers. Just because they think someone did something, without any proof, gives them the right to deny a player’s shrine in Cooperstown that they deserve? While this is certainly not the last Hall of Fame controversy, especially with more of the so-called steroid era candidates coming up, this is just another sad commentary on the mess in baseball. Mike Piazza rightfully deserves his place and Cooperstown, and the longer they keep him out will just continue to compound the mess when it comes to judging this era of the game. Mike Piazza has to be in on the next Hall of Fame ballot, or else the writers of baseball will be cheating one of the greatest hitters of all time.