Mike Piazza will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Sunday, and I’m emotionally split over how to feel about it.
Bravo for Mike. He’s earned it. He’s the greatest hitting catcher to ever play the game, and it was my pleasure and privilege to watch him play the first six years of his career as an L.A. Dodger.
During that time, Piazza WAS the Dodgers to me. He was an iron man in the line up, and made of iron when someone tried to crash home plate on him.
There are those who try to undercut Piazza’s legacy by pointing out he didn’t throw out enough base runners, but that has little significance in my Piazza evaluation. The man could hit! I have never seen a Dodgers’ catcher who could crush like Piazza. I may never see one like him again.
Make no mistake – as a batter, Piazza was much more than an all-or-nothing masher. He hit .300 for nine straight years, and won ten Silver Slugger Awards. But he’ll always be “Home Run Piazza” to me. Nobody wielded a baseball bat like Mike Piazza. His powerful, uppercut swing produced gargantuan home runs to my widened eyes. It was a beautiful sight to see.
I loved Mike Piazza as a Dodger. I was at the Sept. 21, 1997 game when Piazza became the only Dodger to hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium. I also remember the gut-dropping feeling the morning I first saw the news that the Dodgers’ numbers-crunching, legacy-oblivious owners at Fox had traded Piazza away.
That was the start of my bittersweet feelings toward the greatest Dodgers catcher I ever saw. Mike Piazza has every right to feel upset the Dodgers did not offer to pay him what he felt he was worth at the time. However, he comes across to me like he also projects resentment toward the city and its fans as well. It’s like he hates that he was ever a Dodger.
“If the Hall came to me and said, ‘We want you to go in as a Dodger,’ I’d say, ‘Well, then I’ll go in as nothing. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable with LA stamped on my head for all of eternity.” – Mike Piazza
He went on to make other statements that blamed Vin Scully for supposedly turning the fans against him. He said Scully was “crushing him” on the air. Piazza later backed off those statements a bit when he admitted he never really heard Scully say anything specifically, he was just going on what others told him.
Statements like these make it hard for me to feel the kind of pride a fan should feel when an iconic player from his team reaches Hall of Fame glory.
I’m happy for the man to have reached the pinnacle of his profession, but then I remember Piazza would rather go into the Hall of Fame wearing nothing – rather than the cap of the team who gave him his start. He would rather forget the city and its fans that loved him as a player for many years, and who were shocked and heartbroken when he was traded away. That makes it very hard for me to give Mike Piazza a standing ovation on his big day.