Wednesday, May 21, 2008 Updated: May 27, 9:13 AM ET
Good riddance, Mike Piazza
By Paul Lukas Page 2
Now that Mike Piazza has retired, people are already debating whether his Hall of Fame plaque should depict him in a Mets cap or a Dodgers cap. If you look at the numbers, it's no contest -- his greatest years were in L.A. And as a lifelong Mets fan who never warmed up to Piazza, I don't want his enshrinement tied to my team, anyway. Here's why:
Put an L.A. cap on him and let's pretend New York never happened.
1. When it became apparent that he'd have to move from catcher to first base, Piazza's behavior ranged from disingenuous to manipulative. A classy player would've stepped up and said, "I'll do anything to help the team -- where do you want me to play?" But Piazza kept playing dumb, tossing out quotes like, "Well, management hasn't said anything to me about it, so I really don't know." Right, the whole city of New York is talking about it but you have no clue. Sure. When skipper Art Howe eventually mentioned to some reporters that Piazza would be taking some infield practice at first base and the reporters then told Piazza, he acted all offended because Howe didn't tell him beforehand. Look, dude, just play where the manager tells you to play and shut up.
2. One reason he didn't want to play first base was that he was obsessed with that stupid record for most home runs hit by a catcher -- a record that exactly one person in town cared about. Can you guess who that one person was? (Hint: Rhymes with "Mike Piazza.")
3. Of course, once Piazza finally played first base, we found out the real reason why he'd been avoiding the issue: The guy's a horrible athlete. Great hitter, yes, but not a good athlete. No coordination, no footwork. And it went way beyond his inability to play first base. I defy anyone to find one instance -- one single instance -- of Mike Piazza properly executing a slide into second or third base. Never happened. Why? Get this: MIKE PIAZZA CAN'T SLIDE. It's true. When he tried to slide, he'd spaz out and trip. Really!
4. When the New York Post implied that Piazza was gay, he held that little press conference where he declared his heterosexuality. OK, fine. But he missed a huge opportunity to say, "But what if it was true? What if I was gay? So what? What if one of my teammates is gay? What if one of YOU is gay? It's no big deal. Listen, I'm straight, but this whole thing is really a nonissue." In a city with a huge gay population, that was an opportunity to show some real community leadership, and he totally spit the bit.
5. A few days after Roger Clemens beaned him in 2000, Piazza said that the incident had made him reassess the DH. "I thought the DH could be a good thing for me later in my career," he said, "but now I see that it's bad for baseball, because the pitcher can throw at the batter with no fear of retaliation." So what did he do after leaving the Mets? He shopped himself to American League teams with hopes of becoming a DH. None of them were interested, so he signed with the Padres, but then he went to the A's, where he happily DH'd. Hypocrite.
6. "The runner goes, here's the throw from Piazza -- and it comes in on two hops."
Was Piazza a tremendous offensive player? Yes. Did I sometimes cheer for him? Yes. But he never fulfilled his potential as a star, in the fullest sense of that term. Too bad.
Paul Lukas is a columnist for Page 2.