1. This is the face of a man who was wronged on Wednesday.
His name is Mike Piazza, and he received votes from less than 63% of the writers who elect players into the Hall of Fame. 75% is the cutoff for Cooperstown induction. This is blasphemous.
2. Obviously, the voters must have forgotten that Piazza is a living legend.
He’s a stoic man, but we are outraged.
3. So, here’s a refresher on the career of Michael Joseph Piazza — a REAL American hero.
Piazza was a 62nd round draft pick — a round they don’t even have anymore — in 1988. He made his Major League debut in 1992 and came up full-time in 1993.
In that season, he hit .318 with 35 homers and 112 RBI, with an insane .561 slugging percentage and 153 OPS+. He was an All-Star and won both the Silver Slugger (at catcher) and Rookie of the Year.
He also had an incredible mullet.
4. Look at Mr. Hollywood.
During his 6 1/2 years with the Dodgers, he ultimately hit .331 with 177 homers and 561 RBI. As a CATCHER! He was in the top 10 in MVP voting every year, made every single All-Star Game, and even won a trophy for being MVP of the Midseason Classic in 1996. MVP OF THE MIDSEASON CLASSIC, PEOPLE.
5. In 1998, he got traded to the Marlins, and then spun to the Mets.
The Mets were the laughingstocks of the early-to-mid 1990s, a mediocre team led by a catcher named Todd Hundley and a pitcher named Bobby Jones.
Piazza, and to a lesser degree pitcher Al Leiter, made them legitimate contenders. A real team worth watching in a city owned by the Yankees!
7. Mets fans were pretty rough on him at first, actually.
But he just kept on plugging, that perfect coif bouncing in the New York sun as he hit the hell out of the baseball. He hit .348 in his 109 games with the Mets that season, with 23 homers.
One of homers — his 200th career jack — came against Billy Wagner, then of the Houston Astros, an unlikely three-run bomb that gave the Mets some hope in a heated pennant race.
The team didn’t make the playoffs (missing by one game) but did win 88 games, a harbinger of big things to come.
8. People thought he might leave the Mets, but he stuck with the team.
Sure, he could have gone elsewhere, to a place without all the fan pressure and media attention and LaGuardia fumes. But Piazza stayed strong, signed a contract that kept him in New York for seven years, and became the leader that the team craved.
The fact that he was able to work with Steve Phillips makes it even more impressive in retrospect.
9. In 1999, Piazza led the Mets to their first playoff appearance in 11 years.
He gave everything he had! Sure, he had some help in the form of Robin Ventura, John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, but this was Piazza’s team. He hit .303 with 40 homers, and made yet another All-Star team.
10. Then came the 2000 season.
With Olerud gone and Ventura a shadow of the player that electrified Queens in 1999, this season was all Piazza. The Mets made the World Series despite having an outfield consisting of Timo Perez/Derek Bell, Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani — a.k.a. borderline trash.
Piazza was a steadying presence behind the plate, helping young lefty Glendon Rusch become a solid fourth starter and assisting Rick Reed in his transformation from journeyman to eventual All-Star.
He hit an incredible .412 in the NLCS walloping of the St. Louis Cardinals with an insane 1.487 OPS.
11. During this season, he survived several attempted MURDERS by Roger Clemens.
The guy, obviously roid raging, beaned Piazza in the head mid-season, then threw his broken bat at him during the World Series.
The fact that Piazza didn’t wring Clemens’ neck on national television alone should make him a Hall of Famer.
For the record, I would have backed you up, big guy.
13. He should have a World Series ring.
If it weren’t for the choke job in Game One by a piece of crap pitcher named Armando Benitez, Piazza would have a ring and an even more obvious spot in the Hall of Fame.
14. But he did hit a home run that lifted the nation.
When games were canceled for ten days after September 11th, the Mets took on the Atlanta Braves in New York, hoping to cheer up a city that was still smoldering and shocked.
In the eighth inning, the Mets were down 2-1, and Piazza strode to the plate with a man on base. He crushed a pitch from Braves’ reliever Steve Karsay over the centerfield fence, giving the Mets the lead, New York a reason to smile, and the nation a needed moment of revelry.
It was the most famous home run hit in New York since the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” and this one actually resonated around the globe.
15. Then he maintained his dignity amid disasters.
The Mets went to shit after the 2001 season, their top players declining and their free agent and trade acquisitions busts. Piazza continued to slug — 33 homers in 2002 — even as the team fell apart. He also survived the ridiculous experiment of attempting to move an older player, who never played the position, to first base.
16. But the Flushing faithful always remained loyal…including Jerry.
17. You wanna talk shit about his defense?
Sure, he never had a great arm, but pitchers will tell you that Piazza called a great game! In fact, hitters averaged .723 OPS with Piazza behind the plate and a .748 OPS when other catchers were calling the shots.
18. And he is absolutely the greatest hitting catcher of all time.
The most homers for a guy who had over 5,000 plate appearances as a catcher (427), the highest OPS (143) and the 4th most RBI (1,335). He is indisputably better than Carlton Fisk, Yogi Bera, Johnny Bench, and anyone else you want to throw out there.
A career .308 average and 36 homers a year over 16 seasons should be good enough to get anyone into the Hall of Fame. LET ALONE A CATCHER.
19. And finally, the steroid issue. Fabricated out of thin air.
Piazza went from 62nd-round draft pick to perennial All-Star, and he was a big dude who played in the steroid era, so even though he never tested positive for PEDs and no one ever really implicated him, Piazza gets caught up in the web that has ensnared others potential HOFers. But Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who would be no-brainers for the Hall, were caught; Piazza was not.
People should be innocent until proven guilty; there wouldn’t even be enough evidence to indict Piazza, let alone convict him.
20. Hopefully next year those idiots at the BBWA get their shit together, because everyone in Queens has been looking north down the road to Cooperstown for quite some time.
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