Sunday is not just the last game of the season, the Mets are also honoring Mike Piazza. As with the 1969 Mets, when Tom Seaver rightfully earned the nickname “The Franchise,” there was never a doubt as to whom the big gun was on our 2000 National League Championship squad. With all due respect to folks such as John Olerud and Edgardo Alfonzo, this was Piazza’s team.
No question. It’s an overused cliche, how a player could “carry a team on his back.” Most of the time, it’s not evident. But for Mike Piazza, he truly was that guy, the heart of the order. When I think of Mike, I think of how he hit the ball so hard. The ball sounded different off his bat, a qualitative difference you could hear.
Oh yes, and we found that out with his very first hit as a Met, on May 23, 1998. Piazza hit what looked like a line single to left center, only he hit it so hard it kept speeding through the grass like a rocket. What first looked like a single was a double, and I couldn’t believe what I had seen.
Do you remember the trade, Mike? A bunch of folks hated the idea, “But we’ve already got Todd Hundley?” Or better, “We can’t trade away the farm!”
Who did we trade, anyway? I seem to have forgotten the names of those immortals?
I remember it very clearly. Our current majority owner, Fred Wilpon, went on WFAN to spin, and he was clear that he didn’t think we needed Mike. Thankfully Nelson Doubleday was still around and stepped in or else we would have never traded for Piazza.
A quick personal story about that Piazza trade. My birthday is on May 24th, and I didn’t know it, but there was a party planned for me for the 23rd, which was a Saturday. We had the game on, of course, and four people showed up with Piazza jerseys. It was less than 24 hours from the trade announcement!
Three other people came late, they couldn’t bear not going to the game. I fully understood. That is the type of excitement that can be created with a smart bold move. A big market move too. Piazza needed to be paid, otherwise he would never have been available.
Great teams — championship teams — need great players. Maybe somebody can go digging up for an exception, and maybe it exists, but the exception does not make the rule. I really think that was an object lesson of Mike Piazza. A team needs great players. That’s how you win, that’s how you sell tickets. And the fact is, there just aren’t that many to go around. Mike Piazza was special, we knew it at the time, and we appreciated it fully. The best hitter the Mets have ever had.
Oh I agree with that completely. It’s funny, since we started blogging we have brought up Hernandez and Carter a few times, as signature moments that changed the franchise. The Piazza years did not include a World Championship, but that was the only thing Mike didn’t end up delivering. The move to get Piazza was as great a deal as any the Mets have ever made.
Mike had so many memorable at bats with the Mets it would be silly for me to list them. I’m certain we will see a montage of them on Sunday, when he is rightfully inducted into our Hall of Fame.
If they want to surprise us all and retire his number, that would be just fine with me too.