By not offering salary arbitration to Mike Piazza at last night's midnight deadline, the Mets have officially cut ties with their all-star catcher. The Mets are now not allowed to sign Piazza to a contract until May 1st, and he most surely will sign with an American League team before then. The Angels, A's, and Twins are currently looking like his best suitors, who can use him to their advantage as a designated hitter. It is clear that Piazza's best days as a position player are behind him. This hardly comes as a shock, however, as Piazza spent most of his final game at Shea Stadium on October 2nd blowing kisses and waving goodbye the the crowd. Piazza is, without a shadow of a doubt, a future Hall-of-Famer. He is the greatest hitting catcher of all time with 397 home runs, well over 1000 RBI, and a career .311 batting average.
The question remains whether Piazza will be enshrined in the hall as a Los Angeles Dodger or a New York Met. There are arguments on both sides. True, Piazza did emerge a superstar with the Dodgers. It was there that he had the best season of his career - in 1997 he hit .362 with 40 home runs and 124 RBI - and nearly won the MVP award. In fact, he probably would have won it if it was known then that Ken Caminiti was using steroids. Piazza also won the 1993 Rookie of the Year award in Los Angeles batting .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBI.
Then there is the debate for Piazza to remain an immortal Met. He is arguably the greatest player in franchise history, along with Hall-of-Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. In 1998, when he came to the Mets via a trade, he quickly signed a 7-year contract extension, and instantly made the Mets a legitmate contendor. He gave the Mets an identity and a face for the organization. The following two years, Piazza led the Mets to the post-season, something he did not do with the Dodgers. They are the only two consecutive playoff years in the ballclub's history. In 2000, the team made it all the way to the World Series under Piazza's leadership, ultimately losing the crosstown Yankees.
One of Piazza's most memorable moments came near the end of the 2001 season. On September 21st, at the first professional sporting event in New York City following 9/11, the Mets were playing the rival Braves. At the time, the Mets were in the middle of a dramatic comeback towards the top of the division after a mostly a disappointing season. This game was tremendously important in all of New York City. In the 8th inning, with the Mets losing 2-1, Piazza blasted a two-run homer to straightaway centerfield putting the Mets ahead. It was an extraordinarily dramatic moment, and I have never felt goosebumps like that watching any other game.
Mike Piazza is a superstar ballplayer, a class act, and is responsible for changing the face of the New York Mets organization forever. He'll be missed.
Got a favorite Mike Piazza memory? Put it in the comments!
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