Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 20, 2008
BASEBALL: Piazza Hangs 'Em Up

Mike Piazza, still unsigned, has decided to retire. Piazza could certainly still have been useful, if nothing else as a backup catcher, but obviously preferred not to end his career on that note. He'll remember his years at Shea fondly:

"Within the eight years I spent in New York, I was able to take a different look at the game of baseball," Piazza said. "I wasn't just a young kid that was wet behind the ears anymore - I was learning from other veteran guys like Johnny Franco, who taught me how to deal with the pressures of playing in New York, and Al Leiter, who knew what it took to win a world championship." ...

"Last but certainly not least, I can't say goodbye without thanking the fans," Piazza said. "I can't recall a time in my career where I didn't feel embraced by all of you. Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and Miami - whether it was at home or on the road, you were all so supportive over the years.

"But I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world. One of the hardest moments of my career, was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful."

I haven't updated the analysis in this post from 2001, but by any measurement Piazza has to be the best hitting catcher in the history of Major League baseball, his only real competition for best hitting catcher ever being Josh Gibson, whose talents are more difficult to measure. It's really a crime that he never won the MVP Award while cranking out all those .320-35-110 seasons as an everyday catcher for winning teams in a couple of pitchers' parks.

One of the all-time greats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:06 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I was at his last game as a Met and in 5 years I'll be taking my 4.5 year old son or daughter to both of our first HOF induction ceremonies.. I can't wait :)

Posted by: Rory at May 20, 2008 6:05 PM

And the 3 years he was in the Top 3 he lost out to Ken Caminiti in '96, Larry Walker in '97 and Jeff Kent in '00. 2 guys he was clearly better than that had career years (and it certainly didn't hurt KC that he was 'roided up or that Kent hit behind Bonds all year) and one excellent ballplayer who certainly did not suffer from playing in CO (although he hit well away from Coors unlike many other Rockies).

Posted by: jim at May 20, 2008 6:32 PM

Piazza's numbers get even better when you consider that he played in pitcher's parks his entire career. He's been the best offensive catcher ever, and Pudge has been the best defensive catcher ever. We're blessed to have been able to watch both of them.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at May 21, 2008 4:04 AM

Bench may have been the best total package, but Piazza did more at the plate.

Posted by: largebill at May 21, 2008 8:56 AM

Piazza may be the greatest catcher of all time. Sure, he had a bad arm. But those hitting statistics! Don't they more than make up for his defensive inadequacies? If you could choose one catcher from baseball history for an imaginary baseball team, it could very well be Piazza.

Interesting trivia about Piazza's retirement. He and Clemens will be on the HOF ballot together for the first time. Won't that be interesting? What if Clemens gets elected and they have to share the stage together? Will they even smile at each other?

I regard Piazza's 62d round draft pick in 1988 as one of baseball's greatest oddities. He was almost overlooked. He could be working at Home Depot today. Instead, he at least the third or fourth best cather in MLB history, maybe the all-time best.

Posted by: steve at May 21, 2008 8:56 AM

Seth, I'm glad you think so highly of Pudge, and he was great, but defensively, he wasn't even close to Bench. I saw them both too much to say otherwise.

I had a discussion with someone over the most over and underrated players (using only superstars) at each position (f'rinstance, I said Clemente was overrated;Kaline under). However, I refused to do that at catcher. It's too tough a position. Whether you are great defensively or not, you still have to get there, squat and concentrate for 150 pitches or so a game. Plus the backups at first, the collisions, all of it. So Piazza did that and still hit what he did. He was among the 3 best hitters in the NL for ten years. Not hitting catchers, but hitters. At Dodger Stadium and Shea.

Mike, you are a class act, and two of my kids' favorite player, hands down. My 14 year old will think of you the way I do of Seaver

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at May 21, 2008 11:23 AM

D,

I think he means Pudge Rodriguez not Pudge Fisk.

Posted by: jim at May 21, 2008 11:47 AM

Forgot to mention welcoming back Alex Rodriguez to the Yanks. Nice to see that nearly a month off did nothing to slow down his uncanny ability to hit HRs in the late innings of 10-0 games.

The Bartolo Colon Era begins tonight in Fenway. mad, you want to go double or nothing from the Monday bet?

Posted by: jim at May 21, 2008 11:49 AM

Interesting trivia about Piazza's retirement. He and Clemens will be on the HOF ballot together for the first time. Won't that be interesting? What if Clemens gets elected and they have to share the stage together? Will they even smile at each other?

Did you hear Howie Rose talking about this possibility last night? He basically dismissed it because he figured Clemens wouldn't get in thanks to all the negativity that surrounds him now. Then he added: "Next time he throws the bat at something it might be to break some rocks". Great stuff.

Posted by: irish_eagle at May 22, 2008 9:39 AM

Interesting trivia about Piazza's retirement. He and Clemens will be on the HOF ballot together for the first time. Won't that be interesting? What if Clemens gets elected and they have to share the stage together? Will they even smile at each other?

Did you hear Howie Rose talking about this possibility last night? He basically dismissed it because he figured Clemens wouldn't get in thanks to all the negativity that surrounds him now. Then he added: "Next time he throws the bat at something it might be to break some rocks". Great stuff.

Posted by: irish_eagle at May 22, 2008 9:40 AM
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