21 February 2011

a legend in his own time

back in the day, jimmy kimmel was a radio guy on a local la station doing sports updates and bits with adam carolla.  when there was a mike piazza item, kimmel would refer to him as 'italian american superstar slugger mike piazza'.  at the same time, jim rome was hitting it big in san diego, and he dubbed piazza 'the strongest man in socal'.  to me, he was just the man.  the man who was going to bring the trophy back to la.

he wasn't my favorite player - that would have been too obvious and trendy.  i was still loyal to orel hershiser when piazza came on the scene, and then i took a liking to raul mondesi once the bulldog left town.  but piazza was always right behind those guys.  even for the first year or two after he was traded by the fox suits.
in 1999, upper deck issued their fantastic century legends set, and they ranked piazza as the 9th best active player (career wise). 
it's one of my favorite piazza cards, as you can tell by the fact that it's up there in the blog header.  through 1998, piazza had played in 840 games.  he had exactly 200 home runs, just over 1000 hits, a .330 average and a career ops of .972.  not too shabby.  that included his 1998 numbers that were split between the dodgers, marlins and mets, so i am grateful to upper deck for featuring piazza as a dodger in this set and not as a fish or a metropolitan (it should be noted for consistency's sake that gary sheffield is featured in the set as a marlin and not a dodger).

i have resigned myself to the fact that piazza will go into the hall of fame as a met.  he played pretty close to 8 full seasons in new york vs. 5+ in la, and although he had his best season with the dodgers, his met numbers eclipse his dodger totals.  he also made it to the world series with the mets, while he never got out of the nlds with the dodgers.

still, i wonder about piazza's legacy with the dodgers.  will they retire his number when he is enshrined in cooperstown?  after all, it was kept in mothballs for 6+ years until brad penny came along.  the dodgers had done the same for steve garvey, although that lasted for 20 years before jolbert cabrera was allowed to wear number 6.  with don sutton (whose number was retired once he was elected to the hall), candy maldonado took number 20 right away in 1982.  the only player i know of not in the hall of fame whose number is 'unofficially' retired is fernando and his number 34.  jim gilliam is the only dodger non-hall of famer whose number has been retired.  i personally think the dodgers should retire gil hodges' number 14, maury wills' number 30 and fernando's number 34 regardless of their hall of fame status.  after thinking about it, i also think that piazza's 31 should be added to that list.


night owl said...

Piazza is and always will be a Dodger to me, even if the Hall makes the wrong decision and puts him in as Met.

He never would've been a Met if the Dodgers didn't pluck him out of nowhere as a favor to Piazza's dad, Tom Lasorda's longtime friend.

Besides, who wants a picture of Piazza on his plaque with that short hair he wore with the Mets?

Baseball Cards Rule said...

Yep, I love that dude. It's hard to see him in anything less then a Dodger uniform.

Johngy said...

My favorite Piaaza story comes from an interview he did while with the A's. He was asked about the great all time catchers. He named Bench, Fisk, Berra and then he said Steve Swisher was one of the greatest defensive catchers ever. Granted Steve's son Nick was a teammate at the time, but Steve Swisher should never get mentioned with Berra, Fisk and Bench.