Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some Thoughts on Mike Piazza and the Hall of Fame

I wrote last month that 1998, the season I became a baseball fan, was also the year the team I root for traded for Mike Piazza. 

Today the Hall of Fame voting results were announced, and Mike Piazza, along with every other player, did not receive the requisite 75%. Here are some thoughts:

-Mike Piazza is my favorite player ever, in any sport. He is the greatest player I have ever rooted for. I've been weirdly lucky with this- despite never having a championship during my lifetime among the 4 teams I root for, I've gotten a Hall of Fame center in Patrick Ewing, a Hall of Fame running back in Curtis Martin, and the greatest hitting catcher of all time.

-Let me say that again. The greatest hitting catcher of all time. Not "one of the top five hitting catchers of all time." Not "perhaps the best hitting catcher of all time." The singular, unquestionable, greatest hitting catcher of all time. Number 1.

-And he's not going to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Look, I knew this was coming before today. Every survey of voters, every poll, it showed Piazza getting around 60%. He wound up with 57.8%. This was 4th most on the ballot, and 2nd most for players on their first ballot. This is actually not a bad number for a first ballot. As Joe Posnanski showed this week, every player who had 50% or more on their first ballot has eventually been elected. And Yogi Berra and Gary Carter, two other great New York catchers, also missed on their first ballot. Mike Piazza will be in the Hall of Fame, perhaps even in 2014 (though with the players being added on that ballot, it's not a lock). But he is so clearly a Hall of Famer, not letting him in on the first ballot is absurd.

-This isn't a small Hall vs. big Hall question. Even in the smallest of Hall of Fames, Mike Piazza is a Hall of Famer.

-It's not a steroid issue either. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have faced legal prosecution for their lying about steroid use. Both were named in the Mitchell Report. Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids. Rafael Palmeiro failed an MLB steroid test. Mike Piazza did none of those things. When the Mitchell Report was released online, the first thing I did after opening it was hit CTRL+F and search for "Piazza." There were 0 hits. There has never been any legitimate steroid claims about Mike Piazza.

-You know what claims there were against Mike Piazza? Homosexuality. This is an actual story. In May of 2002, Mike Piazza had to hold a press conference to deny random rumors that he was gay. But there were never rumors that he used steroids.

-The extent of the steroid claims against Piazza are an off-the-record conversation with an unnamed source, and back acne. Seriously. Back acne.

-I laid out the statistical argument for Piazza on that last post. There numerous. There is no way that somebody who knows baseball can look at his numbers and think "I don't know. Not really Hall of Fame to me." It's not possible. It's a joke.

-Perhaps there are a number of writers, like ESPN's Adam Rubin and Fox's Ken Rosenthal, will switch their vote just because they don't vote for players on the first ballot. This is idiotic. A player is either a hall of famer or not a hall of famer, on the 1st or 2nd or 15th ballot. The only reason to switch a vote is if you literally run out of space on your ballot. That's something that might happen over the next few years, but it was not the case for either Rubin or Rosenthal this year.

-The Mets have yet to retire Piazza's 31 or put him in the team Hall of Fame. The rumors have always been that they were waiting for his Cooperstown induction, which is a fairly common practice. Still, with the All Star Game at CitiField this summer, I sincerely hope they substantially honor him this season.

-I took this too personally. As if it's an attack on New York or East Coast bias or the Mets or my fanhood. And obviously it's not. But this does hurt. I really hope he is voted in in 2014.

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