Congratulations Michael Joseph Piazza for your election and enshrinement into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Piazza entered the Hall of Fame alongside Ken Griffey Jr. on Sunday.
Two questions we are going to address: First, should Mike Piazza have entered the Hall of Fame as a Dodger? Second, should the Los Angeles Dodgers organization retire Mike Piazza’s jersey, number 31?
We wrote about former Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, who was a 62nd Round pick in the 1988 MLB Draft. We examined how the Dodgers trading Piazza changed the Dodgers franchise and led to a playoff drought for some time until new ownership arrived.
An excerpt from The Five Most Memorable Trades in Dodgers History:
“A sad day in L.A. Dodgers history. The turning point in a downhill trend toward corporate ownership of the franchise more focused on the bottom line then on-the-field product. The trade started a domino effect that eventually led to Mike Piazza going into the Hall of Fame as a New York Met despite the Dodgers drafting him in the later rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft as a favor to than-Manager Tommy Lasorda. The favor that paid-back their belief in Piazza repeatedly in the batter’s box . . .
It has been said that baseball is a business and so trades happen. However, what people often fail to realize is that professional sports is the only business where franchises can consistently perform under the five-hundred mark in the standings (i.e., lose more than they win and make bad business deals) and yet run a successful financial enterprise. Bad decisions should never we rewarded or overlooked. This was a bad deal, plain and simple. We need to note it and learn from it. Then, we need to never let it happen again.”
We also looked at the history between the New York Mets and the Dodgers organization In a New York Minute: The Miracle Mets vs. Dem Bums from Brooklyn. It is not so surprising that the well-beloved Mike Piazza who played for both the Mets and Dodgers for the majority of his career further establishes the historical connection between the two franchises.
“The Dodgers and Mets will be playing at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, which was modeled after the Dodgers former home at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, and built on the same site where former Dodgers Owner Walter O’Malley wanted to build a new Brooklyn Dodgers Stadium. Maybe you already knew that. However, did you also know that according to Mets.com, the Dodgers, Mets, and Giants also having something in common?
“The Mets’ colors are Dodger blue and Giant orange, symbolic of the return of National League baseball to New York after the Dodgers and Giants moved to California. Blue and Orange are also the official colors of New York State.””
Move to present day.
Piazza gives his speech after being elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He was enshrined on Sunday, July 24, 2016, as a New York Met. In his speech he talks about how Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda played an impact on his career and life.
“Tommy Lasorda was always in my corner. He believed when he watched me hit at the young age of 14 that I could play Major League Baseball. Tommy, you were always there for me.”
Piazza had this hilarious “story” to tell on Jimmy Kimmel Live recently when talking about Tommy Lasorda and his decision to go into the Hall of Fame as a New York Met.
Piazza was very thankful for his father Vince, his father’s best friend Tommy, and the Dodgers organization for drafting him and giving him a shot. In Piazza’s own words, he is the quintessential example of the American Dream, turning an opportunity into a Hall of Fame career.
Piazza was once visited by the great Ted Williams in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania. Williams definitely saw the greatness in Piazza’s hitting ability. Lasorda believed the scouts were clueless on Mike Piazza in refusing to draft and sign him.
As a converted first baseman, the catcher Piazza also led the National League in putouts for four years and set a rookie record for throwing runners out attempting to steal. Piazza was also a prolific pitch framer having been dubbed the “Hall of Framer.”
These “31 Facts About No. 31, Former New York Met And LA Dodger Enters The Hall Of Fame” from Zach Petersel with Forbes provides a great recap of his career.
With the above in mind, we come back to the two questions that are on the minds of many fans. First, should Mike Piazza have entered the Hall of Fame as a Dodger? Second, should the Dodgers organization retire Mike Piazza’s jersey, number 31?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) July 24, 2016
The collective thought process on this may come down to loyalty at two different times in Mike Piazza’s career and selective memory of those moments.
@DodgersNation if he would've entered the HOF as a dodger, yes but he didn't
— #DodgersPlz (@TheUltraDex) July 24, 2016
@DodgersNation yes, the Dodgers (ownership back then) abandoned Mike… He didn't abandon the Dodgers.
— #JustinYourFriend (@justin_hicken) July 24, 2016
@DodgersNation no, even though he was my favorite Dodgers when I was growing up, he upset me that he retired as a Mets, we drafted him!
— slipmaggot8 (@Slipmaggot8) July 24, 2016
The Dodgers showed their loyalty to Tommy Lasorda in drafting Mike Piazza, while the Dodgers trading him showed their lack of loyalty to Piazza under new ownership. Lasorda showed his loyalty to Piazza and his family by having him drafted and signed.
Many other Dodger players and coaches in America and the Dominican Republic also deserve credit for keeping Piazza focused and properly trained. Piazza is still the only American-born player to be trained as a catcher in the Dominican. Talk about a role reversal and language barrier. Piazza passed that test with excellence and never complained. He just worked harder.
Whether Piazza should have entered the Hall of Fame as a Met or Dodger is a personal question decided by the inductee. Piazza’s loyalty was to Tommy Lasorda and those in the Dodgers organization who believed in him. Remember, the Dodgers scouts wanted nothing to do with him.
Piazza tried to quit while playing in Single-A because the organization was not giving him a fair chance to make it. However, Piazza never turned his back on the organization and consistently played All-Star quality baseball. He just continued to work harder letting his faith drive him.
Former Dodgers Executive Vice President and General Manager Fred Claire, who was fired shortly after speaking out against the ownership-induced trade, reflected recently on Twitter regarding Piazza’s Hall of Fame career and believed Piazza should have retired as a Dodger.
Congratulations to Mike Piazza as he enters the Hall of Fame. Mike should have been a Dodger for a lifetime. https://t.co/HC5psbhYkO
— Fred Claire (@Fred_Claire) July 22, 2016
It was Reggie Smith who made key change in Mike's swing and talked Mike into returning to Vero after a tough time. https://t.co/y8j3RRZErH
— Fred Claire (@Fred_Claire) July 24, 2016
Let us be honest, there should be no blame or condemnation against Piazza for going into the Hall of Fame as a Met.
As just two examples, he made the 2000 Subway Series with the Mets organization and he hit a memorable and emotional home run in Shea Stadium after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His journey has gone from being in disbelief on being traded, to being angry, to being thankful and forgiving. We need to follow his example and do the same.
Give Mike Piazza credit for being a class act and coming full circle in his acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame, giving credit where credit was due. Tommy Lasorda and a select few actually believed in him. The Dodgers and the fans were blessed to have Mike Piazza, but the Organization gave up on him in a trade to the Florida Marlins. How can we honestly blame Mike Piazza for fulfilling his boyhood dreams of becoming a ballplayer and being an inspiration for all of us? We cannot. He showed us the value of hard work by working even harder.
This leads to the last point; the Dodgers must retire Mike Piazza’s number, 31.
This will serve two purposes.
First, it will complete baseball life of Piazza and the Dodgers organization. Imagine this, from the 62nd round to the Hall of Fame, all done inside Chavez Ravine with Vin Scully as the story narrator, Tommy handling the introductions, with comments from Orel Hershiser, Fred Claire, and Sandy Koufax, who once threw batting practice to Piazza during Spring Training.
Owners Magic Johnson and Mark Walter can have the closing remarks in discussing the importance of Mike Piazza and his connection to the City of Los Angeles.
Secondly, and maybe most importantly, it will be attended by the fans in a public ceremony after the 2016 season where the healing and forgiveness process may conclude its course. Some folks may be shortsighted here by blaming Piazza for being traded and not accepting a less than fair market deal.
Unsurprisingly, the Mets signed Piazza to an extension in the offseason after the trade for $10 million more than what the Dodgers ownership had offered. The owners at the time had no intention of signing Piazza for fair market value and Los Angeles is not the right place to handout hometown discounts. Everyone should come together for Mike Piazza. He has entered the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame as a New York Met, which is a part of history and a well-earned feat for him.
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The Dodgers can now highlight Piazza by retiring his number 31 and Piazza has said he would accept the honor. Piazza’s humor, personality, post-career success as an owner of an Italian soccer team and community leader could not be a better fit for the Dodgers Organization.
Maybe the better question is how could this not happen and as we could conceivably see Piazza’s speech and the ceremony become one of the famous baseball and Dodger speeches that tells a beautiful story of life, hope, faith, and determination.
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