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January 16, 2013

Piazza Rejection Stings Flushing Faithful


Maybe Mets fans should have seen it coming. Mike Piazza wasn't ever going to be a first-ballot hall of famer. The taint of having been a power hitter during the game's "steroid era" was too much for the Mets revered backstop to overcome. Needing 75 percent of the baseball writers' votes to gain admission, Piazza received only 57.8 percent.

Only one Met, Tom Seaver, has ever been inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing his blue and orange ball cap. In his 11-plus seasons with the Mets, Seaver earned 198 of his 311 career wins, struck out 2541 batters and sported a 2.57 ERA. Seaver defined the Mets successes of the late 1960's and early 1970's

Gary Carter, emblematic of the Mets mid-late 1980's successes, requested to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met. However, the writers believed "Kid's" legacy was greater with the Montreal Expos (statistically correct) and decided he would enter the hall wearing the Expo's red, white and blue cap. Mets fans, who already had enough reasons to feel inadequate, felt dissed by the writers, especially considering Carter's wishes.

Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, two former Mets with impressive Queens resumes derailed their careers through substance abuse, making it unlikely that either player will ever gain admission to the hall.

Mike Piazza's accomplishments with the Mets from 1998 to 2005 were the primary spark behind the team's successes during those years. Just a couple of years ago the question wasn't "what if" regarding Piazza heading to Cooperstown, but rather would he go in with a Los Angeles Dodgers hat or a New York Mets cap.

In May of 2010, Piazza chimed in with his two cents, "The bulk of my career was with the Mets," he said, "and after going through the trade, then the drama of 9/11, I'll never forget my Dodger days. But my time with the Mets is what I'll remember most about my career." It was a big sigh of relief for Mets fans who undoubtedly felt the same way.

From helping lead the Mets to their only back-to-back postseason appearances ('99 and '00), to his post 9/11 game-winning home run off Steve Karsay, Piazza brought Mets fans memories that will last a lifetime. Additionally, for a franchise with only three sustained periods of success over its 51-year existence, Piazza will forever rank high atop the pantheon of New York Mets heroes.

The rumors have always surrounded Piazza, but unlike McGwire, Bonds, and Clemens, there was nothing to prove the legendary catcher had used steroids. But, there was a certain doubt raised just by having played during baseball's era of artificially enhanced statistics.

Cardinal, Giant, and Yankee fans may accept that their players will never get in because of their direct link to the performance enhancers. Fortunately, these fans have lots of other hall of famers to be proud of. For Mets fans, Piazza's denial is just one more disappointment along the trail of heartbreak that Mets fans choose to travel.

The cross-town Yanks have 17 players enshrined in Cooperstown while the Mets have just one. As the Mets continue to retool and search for their next winning formula, let's hope Mike Piazza will soon achieve the recognition that his career so richly deserves.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com

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