Tag Archive for Mike Piazza

Where There’s Smoke

49Long-suffering minor-league reliever Josh Smoker got the call yesterday as the “26th man” on the roster, as dictated by double-header rules but the lefty failed to make an appearance as the Mets split Tuesday’s twinbill with the hated Cardinals.

PiazzaPatchSmoker — a one-time top draft pick whose ascent was interrupted by injuries and a stint in independent ball — headed back to Laguardia following the game  but maintained his spring-training assignment of 49 in his non-appearance.

As you know by now the Mets will officially retire Mike Piazza’s No. 31 in a ceremony on Saturday, and reveal the digit in its new location in the left field corner. The club is also expected to wear ceremonial uni and hat patches for the event as pictured here. Mike looks a bit like a cartoon character here but to be fair his home runs often looked like something out of a fertile imagination themselves.

Finally the MBTN Hall of Fame has a new member.

An outrageous display of awesomeness.

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Hooray for Mike Piazza, and for Us

31It’s an odd combination of reassuringly high standards and an embarrassingly poor record with regard to qualified candidates that has gotten the Mets through more than half a century with a single player seeing his number retired, but that’s likely to double this year now that Mike Piazza has been elected to the Hall of Fame.

As it happens the Mets are hosting the Braves Sept. 21 this year, 15 years to the day from Piazza’s signature moment as a Met. I may have told this story before but I was there that night, and nearly killed myself leaping with unimaginable joy, landing on an empty Budweiser bottle, which shot out front under me as I crashed down onto those rib-cracking Upper Reserved boxes.

As a result, I’m not sure he ever touched third base.

This I also remember as the day where the sad new realities of the dehumanizing, cautious and paranoid post-911 world first really set in, requiring us to pass armed soldiers on the 7 train platform, wait in a lengthy queue out in the Shea parking lot just to get into the park (we missed the first inning, and I hate that). Also, I guess due to the long layoff between home games, the beers were warm. I mean, not just not cold, but warm. Jay Payton kicklined with Liza Minelli and before we knew it the Patriot Act was passed. It’s all mixed up still.

On some level I’m also cynical of the whole number-retirement thing, and feel like Piazza’s close association with the Wilpons, and his postcareer outspokenness on his desire to be identified as a Met is on some level orchestrated to this end, though give Mike credit: He knows how to give fans what they want to see.

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Out-Hacking the Hacks

31Mike Piazza probably didn’t deserve the suspicion and innuendo that writers latched onto to deny him the Hall of Fame votes he deserved this year, but if they deny him again based on the garbage in his new biography he has only himself to blame. To be fair I haven’t read LONG SHOT and don’t think I will but the reviews I’ve seen make it apparent that Piazza would be better positioned to head to Cooperstown next year had he not picked a fight with legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, said dumb things about Latin ballplayers, and in an effort to out-hack the hacks, cops to a lifelong struggle with “back acne” while coming clean on trying everything but steriods in an effort to improve his game.

Hey look. We all know by now how the game was played during the Mike Piazza Era, and to me at least whether anyone did or didn’t ought not be the only thing that comes between a player and his Hall of Fame chances. But just having a book coming out seemed like the kind of thing writers who’d hold it against Piazza would hang him for no matter what: If he admits to steroid use in his book, he’s out; if he doesn’t, he’s a liar. I’m sure he gets in, wearing a Mets cap, and the Mets retire his number like they oughta, it’s just going to be more difficult now.

All in all, I prefered the mopey Mike Piazza who didn’t say or do much more than drive home runs screaming into the Keypan sign.

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Ike-illies Heel Revealed

In what was probably the lamest-looking Met injury since Mike Piazza ruptured a groin on an inside pitch in 2003, Ike Davis hit the disabled list today with what officials are calling an ankle sprain and bone bruise suffered while waiting for a pop fly to come down from the sky the other night. Couldn’t he have have gotten hurt diving into the stands or legging out a triple like a real jock? Whatever else is wrong with the Mets these days, Ike wasn’t ever part of the problem and his absence, even if it’s only for a few weeks, is going to hurt whatever expectations you had for the Mets. Fernando Martinez, who isn’t currently injured, was recalled to take his place and reportedly in Denver in his No. 26 jersey.

In case you didn’t see it, revealing article by the incomparable Paul Lukas of ESPN today examining the tossed-off manner with which the Mets adopted the ugly black uniforms they’ve been wearing for 13 years now. By all means read the article but don’t let me spoil the secret that it was motivated by a combination of greed and Yankee paranoia, poorly thought through, and carelessly executed. Given the fact that the man seemingly most responsible for this debacle was arrested the other day and charged with stealing from his bosses — you can’t get away with that in Flushing anymore — and otherwise brought shame and disrepute to the organization given his alleged involvement in an illegal sports gambling operation, you’d think the Mets would move to distance themselves from the literal and figurative darkness the whole black jersey represents, but the Mets never learn.

My friend and frequent MBTN contributor Paul the other day suggested he was rooting for Francisco Rodriguez’s option to kick in with the idea that it could represent the obligation that triggers the Wilpon’s ultimate financial ruin and forces them to the selling block and poorhouse. He wasn’t joking and I’m beginning to see the light myself.

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It Smells a Little Bit

You said it, Willie.

Not about racism (for the record, the intimation Willie “played the race card” is a joke — he just raised the issue, as is his right to do), but about the fact that something stinks around here.

The Randolph Era is beginning to look like another mangerial tenure destined to end unhappily and soon, and that’s a shame: While I’ve never been a great Willie fan I feel terrible about how the fans (and players… and some journalists) have been treating him. I admire his iconoclasm and desire to be dignified: It’s just that this team isn’t lending itself to either end. We don’t need tortured interpretations of pinch-running tendencies and pretend outrage based on willfull misinterpretation of since retratcted quotes (complete with the “I-can’t-believe-I-used-to-idolize-this-guy” piling on). The team is at sea, and it doesn’t appear that Randolph is capable of rallying them to greater success anymore.
If he’s lost the team, that’s when he goes, and no sooner.

That job won’t be easier now that Moises Alou is out injured again. The Mets on Thursday recalled Raul Casanova from AAA New Orleans to take his spot on the roster.

Interesting factoid about Mike Piazza: He was assigned No. 31 in Los Angeles when it became available following Roger McDowell‘s switch from 31 to 17. McDowell, the former Met, switched to 17so as to honor his ex-Met teammate Keith Hernandez. Hernandez, of course, wore 17 in New York because 37 — his number in St. Louis — had been retired for Casey Stengel (and 727 and 47 were already issued).

That means that 17 and 31 — the numbers considered most likely for potential retirementfor the Mets — can be directly traced to the first number the team retired.

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We Salute You

Congratulations to Mike Piazza on a great career and best wishes for a happy retirement, but the Mets didn’t necessarily have to take the whole day off for you.

As readers of the site know, I tend to think too much attention is given to number retirement and not enough attention to the idea of the number as a tradition to be passed along, but I certainly can’t imagine Mets could get away with issuing No. 31 again anytime soon. And it’s not hard to come up with an argument for Piazza’s credentials, so let’s bring it on… in 2013.

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They Call Him the Streak

Congratulations to David Wright, whose single last night extended his hitting streak to 24 games, tying a Met record shared by Hubie Brooks (1984) and Mike Piazza (1999).

Leaving aside for a second the idiotic debate over whether Wright’s “around the corner” hitting streak should “count”– the correct answer is, of course it should – and the larger question as to whether random counting records like this are important – they’re not – it does provide an example to muse briefly on the men who set the records.

It’s easy to associate David Wright with Hubie Brooks. Both were organization-bred third basemen wearing single-digit uniform numbers. And at the time they set hitting streaks each would be considered “answers” for the organization’s storied struggle to find third basemen. That story today is more like a legend seeing as since Brooks (Johnson, Ventura, Wright) third base has been a position of strength for the Mets.

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Mora Arrives; Green en Route

Just back from Big Shea where we were treated to a thrilling walk-off win that included a successful debut for new reliever Guillermo Mota, dressed in the No. 59 jersey he made famous as the involuntary sparring partner of Mike Piazza. Mota is only the third 59 in Met history but the second this year — last we saw Alay Soler, walking dejectedly off the mound at Yankee Stadium in early July, he was wearing 59 too. You have to go all the way back to 1980 and the debut of Ed Lynch to find the third.

Mota was acquired Monday for the everpopular Player to be Named Later. Royce Ring 43 was optioned to Norfolk to make room for Mota.

Shortly before Carlos Beltran’s heroics, the stadium scoreboard informed us that Shawn Greenwould be arriving shortly, acquired, along with $6.3 million, from the Diamondbacks, for AAA leftyEvan MacLane. One thing we shouldn’t expect is for Green’s No. 15 jersey to accompany him: That belongs to Beltran. May we suggest 25? Tune in Thursday to find out.

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Number Nine, Number Nine

New outfielder Ricky Ledee arrived at Shea this evening and suited up in No. 9, last worn by chunky infielder Craig Brazell, best remembered for ruining the Cubs’ 2004 season, currently playing AA ball for the Dodgers organization. Also tonight, the Mets announced that Cliff Floyd 30 was headed to the disabled list for the second time this year and that his spot on the roster would be filled by journeyman Michael Tucker, who’s hitting 265/381/411 while wearing No. 34 down in Norfolk. Let’s hope Floyd stays disabled until fully able. Update Aug. 10 — Tucker appeared today in 22.

Thanks to Louis for the correction on Uni Controversies — the player John Franco swiped 31 from was Julio Machado and not Julio Valera. And thanks to Adam, Michael and Gordon for the Ledee news.

Editorial: If you’re a Met fan out at Shea desperately seeking attention by booing, do yourself a favor and put a sock in it. Thanks.

Ledee In; Marerro Out: The Mets on Tuesday picked up veteran reserve outfielder Ricky Ledee on waivers from the Dodgers and brought an end to the short and undistinguished Met career of Eli Marerro to make room for him. The well-traveled Ledee has frequently worn 33 but was wearing 21most recently with the Dodgers — neither number is available here. We’re guessing he appears tonight in Marerro’s old 32.

Nice to see the great ovation given to returning hero Mike Piazza, and odd to see him wearing No. 33 — his familiar 31 has been retired by his new employers for Dave Winfield. Odder still to see Jae Seo in Tampa Bay wearing the outrageous No. 98.

Shout out to Uni Watch Blog, deliverer of some recent traffic. If you don’t read it, um, you should.

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Late Season Updates

Back from a vacation and better late than never — Anderson Hernandez recalled from Norfolk Sept. 17; Danny Graves 32 recalled on Sept. 5; and Mike Piazza 31 back from the DL on Sept. 10.  MBTN was surprised to return from our vacation to see Hernandez dressed in No. 1 — which we thought that number might have been in semi-retirement awaiting the 1986 anniversary next season and Mookie Wilson’s continuing service to the organization. As argued here before, MBTN is generally not in favor of retiring numbers — we’d prefer to see them strategically re-issued — but hard to say from his play or lack of it thus far whether Hernandez is truly Mookworthy yet.

Hernandez, by the way, appears to be the 42nd and final player to wear a Met jersey this year — the fewest Met uni wearers since only 40 suited up in 1996. We had 52 last year.

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