For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers' Association of America did not elect a player to the Hall of Fame, and it is a shame that Mike Piazza was not elected on his first ballot, but he will eventually get in.
This year the BBWAA sent a message that it would not induct anyone from the class because of the looming cloud of assumed and suspected steroid use of players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell and Piazza.
Piazza was one of the players who was kept out because of “guilt by association,” as described by the panelists on the MLB Network after the votes were revealed on live TV.
Piazza was a player who never tested positive for steroid use, he was never named in the Mitchell Report and he is a player who was known to be a good man full of character and conviction with his religious faith.
It was not fair for the BBWAA to punish Piazza because of suspicion, because they certainly had enough time to find evidence or proof.
David Waldstein of The New York Times published an article shortly after the results where known, and it featured some testimony from writers who voted for the former Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics catcher:
Piazza has never been formally associated with steroids through any investigations, legal proceedings or suspensions by Major League Baseball.
But the voting appears to indicate an underlying suspicion.
"I’m surprised he didn’t get more votes,” said Susan Slusser of The San Francisco Chronicle, the president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, whose members vote on induction into the Hall. “He hit the most home runs of any catcher, so I would think under normal circumstances he would be a no-brainer. I assume it’s because of the suspicion. But he’s never been linked to anything.
Tommy Lasorda, a close family friend and the man who brought Piazza into baseball, was also very disappointed with the writers, as stated in an interview with the New York Daily News:
"I was hoping he would make it, I thought he was deserving of it,” Lasorda said Wednesday night in a phone interview. “People talk about the steroids era, and I don’t believe the players involved in that should ever be voted in. But I believe in (Piazza) that he’s not one of them.”
Lasorda, of course, convinced the Dodgers to draft Piazza in the 62nd round in 1988 as a favor because of a longtime friendship with the catcher’s father. The Hall of Fame skipper added that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and others “don’t belong” in the Hall of Fame because “they cheated” by taking PEDs.
Lasorda, 85, also said there’s “no proof” Piazza ever took steroids, adding “I’ve got to say he didn’t take it. That’s how I feel. I just don’t think he took them.”
Unfortunately, the suspicion and accusations surrounding Piazza were enough to block his first-ballot induction, even though writers had five years to investigate and find tangible proof to keep him out, but the fact that he received 57.8 percent of the vote is encouraging for the future.
Piazza certainly has the credentials to be in the Hall of Fame, as the famed catcher finished his career with 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, 2,127 hits and a lifetime batting average of .308. Piazza also was a 12-time All-Star and a 10-time Silver Slugger.
The future Hall of Famer's career started with a 1993 season in which he hit 35 home runs, drove in 112 RBI and batted .318 en route to winning National League Rookie of the Year.
Piazza’s success was never expected, because Mike was not a premium draft choice. He truly came out of nowhere as a selection in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, and it was a courtesy pick by Tommy Lasorda, a childhood friend of Piazza’s father Vince.
The then-Los Angeles Dodgers catcher continued to flourish, batting well over .300 year after year while hitting between 20 to 35 homers a year, while still driving in at least 90 RBI.
Piazza would eventually leave Los Angeles, and after having a cup of coffee with the Florida Marlins, he was traded to the New York Mets where he became a superstar in the Big Apple.
Baseball in New York for the Mets became relevant after Piazza’s arrival, and he helped take the Mets to the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. Unfortunately, Piazza started to wear down because of years of catching, and injuries limited his production in New York.
Nonetheless, Piazza will always be remember for lifting the hearts of a city and a nation when he famously crushed a Steve Karsay pitch for a home run to deep center at Shea Stadium during the first professional sporting event held in New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
He also made history when he surpassed Carlton Fisk’s record of home runs by a catcher on May 5, 2004, when he hit his 352nd as a catcher. Piazza would retired with 396 homers as a catcher.
There are also tons of other memories, like Piazza’s monstrous home run to cap off a famous eighth-inning eight-run rally against the Atlanta Braves on June 30, 2000, that will never be forgotten in the hearts and minds of fans of the Mets.
No matter how you look at Mike’s career with the Dodgers, the Mets or with the teams he played with after his departure from the Mets, he was an amazing player who loved the game. Piazza accomplished a lot during his career and became the greatest hitting catcher in the sport’s illustrious history.
On January 9, 2013, Piazza should have been recognized with first-ballot induction, but in the long run, it will be OK. Piazza is an all-time great, and when he does make it to Cooperstown, the moment will be that much more enjoyable and special for him and the fans who adored him.
When all is said and done, Piazza will be a member of the Hall of Fame, and he will be remembered for his greatness, the many moments in which he impacted the lives of fans and not the allegations and suspicions of steroid use.
The actions of the BBWAA have already caused a stir among fans and pundits in the media and on Twitter, and the lack of induction for many deserving players will certainly open up many dialogues in the coming months leading up to the vote for the 2014 class.