I am beyond thrilled that this trade has finally….. and I mean finally! become official. I believe I am not the only fan that kept scratching their heads about this whole ordeal, and wondering if it is the medical reports? Are the Red Sox asking for better prospects? Are we going to eat more of David Price’s contract? I even at one point was thinking “Oh no! Is this the equivalent to Chris Paul going to the Lakers trade, that ultimately got vetoed?” As we all know now after many speculations, we got out guy. As a lifelong Dodgers fan I have seen so many signings, trades, and rumored signings/trades. I can tell you first hand I have not agreed with all of their personnel decisions. Let me take you back to a blockbuster trade that broke my teenage heart. Sigh!
Michael Joseph Piazza, known to us Dodgers fans as Mike Piazza, was drafted by Tom Lasorda as a favor from Mike’s father. In the 1988 MLB Amatuer Draft he was chosen in the 62nd round as the 1,390th player picked overall. He came in playing first base. Lasorda then advised Piazza that it would be best if he learned catcher, to help accelerate his chances of being called up to the Major League roster, and helped him attend a special training camp for catchers in the Dominican Republic. Once in the special training Piazza began to hone his craft. He was getting attention for becoming really good with his bat, something catchers aren’t known for.
September 1st 1992. This was the day that Piazza got the call up from the Dodgers. The opponent is the Chicago Cubs. This is what he and his father (who helped him build his arm strength since the age of five) have been waiting for. All of the training from his father, and for a brief time was also under the training of Ted Williams, yes the Ted Williams, came into play. He drew a walk. The second at bat however is when he connected for a double deep to center field off of pitcher Mike Harkey. The first home run in his career came on September 12th the same year. The pitcher Steve Reed. The team this time was against their bitter rivals the San Francisco Giants. He only played in 21 games that season. He ended his cup of coffee with a .232 average.
In 1993 was his first full year in the majors leagues. The kid in me couldn’t get enough of Piazza. He was a towering figure at the plate. 6’ 3” and he was intimidating just at that fact alone. My fascination only grew when he got a hold of one. The sound that was made when bat met the ball was something else. It was definitely like nothing I have ever heard before. He was my hero. He appeared in 149 out of a possible 162 games. This also started a string of 10 straight invitations to the mid summer classic (12 in total) He set a then rookie record of 18 home runs before the All Star game (surpassed by Joc Peterson in 2015 with 20) .318 batting average, 35 round trippers, .561 slugging percentage, and also having 112 runs batted in, earned him the Rookie of The Year award. The second Dodgers rookie of the year in a row, which ended up (5 straight)
Piazza only got better. In the 1996 season he and Ken Caminiti were battling for the National League Most Valuable Player award. .336 batting average, 36 home runs, 105 runs batted in. Ken ended up taking home the honors that year. The following season Piazza was also in the conversation again. In his best season as a Dodger he batted .362, with 40 home runs, along with 124 runs batted in. My favorite highlight that year was easily watching him hit a home run clear out of Dodger Stadium. Prior to then only Willie Stargill of the Pittsburgh Pirates was able to accomplish that. To see Piazza do that as a Dodger, had me gawking at his quick bat. I had never even seen anything like that before. I only heard of when Willie was able to do so. I even saw it in a movie. To see it happen in front of my eyes, live on my TV screen was unbelievable! Piazza once again felt short of the Most Valuable Player award, this time too soon to be Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker.
You know what they say, all good things must come to an end, but it didn’t have to. After all of the success all Piazza wanted was to have a home with financial security. During that following off-season Mike went into negotiations on a new deal that would have given him both. FOX, who previously purchased the team, didn’t want any record contracts set on their time as owners. It became apparent that the new ownership had no interest in keeping the superstar. May 15, 1998. On that day. Man. My favorite player. My hero. Mike Piazza was sent on his way. The franchise favorite for seven years was on his way to the Florida Marlins. It hurt. It was something I thought I would never see in my lifetime. I figured he would be behind the plate for years and years to come. My dreams of watching him break Dodger records was gone.
Piazza only had a short stint in Florida. One week later the New York Mets came calling and took him off their hands. I watched Piazza shine in the big apple. He hit huge home runs for them, played in All Star games, and he even appeared in the 2000 Subway World Series for them. In 2016 he got a well deserved call to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His plaque had a New York Mets hat. After everything he has accomplished I also thought to myself, he could have done this all as a Dodger. Everything! As we welcome Mookie Betts, I really hope he is very successful for us. I hope he can be the missing piece that finally gets us our first World Series title since 1988. I also hope that if and when he is very successful for us he is handsomely rewarded. I would hate for him to become another Mike Piazza situation.