NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Baseball Writers’ Association of America made its statement loud and clear Wednesday: suspicion reigns for baseball’s best from the Steroids Era.
Including former Mets catcher Mike Piazza.
Once considered shoo-ins for the Hall of Fame, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa all received less than 38 percent of the vote, well short of the 75 percent required for enshrinement.
In fact, no one was voted in by the writers for the first time since 1996.
But the case against Piazza, who garnered 57.8 of the vote, consisted of little more than whispers, speculation and bacne. Former Mets general manager Steve Phillips engineered the team’s trade for Piazza in 1998, and called the snubbing of MLB’s greatest hitting catcher “a travesty.”
“He was the best offensive catcher in the history of the game and to lump him in with Clemens and Bonds is insulting,” Phillips told the New York Post. “So he had acne on his back. That’s ridiculous. He was guilty by association because he was big and strong. He worked harder than any other player.”
Bobby Valentine, who managed Piazza under Phillips, said the catcher would “eventually” be enshrined in Cooperstown.
“We’ll see if the climate changes in the next few years,” he told the Post. “It’s an amazing healer, that time thing.”
WFAN and CBSSports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman revealed in a column this week that Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa were left off his ballot. He filed Piazza under “Not this time.”
“I delayed my ‘yes’ vote on the greatest hitting catcher of all-time to await more evidence,” Heyman wrote of Piazza. “It has been reported he’s writing a book, so perhaps he will shed some light.”
Piazza was a superstar with the Dodgers before being traded to the Mets. Tommy Lasorda remembers those days well — he was the guy who persuaded Los Angeles to take a shot on the then-unknown prospect in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft.
“I was hoping he would make it, I thought he was deserving of it,” Lasorda told the New York Daily News. “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.”
Former Mets closer John Franco and current catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud also said Piazza deserved the Hall call. On Twitter, ex-Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca took a swipe at the voters.
“Once again: Tell the Voters the strap on the gear for 9 innings and put the numbers up Mike Piazza did. I don’t care if he used rocket fuel,” he tweeted. “All those voters who never strapped on a jock strap…should take a vote of which owners were complaining during that era. NONE.”
Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger awards and was the All-Star Game MVP in 1996. He hit over 30 home runs nine times and drove in over 100 runs six times. He also batted .300 or better nine times. His most dominant season arguably came in 1997, when he hit .362 with 40 dingers and 124 RBIs.
Piazza ultimately launched 427 home runs, including a record 396 as a catcher. He finished his 16-year career with 1,335 RBIs, a .308 batting average and a .377 on-base percentage.
“We hope in the not too distant future that Mike Piazza will take his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “The statistics he compiled during his career as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game. We are optimistic one day soon Mike’s plaque, with a Mets cap, will be hanging in Cooperstown where it truly belongs.”
Craig Biggio was the top vote-getter with 68.2 percent.
Where do you stand on Piazza? Was he robbed at the warning track? Be heard in the comments!