Introduction | Poll | The Backlog Problem
Frank Thomas | Jack Morris | Jeff Bagwell | Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina
Craig Biggio | Edgar Martinez | Tim Raines | Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro | The worst ballot ever
Mike Piazza’s Hall of Fame debate is both obvious and infuriating. He has a legitimate claim to be the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, and while he was far from good defensively at the position, it’s still a hard thing to do and hit well at the same time.
A former 62nd round pick, Piazza broke in for good with the Dodgers in 1993 and hit immediately to the tune of .318/.370/.561 with 35 homers. Not surprisingly, Piazza was named Rookie of the Year. He only got better at the plate, even as his defense continued to have many detractors. Contract negotiations with a team in ownership transition ended his tenure with the Dodgers in 1998, when he was traded to the Marlins, played five games there, and was traded to the Mets. In his 726 games in Dodger Blue, Piazza hit .331/.394/.572, a cool 160 OPS+.
For the next five years at Shea, Piazza continued to rake, including a 1.012 OPS in the Mets pennant winning 2000 season, and a .957 OPS year in 2001 while playing a huge part in bringing baseball back to New York after 9/11.
From 2003 on, his decline started, along with things like the aborted attempt to move to first base and the asinine “I’m not gay” press conference. Piazza left New York for San Diego in 2006 and hit an impressive .283/.342/.501 at cavernous PETCO Park, which netted him a contract in Oakland for 2007. That didn’t go as well thanks to a separated shoulder, and that ended up being it. Overall for his career, Piazza hit .308/.377/.545 with 427 home runs and 2127. Obviously the games missed due to catching put a hit on his counting stats, as is playing his whole career in pitchers' parks.
Of course, there are rumors about Piazza and PEDs. The majority of this seems to involve certain sportswriters (including unemployed blogger Murray Chass) seeing acne on Piazza’s back. There is no actual evidence Piazza used. It should be pointed out that a major source of the Mitchell Report was a former Mets club hand, yet Piazza was not implicated in the Mitchell Report. That doesn’t prove anything, but it is a point in his favor. If you’re going to not vote for PED implicated guys like Bonds, Clemens, Palmiero, McGwire, and Sosa, that’s fine, that’s your right. Consistency is important though, and adding Piazza, or Bagwell, or anyone else to that blacklist without real evidence turns it into witch hunting.
As you can probably tell, I’m an easy YES on Piazza.
WILL HE GET IN: He debuted at 57.8% last year, and if the Baseball Think Factory Hall of Fame Gizmo is any indication, he might just get a boost this year, which would indicate that Piazza could get elected very soon. If things break right, he’ll be the best non-PED candidate hitter, which means 2015 could be his year, even if 2014 isn’t.
Pat's take: As Eric said, Piazza has a case for the best hitting catcher of all time.
I'm going to take it a step further and say that he doesn't simply have a case, he IS the greatest hitting catcher of all time.
If you brought up any player in baseball history and said that they were the best hitting player of all time at their position, they'd be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. There were be almost zero debate.
So why is there so much contention when it comes to Piazza?
Back acne. Bacne, if you will. That's it.
I've already said that I couldn't possibly care less about PED use, and I don't think it's the BBWAA's job to be the judge and jury after MLB declined to even pay attention to rampant PED use for years.
Piazza is the greatest hitting catcher of all time. He was never punished a single time for any PED use, and there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that he used PEDs. Even if there was, I'd vote for him. But there's not, so even the most anti-PED voter should have to at least justify it somehow if they choose to ignore Piazza on their ballot.
Still, some folks will just throw him under the "PED suspicion" blanket without so much as a single shred of proof. This is the day and age in which we live, sadly.
WILL HE GET IN: Absolutely not this year. Perhaps in the future, but I think it will take at least 7-8 more years before he gets anywhere near true consideration. He'd be on my ballot if I had one, but there's no way he'll get in this year.