Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Piazza Hangs 'Em Up

The greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game is retiring:

"After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it is time
to start a new chapter in my life," he said in a statement released by his
agent, Dan Lozano. "It has been an amazing journey."

Indeed it has. For as big a star as he became, I always felt like Piazza was out there representin' for the rest of us 62nd rounders.

See you in Cooperstown in five years, Mike.

UPDATE: The headline of the linked article calls Piazza "ONE of the best hitting catchers of all time." One of? Let's see, Piazza has a career OPS+ of 142. The other contenders:

Yogi Berra: 125
Mickey Cochrane: 128
Roy Campanella 124
Johnny Bench: 126
Bill Dickey 127
Ernie Lombardi: 126
Carlton Fisk: 117

I suppose I could go on and on, but the only one who even breaks 130 is Gene Tenace, and he didn't even catch 1000 games. Maybe the editor was being cautious and didn't want a flood of "what about Josh Gibson?!" emails, but I think you take that chance.

Piazza was the greatest hitting catcher of all time, and I don't think it's close.


Levi Stahl said...

Sad day. Mikey P. has been one of my favorite players for a long time, despite never playing for a team I rooted for. The hair, the mustache, the Pert Plus, the friendship with Alf, the hitting, the hatred of Clemens . . . what more can a fan want?

Luke said...

I agree he's a HOF'er, but do you think he's a first-ballot HOF'er? I did some quick "googling" and see that that seems to be a consensus, I just don't see it.

It took Fisk and Berra each 2 years to get in, and Gary Carter 6 years. Is Piazza really better than all 3 of them?

Craig Calcaterra said...

I think he should be, anyway. He's better than Fisk and Carter were. Berra was a better all-around catcher and the fact that he wasn't a first ballot guy is insane to me. I think those results speak more to the idiosyncracies of the Hall voters than they do the players' merit.

If there's any doubt, I think the Piazza will get a slight bump by virtue of appearing on the same ballot as Clemens and Bonds, which appears will be the case. Rightly or wrongly, Piazza has avoided the steroids taint, and many will vote for him as the "clean" alternative to Bonds.

Daniel said...

Could you imagine Clemens going in at the same time as Piazza? I can only imagine the awkward tension.

As for being a first ballot guy, how can he not be as the greatest hitting catcher of all time? I echo Craig's sentiments here - it's not necessarily that he's *that* much better than Fisk or Berra (and maybe he's not if you factor in defense), but those guys both should have gone in on the first ballot. You can't penalize Piazza for past mistakes of HOF voters.

Jason said...

Piazza walks in, first ballot. Imagine the Braves rotation of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux going in with Piazza. Best battery electorate ever?

Jim said...

I like indie rock and baseball, so I have to point out that Levi forgot to mention the awesome Belle & Sebastian song that was inspired by him.

Anonymous said...


One of the things I liked about Mike's offense was that he did it in two pronounced pitcher's parks: Dodger Stadium and Shea.

He was never Brad Ausmus or Mike Matheny behind the plate, but his pitchers all seemed to like throwing to him and the way he called a game.

First round HOF for sure.

Osmodious said...

Hmm..."best hitting catcher" OR "best power-hitting catcher"?
I mean, obviously in the modern era, OPS+ is a more important measure because the expectations of power generation are greater...but in the 40's-60's the catcher wasn't necessarily a power hitting position. Like shortstop, the emphasis was more on defense than hitting, and power wasn't as critical as it has been since Bench (and then Fisk) changed the perception of the possibilities for that position.

As a bit of an aside, I think we are going to see a big push for recognition of Yogi Berra as a truly great player pretty soon. I realize that lot of people think of him as a 'great', but I don't think a lot of others really realize how fantastic a player he was, especially in his era. How many catchers have been MVP, let alone 3 times (I think it was 3)? He had tremendous offensive numbers in an era where the catcher was, as mentioned, not really expected to produce. The fact that he was not a first-ballot guy is inconceivable to me, especially when you consider his TEN World Series rings. Maybe there was a perception of him as a bit of a clown because of the 'Yogi-isms'?

Anonymous said...

Piazza goes down as the greatest hitting catcher and 2nd greatest Met behind Tom Seaver. I actually wrote about Piazza myself; http://lifeandsportsbyjoeyc.blogspot.com/2008/05/mike-piazza-retires.html.
Hall of Fame here I come.

MattD said...

Yes, Yogi was a fantastic catcher, because he could hit and play great defense. In rankings of the all time greatest major league catchers, I've never seen Yogi lower than 2nd behind Bench, and sometimes first. How should people regard him?

As for the "best hitting" or "best power hitting", Piazza had a better OBP than Berra, even when you account for era. Piazza is clearly the best hitting catcher in MLB history.