Jan 06

Why Didn’t The Mets Lobby For Piazza?

As a Hall of Fame voter, I received emails from several teams over the years lobbying for my vote for one of their players. Seattle wrote me about Edgar Martinez and Boston did likewise for Jim Rice.

There were others.

However, I never received a note from the New York Mets regarding Mike Piazza and I don’t know why.

Surely, it reflects positively on the organization if one of their own gets to Cooperstown. Piazza is one of the more popular players in franchise history, so where’s the love?

I can’t believe the organization doesn’t care, because they’ve gone out of their way to include him in team events in the past.

The only thing I can immediately think of is they are afraid of being embarrassed if he gets in and the PED accusations are later proven true. Or, perhaps they don’t want to be connected to a player with any chance of being linked to steroids.

I voted for Piazza and I didn’t need any lobbying from the Mets. The voting figures to be close, but early reports have Piazza falling short. The announcement will come this afternoon.

Could any stumping by the Mets closed the gap? Hopefully not, but maybe the Mets will get another chance next year.

Jan 05

Piazza Got My Hall Vote

He got my vote, but early reports have Mike Piazza falling short of the 75 percent needed for election into the Hall of Fame.

PIAZZA: He got my vote. (Getty)

PIAZZA: He got my vote. (Getty)

Piazza received 355 votes, or 62.2 percent of the ballots cast, last season. That acceptance is based on total votes and percentages is why I don’t like hear when my colleagues decline to vote because they can’t reduce it to ten worthy players as they are overwhelmed by the PED users.

To bad. You earned the privilege to vote after covering Major League Baseball for at least ten straight seasons. After all that time, you would think they could some how come down with ten players.

Piazza made my ballot not just because he’s the career home run leader among catchers. He never was mentioned on the record by another player, manager or coach for using; he never failed a drug test; he wasn’t mentioned in the Mitchell Report or any other official document on PED testing.

What he did have according to some reporters was some back acne. Definitely not good enough by any stretch. None of these reporters that I am aware of are medically qualified to determine steroid usage. The evidence against Piazza is circumstantial.

So, Piazza got my vote this year, and if he doesn’t make it, he’ll get it next year.

 

Dec 27

My Hall Of Fame Ballot And Reasoning

As I do every time this year, I mail in my Hall of Fame ballot. To grow up loving baseball and to vote for the Hall of Fame is a tremendous thrill. It is also a responsibility I take greatly, which is why I don’t understand the rationale of some of colleagues who use their vote as a political statement. If you don’t want to vote, then surrender your vote.

I can comprehend checking off two or three names if that’s all you believe are worthy and not the ten maximum. If you want to vote in a steroid user that’s your prerogative.

But, what I will never get is them believing, is because of the flux of steroid users that there are more than ten qualified candidates and therefore not submitting any ballot.

Just vote for your top ten and move on. Because candidates stay on the ballot based on the percentage of votes, there’s a chance worthy players will be left off. That’s blatantly unfair and penalizes deserving players.

How can you cover Major League Baseball for at least ten straight years – the requirement to vote – and you’re not able come up with a top ten? Just makes no sense.

I take pride in my vote, do a lot of research and talk to players, managers, coaches and general managers to gain input. And, it’s still hard. Here are my top ten and why:

Craig Biggio: He should have been voted in last year. Over three thousand hits. Aren’t you paying attention?

Mike Piazza: I hear the steroid rumors, but that’s all they are. Innuendo and some back acne aren’t reason enough to bar him.

Jeff Bagwell: Like Piazza, he’s not linked to steroids in any official capacity. Writers should be more responsible than to buy into rumors.

Tim Raines: Arguably one of the three best leadoff hitters in history along with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock.

Lee Smith: There’s a bias against him, but he’s third on the career list with over 400 saves.

Edgar Martinez: There’s a bias against him, also, because he’s a designated hitter. But, that’s an official position, and he was as good as anybody at it.

Mike Mussina: He could have pitched another two years and won 300 games, which is automatic entry. Seventeen straight seasons with double-digit victories, and 11 overall with fifteen or more, often pitching with inferior teams against the American League East.

Randy Johnson: A ten-time All-Star and five-time Cy Young Award winner with over 300 victories and 4,875 strikeouts. He’s a slam dunk. He also threw over 200 innings in 14 seasons.

Pedro Martinez: He was an eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young Award winner. His average season was 17-8 with a 2.93 ERA and 217 innings pitched.

John Smoltz: He won 213 games, but likely would have won over 300 if he didn’t miss the 2000 season with an injury and returned as a closer where in saved 154 games.

I did not vote for any of the players who were directly linked to steroids, either by direct testimony from other players or were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Until the Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball put a notation on their plaques they played in the steroid era and their records come with an asterisk, that will be my stand.

Mar 03

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Impressive; Davis Scratched; Piazza In Camp

New York Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard threw two scoreless innings this afternoon in a 6-2 victory over Atlanta. Manager Terry Collins called it a “big test’’ as Syndergaard gave up one hit in his 30-pitch audition that included a three-pitch punch out of Evan Gattis.

“You’re not in Kansas anymore,’’ Collins told reporters of Syndergaard’s performance. “You’re where the big guys play. I thought he handled it great. You don’t see a lot of people throw three fastballs by Gattis. That won’t happen very much. He just made pitches he had to make.

“He’s a big, tough kid. He’s got all the traits of the good ones. He takes stuff seriously. He’s not joking around. He didn’t joke around even after he came out of the game. … There are certainly some things we’ve got to get him to do better. But, right now, he’s on track to be special.’’

That’s not to be interpreted to mean Syndergaard will open the season on the Opening Day roster. Syndergaard worked on an innings count last season at Double-A Binghamton, and projections are he will start the year at Triple-A Las Vegas.

In addition:

* First baseman Lucas Duda left the game with leg stiffness and is day-to-day.

* First baseman Ike Davis was pulled from the lineup with a tight calf. He is expected to play Tuesday.

* Former Mets catcher Mike Piazza, 45, is in camp this week as a guest instructor. Jeff Wilpon invited him last September when he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. “For me it’s very rewarding to coach and to try to help a little bit,’’ Piazza said.

* Shortstop Ruben Tejada did not play because of a tight left hamstring, but is expected to play Tuesday.

* Jonathon Niese said his left shoulder felt good after throwing in the bullpen Monday afternoon. Niese is scratched from tomorrow’s start. He is expected to throw again Thursday, but does not have a date set in which he will start.

* Major League Baseball’s new instant replay format will be tested at Tradition Field, March 7, 15, 18 and 23.

* Matt Harvey long-tossed this morning. He’s still a long way from the mound.

 

Feb 22

Mets Instruct D’Arnaud Not To Block Plate

Miami Marlins vs New York Mets

Travis d’Arnaud told reporters that regardless of what rule goes into effect regarding blocking the plate, Mets personnel have instructed him today that he is to stand in fair territory and give base runners the whole plate.

The rule, which is not official yet, is to allow runners a lane to part of the plate so as to avoid contact and collisions with the catcher.

Mets bench coach Bob Geren said that he is working with all the Mets catchers about positioning and making sure they tag across the plate.

Last week, Keith Law of ESPN listed Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud among his top twenty impact prospects for 2014, but says he is “the archetypal GWH player” — Good When Healthy.

D’Arnaud can catch, throw, and hit for power, but has to stay on the field. The Mets don’t have a heavy-use backup on the 40-man, so they’re counting on d’Arnaud to catch 120 games this year, which should mean 15-20 homers and excellent defense if he can stay out of the trainers’ room.

Yesterday, Adam Rubin spoke with hitting coach Dave Hudgens about how TDA can shorten his swing and make more contact without the need for conscious mechanical adjustments.

“I think cutting down his swing just means not trying so hard,” Hudgens told Rubin. “I think when he came up last year he was trying, maybe not in his mind, but it looked like he was trying to hit every ball out of the ballpark and over swinging a little bit and probably just trying to do too much. Watching him this year, so far early in camp, his swing has been easy. He’s been staying in the middle of the field. And that will lend to less effort and less bat wrap.”

Last season with the Mets, d’Arnaud batted .202/.286/.263, with one homer, five RBIs, and 21 strikeouts in 99 at-bats.

Rubin asks Hudgens to quantify d’Arnaud’s offensive capability? Is it .270 or .280 with 20 homers?

“Who knows?” Hudgens tells Rubins. “I’m not putting any numbers on guys. He’s got a chance to be a very good offensive player. I mean, he’s got very quick hands. He’s got a good idea at the plate. I think it’s just experience and confidence and getting that playing time. I think last year when he came up he hadn’t played that much. So I think a big thing is just staying healthy.”

If the fans are looking for d’Arnaud to be the next saving grace as Mike Piazza was for the Mets, Hudgens shares with Rubin, that would be asking too much. ”Piazza, I guess, was the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived. I just want Travis to be Travis.”

D’Arnaud acknowledged that he has some work to do and can’t come up to the plate thinking longball everytime. ”That was more me trying to hit the ball 600 feet,” he said. “When I would try to do that, I would overwrap or overswing pretty much, and it would just dig me in a bigger hole.”

Now it’s up to him to fix it.