Wednesday afternoon the results were announced and former Dodger is entering baseball’s Hall of Fame.
In 1988, the Dodgers signed a player in the 62nd round, 1,390th pick overall, apparently because his father, Vince Piazza asked Tommy Lasorda to do so. Vince Piazza had a connection to Tommy Lasorda because growing up they were close friends. Lasorda even became the God-father to Mike’s older brother.
That 62nd round pick would go on to become one of baseball’s best players. Mike Piazza is proof that the round you were drafted in does not mean anything in regards to your ability and career.
Right after Piazza was drafted Lasorda encouraged him to learn how to catch in order to become a more versatile player and be able to compete in the big leagues. Lasorda even sent Piazza to the Dominican Republic in order to attend a clinic on catching. To this day Piazza is known as one of the best catchers of all time and he also holds the record for most home runs hit by a catcher.
Piazza played with the Dodgers from 1992-1998. While he was with the team he was the Rookie of the Year in 1993, named an All-Star in six consecutive seasons and received six silver sluggers. Piazza’s best year with the team was 1997, when he hit .362, with 40 home runs and 124 RBI’s. It is impossible to describe the impact Piazza made for the Dodgers those years.
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How can you write about Mike Piazza and not talk about the horrible decision the Dodgers made to trade him? Piazza came into the 1998 season as a free agent and was hoping to receive a contract that reflected his accomplishments with the Dodgers. However, the new owners of the team, News Corp., were interested in a different trade. Next thing Dodger fans knew, Piazza was involved in a seven player trade and off to the Florida Marlins. Fred Claire was the Dodgers GM at the time and it was reported that the trade was made without any of his knowledge. Five weeks after the trade GM Fred Claire and the manager at the time were both released of their positions. Piazza did not last long with the Marlins, they quickly flipped him to the New York Mets in order to get some younger and cheaper talent.
Ken Gurnick wrote an article in which Claire stated how devastated the trade truly was to the team and the fact that it was clearly unnecessary.
It is obvious that some Dodger fans are still bitter about the trade, but Mike Piazza does not have warm feelings for the Dodgers either. In Piazza’s book titled “Long Shot”, he blamed Vin Scully for being the reason he was booed at Dodger Stadium in his final weeks with the team. Anyone who knows anything about the Dodgers, knows that the quickest way to turn fans against you is to pick a fight with Vin Scully.
As tough as it is to swallow, if you love baseball you can only root for Piazza and admire his accomplishments. After all he now has reached baseball immortality, even if he does not proudly wear Dodger blue anymore.