Should the Dodgers Retire Mike Piazza’s Number?
Former Dodgers’ catcher Mike Piazza joined baseball’s immortal Sunday afternoon as he proudly and emotionally gave his speech at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Michael Joseph Piazza has made his mark on baseball, there is no doubt about that. On Sunday he became the lowest drafted player to ever enter the Hall of Fame. The New York Daily News writer Anthony McCarron in an article said: “Piazza took a unique route to Cooperstown — he is the lowest-drafted player ever to gain election to the Hall of Fame. He was taken in the 62nd round in the 1988 draft by the Dodgers, 1,390th overall. Some believe it was only Tommy Lasorda doing a favor for his pal, Mike’s dad, Vince. But Piazza persevered and soared as a player, eventually surpassing John Smoltz, a 22nd-round pick (574th overall), as the biggest longshot to be enshrined.”
Regardless of how it all happened, the Dodgers were the first to see potential in Piazza. Taking a guy in the 62nd round does not scream Hall of Fame material, but the intention of developing him into a great player was there. Piazza spent the first 5 1/2 seasons of his career with the boys in blue. From 1992-1998 Piazza changed the atmosphere of the club and became a key player. He was named an All-Star 12 times in his career, but six of those came when he was wearing a Dodger uniform. He also earned the honor of Rookie of the Year in 1993 with the club and received six Silver Slugger awards. Piazza and the Dodgers do have a little bad blood thanks to the trade that sent him to the Florida Marlins. Putting that aside, you could argue that Piazza was one of the best hitters to ever put on a Dodger uniform. He hit .331/.394/.572 with the club in five 1/2 seasons.
As Piazza entered the Hall of Fame on Sunday, he did so holding a plaque that showed him wearing a New York Mets hat. Mets fans love Piazza and Piazza clearly loves them back. He even made emotional references to them in his speech. However, where does that leave the Dodgers? Should the Dodgers retire Piazza’s number putting all differences aside?
There is no reason to discount Piazza’s career and performance with the Dodgers. He was a key player in those years with the Dodgers. A bad trade may have bruised some feelings, but his stats speak for themselves.
The Dodgers do have a policy of only really retiring numbers for their own Hall of Fame players. The only exception to this policy is Jim Gilliam who spent over 30 years with the club as a player and coach. Gilliam was honored when he died suddenly before the 1978 World Series. The Dodgers put their policy aside to retire his number in honor of his life. The Dodgers in the past have also not retired numbers, but just made them “off limits” in a way. Since Fernando Valenzuela has left the club, no one has worn a number 34 jersey, but his number is also not officially retired. Piazza’s number 31 has not been one of those. Since he left the Dodgers Brad Penny, James McDonald, Jay Gibbons, Tim Federowicz, Brandon League, Drew Butera and Joc Pederson have also worn number 31. That is not that uncommon with baseball teams though. Of the ten numbers the Dodgers have already retired, six of those numbers have been worn by other players after the Hall of Famers took the field with that number on their back. It is something the Dodgers could implement and simply change Pederson’s number in order to retire Piazza’s.
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With all of that being said, a lot of Dodger fans have a problem with Piazza because of his comments about Vin Scully. In Piazza’s book “Long Shot” that was published in 2013, he wrote that he blames Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully for “turning fans against him”. Everyone knows that the quickest way to bother Dodger fans is to say something negative about Scully who has been essential to the organization for over 65 years.
Even though the bad blood between the club and now Hall of Famer is out there, maybe retiring his number would mend some deep rooted hurt feelings from the ball club? Piazza has not returned to the Dodgers for anything since being traded. No old timer game appearances or anything. If the Dodgers took the step to acknowledge they made a mistake in trading him, but also a great discovery in drafting him by retiring his number, there would be huge steps taken for the better on both sides.