Piazza Announces Retirement After No Interest
It's a shame that it had to end this way. One of the best players of our era - and perhaps the best hitting catcher of all time - has hung up the 'tools of ignorance.' Mike Piazza, who played in Oakland last season, announced his official retirement from baseball after not being signed in the offseason and throughout the first two months of the current campaign.
The 12-time All Star said in a statement, "Within the eight years I spent in New York, I was able to take a different look at the game of baseball. I wasn't just a young kid that was wet behind the ears anymore. I was learning from other veteran guys like Johnny Franco, who taught me how to deal with the pressures of playing in New York, and Al Leiter, who knew what it took to win a world championship."
For a player who had as much success on the field as Piazza, it seems as if he and the fans were cheated by him not having the opportunity to make this decision on his own. Mostly playing at designated hitter in 2007, Piazza played through injuries in 83 games, batting .275 with eight home runs and 44 RBI. At 39, he still has something left in the tank and could have helped an American League club this season. Similar players like Frank Thomas, who returned to Oakland after being released by Toronto, is still swinging the bat.
In a perfect world, having Piazza announce that he was leaving the game at the end of an active season would have been a better ending. Unfortunately, there will be no farewell tour, a la Julius Erving, at every stop until September. It would have also been more fitting for Piazza to walk away wearing a Met uniform instead of bouncing around his last two years.
To gauge the impact and magnitude that Piazza had on the Mets, you would have to think back to right before he arrived in the trade with Florida back in May of 1998. Todd Hundley was nearing the end of his Met tenure, and manning the backstop with the veteran were Tim Spehr, Rick Wilkins and Alberto Castillo. Obtaining a perennial All-Star and the game's top player at his position was a coup for the organization.
Piazza nearly carried the team on his back to the playoffs, batting .348 with 23 home runs and 76 RBI in 109 games in New York. Overall, Piazza hit .328/32/111 for three teams that season. The Mets qualified for the postseason in each of the next three seasons, including winning the 2000 National League pennant and facing the Yankees in the World Series. Piazza's contributions were an integral part of that success.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon reflected on the catcher's great career. "Mike electrified New York City and energized our franchise after we acquired him in 1998."
No regrets from Piazza on the way he had to call it quits. "After discussing my options with my wife, family and agent, I felt it is time to start a new chapter in my life," his statement read.
It would have been more appropriate if one of those options included this season.
*In 1999, Piazza tied a team mark by hitting safely in 24 consecutive games.
*Hit a game-tying home run in Atlanta during Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS.
*During the 2000 season, Piazza had the second-longest RBI game streak with 15.
*In one of the most emotional games in Met history, Piazza blasted a two-run home run for the winning runs on September 21, 2001 at Shea Stadium versus Atlanta. It was the first sporting event in New York following the tragic events of 9-11.
*Piazza sets the record for most home runs by a catcher on May 4, 2004.