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Friday, May 23, 2008


This Guy Hates Pizza

I mean, it's mind-boggling. Mike Pizza once hit 40 home runs and OPS+ed 185 as a dude who has to sit in a painful crouch for half of a three-hour game every day. Plus he wasn't a Bondsian-level jerkass, just sort of prickly-blah.

Everyone loves Pizza!

Not Paul Lukas, the guy who usually does Uni Watch, a feature I think I enjoy. Lukas also insists on calling Mike Pizza "Mike Piazza," which I don't really understand.

Good riddance, Mike Piazza

For fuck's sake, calm down.

Now that Mike Piazza has retired, people are already debating whether his Hall of Fame plaque should depict him in a Mets cap or a Dodgers cap.

The answer is clear: Marlins.

If you look at the numbers, it's no contest -- his greatest years were in L.A.

Yeah, he had four or five of his best offensive seasons with the Dodgers, no doubt. But he also four pretty amazing years with the Mets, spent more seasons in New York overall, went to that Subway Series with them in 2000, and held baseball's first "I'm not gay" press conference in New York. So there's something of a contest here, Lukas.

And as a lifelong Mets fan who never warmed up to Piazza, I don't want his enshrinement tied to my team, anyway. Here's why:

The truth comes out. This article isn't about Mike Pizza's Hall of Fame cap at all. I just read the whole thing -- it's actually six numbered bullet points about why Paul Lukas hates Mike Pizza.

Which is fine. It just seems a little disingenuous to Trojan horse the thing inside a "Which HOF cap debate?" question. Just call it "Lukas Loathes..." and put it on your personal blog. Come to think of it, this whole piece doesn't really belong on a major sports media outlet's website, now, does it?

1. When it became apparent that he'd have to move from catcher to first base, Piazza's behavior ranged from disingenuous to manipulative. A classy player would've stepped up and said, "I'll do anything to help the team -- where do you want me to play?"

As Derek Jeter did in 2004, leading to the formation of an unbreakable bond between Jeter and new arrival Alex Rodriguez. Together, these lifelong friends and eventual co-captains would go on to win six consecutive championships, with Rodriguez shattering the record for home runs by a shortstop and becoming the greatest of all time at his position.

A-Rod, ever magnanimous, gave all credit to Jeter: "Derek showed true leadership by shifting to third and allowing me to continue to play at short, where I'm most comfortable. I couldn't have hit all of those clutch ninth-inning home runs without his unwavering support."

Jeter: "He's the king of New York. He eats the pressure for breakfast and asks for seconds. That's why they call him Clutch-Rod."

Rodriguez: "I have a strong feeling there would have been a devastating hurricane in the southeastern United States some time in 2005 if Derek Jeter had not shifted to third base. Just one of those feelings, you know."

What were we talking about again?

But Piazza kept playing dumb, tossing out quotes like, "Well, management hasn't said anything to me about it, so I really don't know."

Oh, right, Pizza. I don't know. Let's say you're the greatest fucking hitting catcher of all time, no one from your team has told you directly that they want you to move to first base, and it's not like the A-Rod of catching has just been traded to your squad. In fact, you yourself are the A-Rod of catching, hitting-wise.

Do you preemptively volunteer to play first?

I'm not fucking moving anywhere 'til I'm told to.

Right, the whole city of New York is talking about it but you have no clue. Sure.

You heard it here first: Paul Lukas expects players to switch positions based on talk radio chatter and Post back page headlines.

When skipper Art Howe eventually mentioned to some reporters that Piazza would be taking some infield practice at first base and the reporters then told Piazza, he acted all offended because Howe didn't tell him beforehand.

It seems like this would kind of piss me off too.

2. One reason he didn't want to play first base was that he was obsessed with that stupid record for most home runs hit by a catcher -- a record that exactly one person in town cared about. Can you guess who that one person was?

The ghost of Mohammed Atta?

(Hint: Rhymes with "Mike Piazza.")

Oh. It was baseball historian and NYU Classics professor Ike Miazza. Figures.

3. Of course, once Piazza finally played first base, we found out the real reason why he'd been avoiding the issue: The guy's a horrible athlete.

So horrible he made over $120 million playing a sport professionally while not being a seven-foot-four acromegalic from Madeupeasterneuropeancountry-ovakia-istan.

Great hitter, yes, but not a good athlete.

Ah yes. David Ho: great AIDS researcher, but not a good scientist.

No coordination, no footwork.

Note to all aspiring high school baseball players: it takes zero coordination and zero footwork to play catcher for a Major League Baseball team for nearly 15 seasons. Catcher: the position played by physical dum-dums!

And it went way beyond his inability to play first base. I defy anyone to find one instance -- one single instance -- of Mike Piazza properly executing a slide into second or third base. Never happened. Why? Get this: MIKE PIAZZA CAN'T SLIDE. It's true. When he tried to slide, he'd spaz out and trip. Really!

And because he couldn't slide, Mike Pizza shouldn't...wear a Mets the Hall of Fame?

I feel like we've gone off the rails a little bit, people.

4. When the New York Post implied that Piazza was gay, he held that little press conference where he declared his heterosexuality. OK, fine. But he missed a huge opportunity to say, "But what if it was true? What if I was gay? So what? What if one of my teammates is gay? What if one of YOU is gay? It's no big deal. Listen, I'm straight, but this whole thing is really a nonissue." In a city with a huge gay population, that was an opportunity to show some real community leadership, and he totally spit the bit.

Yeah, it would've been cool if he had done that. I bet Mike Pizza is a little homophobic. Or maybe he's really gay. I don't know. But I also bet that a good number of the Mets that Paul Lukas absolutely adores are also a little homophobic. It seems like a professional athlete thing to be.

** EDIT **

Also, as many many many readers have just pointed out to me, Pizza sort of did say the whole thing was a nonissue:

"In this day and age, it's irrelevant," he said. "I don't think it would be a problem at all."

So at least at that press conference, he didn't seem all that homophobic at all. He was a gay-friendly Pizza, like one with basil and Roma tomatoes. (Note: I did not say "with sausage" because it's too phallic, I did not say "with pineapple" because it's too fruity, and I did not say "with clam and garlic" because that's too vagina-y.)

** END EDIT **

5. A few days after Roger Clemens beaned him in 2000, Piazza said that the incident had made him reassess the DH. "I thought the DH could be a good thing for me later in my career," he said, "but now I see that it's bad for baseball, because the pitcher can throw at the batter with no fear of retaliation." So what did he do after leaving the Mets? He shopped himself to American League teams with hopes of becoming a DH. None of them were interested, so he signed with the Padres, but then he went to the A's, where he happily DH'd. Hypocrite.

He said that first thing after he got a damn concussion from one of Clemens' 160-mph torP.E.D.oes. Five years later, you want him to end his career out of the mere principle of sticking to an offhand anti-DH comment to the media after he got hit in the head?

6. "The runner goes, here's the throw from Piazza -- and it comes in on two hops."

He was a bad thrower. He was also the best player on your favorite team for years and years. He slugged .941 in the 2000 NLCS. He hit 40, 38, 36, and 33 home runs from 1999-2002, batting in anywhere from 94 to 124 runs in each of those seasons. And yes, he broke the record for home runs hit by a catcher, which is kind of a big deal if you're the type of person who cares at all about what hat a man wears inside the Baseball Men Hall of People Who Hit and Pitched and Fielded Well.

Was Piazza a tremendous offensive player? Yes. Did I sometimes cheer for him? Yes.


But he never fulfilled his potential as a star, in the fullest sense of that term. Too bad.

Pronunciation: \ˈstär\
Function: noun
1 : a player who changes positions as soon as Jesse from Queens calls into Mike and the Mad Dog and asks him to
2 : a player who does not try to hit more home runs than anyone who has played his position ever has in the history of the game
3 : a player who practices sliding, not hitting
4 a : a player who uses his "I'm not gay" press conference as an opportunity to speak out for gay equality, or barring that, b : a gay guy
5 : someone who has never contradicted in action what he or she has once said in words
6 : Yadier Molina, because hey, what an arm!

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posted by Junior  # 7:33 PM
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