The New York Mets Encyclopedia|
by Peter C. Bjarkman
Sports Publishing, Inc., 2001 | Buy the book
1998: ARRIVAL OF MIKE PIAZZA
Slugging catcher Mike Piazza entered Shea Stadium with as much hoopla as any
player in team history. Piazza's New York arrival on May 23, 1998, marked the
end of a whirlwind month for the highly sought-after superstar. In a matter of
weeks, the former five-time Dodger All-Star had fallen from his perch as a
golden boy in Los Angeles, then been peddled off to one of the league's most
desolate outposts, the rebuilding Florida Marlins, then been resurrected as a
franchise hope by one of the circuit's most popular emerging contenders.
Perhaps Mike Piazza had now found a home where he could concentrate on winning
ball games and not on discussing his salary demands in a public forum. Yet for
the remainder of his first New York summer, instability would continue to
shadow one of baseball's biggest celebrities. Inspired by his arrival, the
ball club surged into a wild-card race but nonetheless collapsed in the
season's final days, blowing a golden playoff opportunity. Piazza, who was in
the league's top 10, as usual, in both batting and slugging, nonetheless
posted only 76 RBIs as a Met and was claimed by more curmudgeonly fans to have
disappointed by not coming up quite big enough for the stretch run. Often the
curse of such runaway expectations descends on even the most consistently
productive diamond heroes.
So far, Mike Piazza has paid big dividends for the Mets. En route to becoming
the only big leaguer to hit over .300 with 100 RBIs in each of the previous
four seasons, Piazza's was the loudest bat in a slugging 1999 lineup that did
succeed, finally, in lifting the New Yorkers into a long-absent playoff slot.
His presence had contributed to the team's staying in the hunt throughout his
first partial season in '98. With Piazza in the lineup for a full year in '99,
the Mets unleashed one of the game's toughest batting orders. Piazza was at
the heart of a New York offensive explosion in 1999 that produced three
100-RBI men and, more important, also produced 97 victories and a seat in the
National League Championship Series.
Piazza's 2000 season again produced impressive statistical numbers, leading
the Mets to the NL wild-card berth for a second consecutive season. His
popularity spread well beyond the boundaries of New York City as he gathered a
National League best 2,780,452 votes for the All-Star Game in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, Big Mike wasn't able to participate due to his recovery from a
Roger Clemens beaning on July 8. Piazza enjoyed several streaks during the
2000 campaign, including a 21-game hitting skein from June 7 through July 3
and at least one RBI in 15 straight contests from June 14 to July 2. For the
year, he finished tied for 10th in the NL with his .324 batting average
(including a league-best .377 average in road games), 10th with 38 home runs,
11th with 113 RBIs, and ninth with a .614 slugging percentage.
From The New York Mets Encyclopedia by Peter C. Bjarkman.
Copyright © by Peter C. Bjarkman. Excerpted with permission.