Book Review: Long Shot by Mike Piazza with Lonnie Wheeler

As I’ve stated on this site more than a few times, I’m not a big fan of Mike Piazza. I acknowledge that he is an very talent hitter, not just a great hitting catcher but one of the best right handed hitters of his era.  I’ve defended him against the witch hunt against him that kept from being a first ballot Hall of Famer and hope that someday the Mets retire his number 31.  After reading Piazza’s autobiography, Long Shot (Simon & Shuster) I still believe he is a hall of famer player and that his 31 should be emblazoned on the Citi Field outfield wall and I’ve reinforced my feeling that Piazza is a self-centered, what’s in it for me kind of guy.

The book itself is a pretty good read and may have been a better read for me if I didn’t read it right after devouring Terry Francona’s book which was outstanding. But I give a lot of credit to Lonnie Wheeler who co-wrote the book with Piazza for putting the pieces of Piazza’s life and career together into this book.

Piazza destroys the myth about his relationship with Tommy Lasorda and how that relationship gave him the career he had. It’s no myth, it’s the etched in stone truth. The other revelation in this book is that Mike’s dad Vince was a typical overbearing Little League stage dad who was all in Mike’s business and the Dodgers baseball business as well. What’s sad about the relationship that Vince Piazza had with Tommy Lasorda and all the meddling both of them did with getting Mike a shot to make the big leagues is it overshadows the hard work and perseverance that Mike put in to get to the big leagues and have the great career he had.    

Mike doesn’t seem to get that every time he had a problem with a minor league manager or coach and ran to daddy or his Dutch Uncle Tommy, it left a black mark on his reputation.  Again to his credit Piazza let his bat do most of the talking as he rose up the ranks of the Dodger chain. The trip to the top though left Piazza bitter towards the organization as not many of the Dodgers minor league staff thought he was worthy of the prominent spot he had in the origination.

Piazza in some chapters enjoyed his time with the Mets and in some chapters he didn’t. He loved New York City and Mets fans as he was taken aback by the passion of the Mets fan base after playing in front of the laid back LA crowd. But had some differences with ownership and with of all people Mets P.R. man Jay Horowitz, who is beloved by everyone in the Mets org. Same as he blamed Vin Scully for turning Dodgers fans against him. Talk about delusional!

Piazza speaks unabashedly about his deep commitment to his Catholic faith but he also lists all the D-List Hollywood bimbos he bedded during his baseball career.  He speaks of the deep friendship he enjoyed with Erick Karos, Todd Zeile John Franco and Al Leiter. But only Franco and Leiter attended his wedding, in fact it was at his wedding that Piazza realized that he burned a lot of bridges with teammates as his wife side of the church was filled with friends and his side was quite sparse.

Of course Piazza goes in to detail about his feud with Roger Clemens and the fact that he never confronted Clemens about his attempt to decapitate him. Piazza talked tough about confronting Clemens but when he had the chance at the 2004 All Star Game when he and Clemens, NL teammates met in private and Piazza had his chance to level Clemens did nothing. In fact Piazza talks about getting even with every pitcher who hit him with a pitch but the only one he went after was Guillermo Mota who mocked him by saying “how come you didn’t go after Clemens like you went after me”?

There is of course the chapter on supplements and what Piazza took and didn’t take which I read fast because I’m tired of reading and talking about PED’s.

As I said, Long Shot is an enjoyable read especially for Mets fans as the best part of the book is Piazza going into detail about the 1999 and 2000 seasons, his relationship with Bobby Valentine and his emotions following the 9/11 attacks and his home run against the Braves in the first game back after the attack.

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The NY Mets Search For The Diamond In The Rough

I had quite a busy Mets day yesterday as I resurrected my podcast with the help of Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal and then calling in as guest to the Rising Apple podcast.  In between podcasts, I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a Mets Bloggers conference call with Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson has been gracious with his time to members of the Mets blogging community and has shown us great respect in regards to our questions and views pertaining to the New York Mets. Alderson has stated to us a couple of occasions how he enjoys the passion we have for the team and time and effort we put in to write and talk about the Mets.  When the Mets and Alderson first started to have these blogger calls the session lasted about 25-40 minutes, last night Alderson stayed on the line with us for about an hour. Name me another team or GM who does that? There aren’t any. As you can see from the transcript, (a great big tip of the Mets cap to Eric Simon and Chris McShane of Amazin Avenue for putting together a transcript of the conference call and while you’re at AA check out Chris’ column on Paul DePodesta and how the team has turned around the player development side of the organization, it’s a great read)

When my turn to speak to Alderson came up, I asked him about the turnover in the roster this past off season and the similarities in the position players he has added.   The players I looked at, Collin Cowgill, Andrew Brown, Brandon Hicks and Jamie Hoffman all poses good walk rates and isolated power percentages. They also have in common the distinction of coming from solid organizations (Cowgill came up through the Oakland A’s system, Brown the Cardinals, Hicks the Braves, Hoffman the Dodgers) when it comes to teaching proper fundamentals in the lower levels of their farm systems. This group also plays the game aggressively as well, on the base paths and on defense.   Here is the Mets GM’s reply to my question:

Well you listed off a lot of positive qualities. And to the extent that the players you mentioned are aggressive defensively, aggressive on the bases, command the strike zone, have some power, can run the bases a little bit. Yes, I would say that these are the kinds of players that we would like to have. Offense plays. You can be a great defender, if you can’t hit you probably can’t play anywhere. I’m not talking about the Mets exclusively. And also, it is possible that there are players that just don’t get an opportunity in certain organizations because they may be deeper at certain positions than they are at others. The minor league free agent market, or the fringe 25 man roster guy, playing for a club with a strong roster, given the opportunity may turn into something valuable. Mike Baxter is another example of this from previous years. Not that Mike has great power, but he’s a very valuable piece and part of the team. There’s no question that we value on base percentage, walk rates, isolated power is important, but as we’ve emphasized with a number of guys here in camp on base percentage, command of the strike zone is important. And look, it’s important on offense, it’s important on the pitching side. If you don’t walk anybody and keep the ball in the ballpark you can win games. Today was a good example of what can happen when you walk seven and give up a number of home runs. The same thing happened yesterday- we out hit the Marlins yesterday 9-5. They beat us because they had 14 total bases on 5 hits and we had, I think, 9 on 9 hits. So right, I think that these are the kinds of players were looking for, that we think can make a contribution at the major league level, and we’re going to find out given some opportunity here in the spring what we have. And, of course, we should have most of them going into the season and so we’ll get a chance to look at them again. You have to look for players wherever you can find them, particularly when you’re weak in that area in your own system.

The players I mentioned are very good complimentary pieces that you need to have on a winning team and as Alderson stated and as we’ve seen firsthand, the skill sets that the players I mention have, are lacking in the organization and as we see Alderson and his baseball ops guys went out looking for this prototype player from different organizations. I think it is also very telling the organization they signed these players from, teams who have rock solid foundation in teaching the right way to play in their minor league systems.

 

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Mets Minutia

While I have some quiet time, I figured let me sit down and knock out a post because the next few days will be quite hectic. So in no particular order rhyme or reason here are some of my Mets Musings:

Seriously, how do you put out a holiday video of the best moments of your season and not included R.A. Dickey in it? This beyond petty and stupid it’s indefensible.  No mention of his winning the Cy Young Award, no mention of his back to back 1 hitters (6/13 vs. Tampa and6/18 vs. Baltimore) where he K’s 25 batters in 18 innings, no mention of the great atmosphere at Citi Field on the final home game for his 20th win??????  And you want to know way the vast majority of the Mets fan base scream SELL THE TEAM!!!!!!  Are the Skill Sets this clueless and numb to public perception that they signed off on this video?????

If Sandy Alderson wants to look at Grady Anderson on a minor league or a make good major league deal, I have no problem with that. It’s a low risk/high reward move. Now as for some of the pitchers we hear they are looking at well, that’s another story.

We can scratch Francisco Liriano off the list as he signed a 2yr/$14 mil deal with the Pirates which looks to be a year and about $11mil more than I thought he’d get.  Carl Pavano’s name has been mentioned as well and you could probably get him very cheap and for a guy who would be a 5th starter and place holder for Zack Wheeler he wouldn’t be a bad choice at the right price. Of course we all remember Pavono as a major bust with the Bronx Bastards but he would be coming to the Mets not as a top of the rotation pitcher but as journeyman seat filler.  Pavano is also coming off missing most of last season with a bruised bone in his shoulder that did not require surgery, so I could see offering Pavano a minimum ML contract loaded with tons of incentives.  Aaron Harang makes $7mil for 2013, unless the Dodgers are ready to eat $6 mil of that then he’s a thought but if the Mets can get Chris Capuano back that would be the move. What would it cost player wise in trade is the question and Capuano makes $6mil for the coming season so maybe a B level pitcher and the Dodgers eating at least half the contract would be a nice little re-acquisition by the Mets.

If you have a Hall of Fame vote and you don’t cast a vote for Mike Piazza and then try to write a column where you attempt to justify your non-vote, all you do is prove to your readership that you’re a self-important jerk and you have violated the first rule of reporting, never make yourself the story.

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Redemption Weekend

The mantra of Terry Collins the second half of this dismal season has been “this is the time for some guys to show they belong here’ here being in the big leagues. So far the vast majority of Mets players have not measure up to that test. What should infuriate Mets fans even more is that the wild card race has become a wide open affair in the National League.

For most of the season it looked as though the Braves and Pirates would be playing in the one game knockout tournament. The Dodgers then went out and made the deal of the millennium and the Giants lost Melkey Cabrea to doping charges. It seemed like the Giants would drop out and the Dodgers would take over the NL West.  The opposite occurred with the Giants players bonding in the wake of the Cabrea suspension and the fact that the Melk Man wasn’t man enough to face his teammates to apologize for abandoning them. It seems that back turn by Cabrera has been a rallying cry for the Giants. The Dodgers on the other hand have stopped scoring runs (sound familiar?) and the Pirates returned to form losing 15 of their last 20 games, same for the Cardinals who have dropped 12 of last 20 while the Braves have tread water at 10-10. While those teams hit the skids the left for dead Phillies and Brewers have both gone on 15-5 streaks to get them back in the thick of wild card contention.  Have you noticed I’ve failed to mention our beloved NY Mets in this conversation? Why is it that some teams like the Phillies and Brewers can go into slumps but then not give up the season and fight for a spot? How is it that team’s like the Pirates, Dodgers and Cardinals are now in slumps, at the worst time of the season to do so, but are still fighting to stay in the hunt while the New York Eeyores just plod along?  

This should be the message that Terry Collins sends his players in his pre-game talk with them. Let them know that these three games with the Brewers are a test, a test to see if they have the heart and guts to compete with a team that rose from the ranks that the Mets have made permanent residence in, the also ran’s, to a team in contention.  Let them know that this is their time to have an impact on the season to help alter the course of the post season race. To me this is a real test of Collins and his players to show that they actually give a shit about winning.  If this team can’t find it in itself to show some competiveness and some pride in this series and Terry Collins comes out in the post-game and says he saw some good things and that guys tried, I’m going to sue the Mets for the price of a 55” Samsung TV because I will throw the remote control through my television if that happens.

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Check Out The Sports Media Watchdog Podcast

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Listen to internet radio with Mike Silva Media on Blog Talk Radio

 

Mike Silva and me talked about the book PATERNO, The Red Sox-Dodgers blockbuster trade, Roger Clemens return to baseball, and the lunacy that is Skip Bayless.

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Gotta Clean Up The Slop

 

 

Let’s face it, when Terry Collins rolls out his majority right handed hitting lineup the opposition isn’t exactly quaking in their cleats. So add the righty lineup with sloppy base running and defense (besides bullpen help and a right handed power bat, Sandy Alderson really needs to put getting a defensive catcher high on his things to do over the all star break list, really enough of Mike Nickeas already!) and Clayton Kershaw you get an 8-2 Mets loss but this game was more the Mets losing it than the Dodgers winning it.

A 3-1 Mets lead disintegrated  again by poor defense (I’ve been a supporter of Lucas Duda and the job he’s done in RF but lately he’s been regressing out there and I’m getting a little worried)  which seems to happen every time I think the Mets are ready to run off a big win streak (My daughter and I were in a t-shirt store in Hyannis  yesterday when the clerk saw my Mets cap and t-shirt, he said “wow the Mets are doing really well this year what are they like 5 games out of 1st place”? and in my “no you asshole “voice I told him the Mets were 2.5 games out of 1st  at which point my daughter walk slowly out of the store full of embarrassment) but still the Mets have had three winning months in a row and have not been below .500 all season so with that and the fact they are a mere 3.5 games back of the Nationals for first place in the NL East it’s been a great first half of the season.

And you want to know why I think so highly of Sandy Alderson, the truth hurts doesn’t it Mets fans

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On Vacation Which Means More Baseball To Watch

 

Greetings from Cape Cod where I will be vacationing for the next week. Before heading to the Cape last we went to the Brooklyn Cyclones Aberdeen Ironbirds game a Cyclones 6-2 win that was capped off by Brando Nimmo’s Grand Slam to break up a 2-2 tie.

When I got to the hotel I got a couple of text from friends altering me that David Wright had made the All Star team but will not start as he lost the vote to Pablo Sandoval. I can understand the outrage but for me I’ll save my ranting and raving for the end of the season when Wright gets robbed of the NL MVP.

I’m happy for Wright as it’s a well deserved berth to the All Star team but the two Mets I’m ecstatic over making the team are R.A. Dickey and Terry Collins both men have re-invented themselves and now get their just reward.

Time to unpack and hit the pool before dinner, Cape Cod speaks fluent baseball, so I know where ever we go for dinner there will be a TV with Mets-Dodgers  plus I have to chart the week to see what Cape Cod League games I want to see and how many baseball scouts I can talk to. Busy week ahead. Let’s Go Mets!

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Coming Up On The 4th of July and We Are In A Pennant Race

 

Looks like the Mets roller-coaster season is rising to the top again with last night’s 3-2 win over the Hollywood Bums.  So far as we near the completion of the first half of the season, Mets fans emotions and view of this team has spun around like a weather vane in a tornado, they put together a nice little win streak and we feel this could the one of those season where the club can grab what looks like a wide open NL East and win the division. Then there are the losing streaks and we’re ready to slump our shoulders and look at each other with that “ I knew it was too good to be true” expression we’ve worn since Mike Vail looked like the second coming of Mickey Mantle until a shattered ankle ended that dream.

But here we are, at the end of June and the Mets are but a mere 3 ½ games out of 1st place. I think most of us are still stunned by that as all winter the number of wins predicted for this Mets team hovered between 75 and 81 with everyone who bleeds blue and orange saying a .500 season would be a dream come true. Has this first half changed your view of that dream?

This is what the summer should be about, your team in contention for a pennant where you’re not just following your team but every team in the division, that’s where we stand now with the Mets especially this weekend. With the Mets and Dodgers playing at 10PM, it sets up perfect for us to follow the Phillies at the Fish and the Nats at the Braves right into Mets (with the Dickster on the bump) Dodgers. Its weekends like this that I pity those who aren’t baseball fans.

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Who’s Afraid Of Who ?

 

 

I wrote this yesterday but caught up with a ton of work so I couldn’t post it so what the hell, let it fly today

There is no more reactionary fan base of any team in this town like Mets fans. This fan base goes from euphoria to despair in a Manhattan minute. Take yesterday’s game for instance.

After winning the last two series against the Pirates and Padres (yes we know Keith the Padres are bottom feeders) the fan base was sky high but then a look at the upcoming schedule made some apprehensive of what will happen to the Mets by the end of the month. A look at the records of the Mets upcoming opponents should really rattle the Mets faithful:

Dodgers  32-16

Nationals 29-19

Orioles 29-20

Rays 29-20

Reds 27-21

Cardinals 27-22

Mets 27-22

Highlanders 26-22

Phillies 26-24

Cubs 16-32

The teams I worry about in this stretch are the Dodgers, Nats and the Rays as they have outstanding pitching and could very easily shutdown the Mets offense. What makes this a mine field for the Mets is these teams come at them one after the other. So if the Mets tread water for the next 31 games and go 16-15 that would leave the club at 43-37 heading into July and the half way mark of the season. I’d be happy with that.

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I Know It’s Early But…………

 

I had hoped to post this earlier this morning but I was having some computer issues, so now that that’s fixed I figured let me throw this up tonight since there’s no Mets to watch  

 

When I saw the lineup that Terry Collins cobbled together last night it left me speechless.  Vinny Rottino batting 5th? Ginger Tuner 6th Rob Johnson in a big league game?  I then proclaimed this as a no can do game for the Mets to win in fact if they did I felt it would be an instant Mets Classic.

Well, cut off my legs and call me Eddie Gadell, the Mets not only won the game and swept the three games series but if watched the game with someone who never watched baseball before which team do you think they would say was the favorite to win the NL East?  The Mets looked like the team to beat and the Phucks ? Like a bunch of broken down old men.  As enjoyable as it was to see the Mets make another late inning push to the finish line, how much did you enjoy the Phuck Phace Phans storming out of CBP after the Mets top of the 8th   like there was a free government cheese giveaway on Broad Street.

Of course it’s too early to gloat but for all the doom and gloom that surrounded the Mets all winter and into spring training (anyone still upset by the club’s shitty Grapefruit League record ?) having this team (18-13) just 2 games off the pace of the best record in the NL (Dodgers  and Cardinals are at 20-11) and 2.5 games away from the best record in all of MLB (Rangers at 20-10) is something to be proud of. But Terry Collins won’t ever show that side of him, sure he’s happy with the wins and how the team has played but he also knows there is such a small margin for error with this club and the fan base is one 3 game losing streak from turning on them so he keeps his emotions to himself and his players have taken his queue as well, hopefully sometime in October all the emotion can be released.

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Tickets

The Mets are looking great this year and The Eddie Kranepool Society keeps you up to date on the good bad and the ugly. If you are looking for Mets Tickets, you must visit Coast To Coast Tickets for all your ticket needs. CTC carries MLB Tickets as well as some of the best priced Concert Tickets on the web and don't forget they also carry Yankees Tickets.

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