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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Why Do Baseball Writers Hate Mike Piazza ?

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I’ve never met Mike Piazza. People I know have met him and have had dealings with him and have told me some not so nice stories about him. When Piazza did not show or even send a video thank you as other members of that team did (Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Roger McDowell and Davey Johnson) at the SNY taping of the naming of the 50th anniversary all-time team, I asked around why the man named as the greatest catcher in Mets history wasn’t there, all I got was a lot of looking down on the ground and a some well…..ummmmmm…….aaaa…….’s as a response.  I’ve never been a big Mike Piazza fan and for me it was from conversations with folks who dealt with him and just my sense that he was more of a “me” player, perfect example was his stubbornness to not take ground balls at first base until he broke the all-time record for home runs by a catcher.  Even with all that bias I have against Piazza, I still think he’s a first ballot hall of famer and to tell you the honest truth I’m SHOCKED at all the negativity he has gotten from the voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America and it looks like what myself and every other Mets fan thought was a lead pipe cinch-Piazza going in as a first ballot HOF’er-isn’t going to happen.

The anti-Piazza block of scribes claims that due to nothing more than a case of back acne, Piazza is guilty of being a juicer. There’s absolutely no proof of a positive drug test nor was Piazza’s name mentioned in the Mitchell Report that links Piazza to usage of PED’s.  For every voter who casts a ballot minus Piazza’ name on it, 1,000 Tweets of “You’re an asshole” hit Twitter. I’ve tried to figure out why these baseball writers would embarrass themselves by not only leaving Piazza off their ballot but be so public about it. My conclusion is it’s not about the steroids it’s that the writers just don’t like Mike.

Think about it, baseball writers and players have feuded for years. Ted Williams hated the Boston scribes and vice-versa. When Williams was inducted in 1966, 27 voters left the Splendid Splinter off their ballot. Look how long it took Eddie Murray and Jim Rice to be enshrined. Murray and Rice hated the press and made their life difficult so when the time came, the writers turned the tables on them with some out and out hate. How about Albert Belle? Take a look at the 10 seasons Belle but together and argue that he is not worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. Do you know what percentage of votes Belle received?  In 2006, his first season on the ballot, Belle got 7.7 % of the votes. In 2007 he garnered 3.5 % of the vote which in turn made him ineligible to be on any future ballot. A player who finished his career prematurely due to injury with a line of .295/.369/.564 and 381 HR 1239 RBI gets just two years on the ballot and goes from 7.7 % of the vote to a messily 3.5% ? Now that’s hate. I know Belle was a prick with ears to everyone he encountered in the game  but it goes to show that when the members of the BBWAA can get revenge they go on an all-out assault, which in my very convoluted way brings me back to Mike Piazza.

I don’t recall Piazza having any real animosity with the media except for when the NY Post questioned his sexuality. Piazza was never a great quote machine (neither is the sainted Jeets) and I’ve never heard of any “feud” between Piazza and the media so this could just be something in my own mind that fuels the feeling the press is out to get Piazza. Other than that or a positive drug test how could you not vote for Mike Piazza for the baseball Hall of Fame?

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My BBA Hall of Fame Ballot

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, every year we cast our Hall of Fame ballot to compare our results with those of the Baseball Writers Association of America.  I’m pretty sure my ballot is a lot different from many in the BBWAA who enjoy going on witch hunts rather doing real honest to goodness research on the candidates.  Without further ado here is the ballot I just cast:

Mike Piazza

Only someone seeking attention would NOT cast a vote for Piazza, and this is coming from someone who is not overly found of the former Mets catcher. But I won’t let that cloud my view that Piazza was not only the best hitting catcher of his era but he was one of the best right handed hitters as well. The majority of BBWAA members who vow not to vote for Piazza because the suspect he was a PED user, even though they have no proof whatsoever except for their short attention minds, the same short attention minds that feel playing Words with Friends in a big league press box is more fun than actually watching the game they are being paid to cover, are just making ass’ of themselves.  Piazza is a without a doubt first ballot Hall of Famer.

Jeff Bagwell

Again no proof of being a juicer but the voters of the BBWAA get their rocks off snubbing him on the ballot.  His lifetime slashes of .297/.408/.540/.948 is certainly Hall worthy and when you add in the power (449 HR), speed (202 SB and only 78 CS) and defense, Bagwell was the total package as a ballplayer.

Craig Biggio

The other half of the Astros Killer B’s his 3,060 hits makes him an automatic

Barry Bonds

All of the main streamers hate Bonds and will hold off voting for him due to PED’s even without proof (remember Bonds was guilty of perjury the only charge the government could get to stick and made sure the tax payers of California paid a lot of money that could have went to building schools or hospitals to convict Bonds) but they voted him the MVP 7 times including 4 times during the Era of Taint.

Roger Clemens

I’ve come from not giving a shit about who took PED’s to today where I feel the game is much better and more enjoyable than it was during the Steroid Era. I still don’t feel the players who took PED’s were cheaters since my definition of a cheater is someone who breaks the rules and at the time there were no rules in MLB or in the CBA that said use of PED’s by players were against the rules. Players have taken narcotics and stimulants since the beginning of baseball time to get an advantage same as when players corked bats or went for Lasik surgery to better their eye sight, every athlete looks for an edge. Add in that the Steroid Era followed the cancelling of the second half of the 1994 season along with playoffs and World Series due to labor strife, the game needed something to bring back disgruntled paying customers and I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a juiced ball as much as juiced players . Even before the Era of Taint, Clemens was a Hall of Famer and with 354 Wins, 4,672 K and 7 Cy Young Awards, even though I hate ya’ Roger I gotta respect ya!

Tim Raines

One of the most exciting and better players of his era Raines was right there with Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the cog that ran the Montreal Expos of the 1980’s. Raines stole an amazing 808 bases and was caught just 146 times in his 23 year career and was an on base machine.

Allan Trammell

Trammell could always find a way to get on base or hit you a Home Run or steal a base while playing a stellar shortstop.

Jack Morris

Hey Bill Madden I saw Jack Morris play and he was damn good. If Morris were a Highlander for most of his career, Madden would have pleaded with his fellow BBWAA members to get him Hall of Fame enshrinement.

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It Was The Best Of Nights, The Worst Of Night’s At Citi Field

The photo was from Mets Merized Online and taken by Clayton Collier who also has a great write up of the Q & A the Mets Bloggers conducted with Phil Niekro, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield

It was another Mets blogger-rattzi day at Citi Field yesterday and it was almost the best bloggers day ever. I say almost because there was an unfortunate incident late in the game that put a damper on the events of the day. Josh Edgin and Andres Torres with his ability to kill a rally with a signal ground ball, played the sad clowns. So instead of all of us heading home with the wonderful memory of chatting with 86er Barry Lyons, Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield along with an outstanding performance by the 2012 winner of the Clff Floyd Light At The End Of The Tunnel Award Matt Harvey, the lasting image of the day was a Ryan Howard 2 run home run off closer of the day Edgin.

The day started with Terry Collins and his daily FEMA update on his club. Collins is the definition of a ‘fox hole guy”, as bad as this team is, as inept as they are at the basic fundamentals of baseball, as dismal as the outlook for next season appears, Collins still talks about his players being talented and how they are playing out the season to the fullest and those of us in the conference room feel our pant legs getting drenched from being pissed on but being told it’s just condensation from the air conditioning unit.

So after a few eye roles we head out to the field to watch and schmooze while our heroes stretch and take BP. After a few minutes of observing and kibitzing, the blogger group was introduced to former Mets catcher Barry Lyons.  We spent a good 20 minutes with Lyons talking about everything from his days as an 86er, to Davey Johnson to catchers calling pitchers other than the pitching coach and how the 1986 Mets would have fared in the new social media world.

Lyons spoke of the special bond he and his 1986 Mets teammates have and how winning a championship builds that special bond forever. Lyons was wearing his Mets Alumni golf shirt and mentioned how even though he played for other teams (Dodgers, Angels, and White Sox) he will always be a Met. In fact, Lyons even spoke of maybe getting back on the field as a manager in the Mets minor league system. I told Lyons that if he needed an advocate for him to take over the helm in Brooklyn I would be honored to head the campaign. Hopefully the Mets front office acknowledges that Lyons is interested in getting back to coaching to managing in the organization as gives him strong consideration for a job.   

From our session with Barry Lyons, we headed over to meet the stars of the movie KNUCKLEBALL , which I can’t stress enough is a must see for all baseball fans, Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, our own R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield. We first spoke with Niekro and Wakefield, and then R.A. Dickey joined the group. It was nice to see the camaraderie between these three men who belong to a special fraternity or as Niekro said “the freaky group”. We then talked about who are the next knuckleballers on the horizon. Dickey talked about Frank Viola’s son, who Dickey worked with a bit in spring training, who was trying to learn the pitch and another young many name Steven Wright. I asked Dickey whether the Mets or any other organization seeing the success that has had with the pitch, would work with pitchers who have fallen from prospect status to just organization fillers to become an asset to the big league club. His answer was all it takes is one organization to take a chance and be bold enough to take on that initiative, to which both Niekro and Wakefield nodded in approval.

All three men stated that they would do all they could to help any pitcher who had the patience, the competiveness and the work ethic needed to master the pitch. If anyone does get to work with these gentlemen and with Charlie Hough or Tom Candiotti, they should consider themselves fortunate.  

With the pre-game Q & A’s over, we went up to the Champions Club to enjoy the ambiance and watch Matt Harvey’s 2012 Farewell Tour. After getting some food and a beverage, myself, Ed Marcus, Matt Falkenbury and Randy Medina sat down to discuss this lost season and what is on the horizon for the off season and 2013. In a room with, I’ll say roughly 100 people milling around the bar area and food stations, the four of us were the only one’s talking Mets baseball or anything remotely  close to baseball talk and even in a fine establishment like the Champions Club, you still get douchenozzels walking around in Highlanders garb.  The lack of etiquette is appalling.

Matt Harvey was on the bump as we made our way to the seats, first batter Jimmy Rollins home run just over the orange line on the right field wall. UGHHHH!!!! , but then Harvey gets the next three batters , 86 year old Juan Pierre, Life Alert spokesman Chase Utley and the ghost of Ryan Howard to end the inning on a high note. From innings 2 to 5, Harvey faced just 12 batters and was in full Ace mode. But of course the Mets being the Mets and being at Citi Field all they could muster was a run to tie the game until David Wright hit a baseball over an outfield wall for a go ahead home run. A Festivus miracle I tell you.     

So going into the 9th inning we have the Mets, at home, with a lead, Josh Edgin filling in as closer with Frank Frisco nursing a right elbow riddled with tendonitis, 2 up 2 down, open the book as we are ready to put this baby……..in…….ah…………shit…………..!

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NOLAN RYAN JOINS KULT OF METS PERSONALITES TONIGHT ON BLOG TALK RADIO

My friends over at Kiner’s Korner will have a their guest tonight on their Kult of Mets Personalitities Podcast on Blog Talk Radio, former Met, Baseball Hall of Famer and President of the Texas Rangers Nolan Ryan.

The podcast goes live at 8:30PM ET you do not want to miss this.

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GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR FRED

There was outrage yesterday from Mets fans as clips of the team executives and manger Terry Collins boarded a helicopter to take them to Miami to catch the Knicks-Heat game.  It was the equivalent of seeing your neighbor who you know is collecting SSI disability, drive a brand new Mercedes-Benz into their drvieway.

I’m not so much outraged that the Mets rented the helicopter for their hoops junket; I’m annoyed that they had the vessel land on one of the complex practice fields. Couldn’t they have gone to an air/heliport to do this?   

Our day as Mets fans would not be complete without some more legal mumbo-jumbo on the Skill Sets court case. Am I the only one worn out about all this court talk? Doesn’t it seem that Judge Rakoff is looking for his 15 minutes of fame, or his own court room TV show?

Johan Santana threw another bullpen session and so far so good on his comeback as he has felt fine the day after each of these sessions. I’m still not ready to say I’m optimistic of his being on the mound opening day because I’m a Mets fan, the glass is always half-empty.

Last night Mets stats man Ben Baumer, lost in the championship round of MLB Networks Baseball IQ trivia game show to Shane Demmitt of the LA Angles. Baumer did a great job in this competition as he won $35,000 for the Welcome Back Veterans charity.  I was really looking forward to this show when it was first announced, but after watching a couple of episodes I lost interest. The set was so dark and dreary looking and the contestants had the personality of Wonder Bread. The host was Matt Vasgersian who loved belittling the Mets every time Baumer was a contestant and is one of these doofus’s you run into in life who think their hip, cool and funny when in reality they’re just asshats. 

The Mets and Citi are teaming up to hold tickets pre-sale this Monday and Tuesday February 27 and 28 for Citi credit and debit card holders. In addition newly inducted Mets Hall of Famer John Franco will be appearing at two CitiBank branches in Manhattan and at the Mets Clubhouse store. Here is a release from the Mets with all the info:

As part of a series of events with the Mets Alumni Association Presented by Citi, Mets all-time saves leader John Franco will make several appearances in New York City February 27 to promote the presale and meet with fans.  Franco, who will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame June 3, will be joined by Mr. Met.  They will visit the following locations:

 

·         10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Citibank flagship branch in Union Square (52 East 14th Street)

·         12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. – Citibank branch on 42nd Street and Madison (330 Madison Avenue)

·         2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – New York Mets Clubhouse Shop (11 West 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues)

 Additionally, all Citi customers who use their credit or debit card will receive a special 10% discount on all merchandise, excluding tickets, at the Mets Clubhouse Shop on 11 West 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues only, for the duration of the two-day promotion.

“We congratulate John Franco on his upcoming induction into the Mets Hall of Fame and are excited that he and Mr. Met will be joining us to kick-off this wonderful promotion for Mets fans and Citi customers,” Brown said.

A limited number of tickets for Opening Day (April 5 against the Atlanta Braves) and Subway Series games (June 22–24) will be available in this presale.  Each Citi cardholder is limited to a maximum of eight tickets per game, subject to availability.

Tickets are available online only, but fans with any questions regarding the presale can call the Mets Ticket Services team at (718) 507-TIXX for assistance. Single game tickets go on sale to the general public Monday, March 5 at 10:00 a.m. online at Mets.com and by phone at (718) 507-TIXX. For complete ticketing information, visit Mets.com.

 

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NEWS AND VIEWS

 

As we wait for Sandy Alderson and his Front Office Posse to check  into the Motel 6 Hilton Anatole in Dallas so they can get some much needed work done to reshape the 2012 Mets, let’s look at a few news items from that last few days:

ITEM: JOSE REYES STILL A FREE AGENT

I would love to hear the conversations between Reyes and his agent on their free agency game plan. So far all we’ve heard is a rumor of an imminent deal with the Fish and nothing more, just a lot of speculation, in fact we’ve heard about this deal for about three weeks now.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love how Alderson is playing is hand here, especially how he told the Mets beat writers all he knows about Reyes right now is what he reads in the papers. This guy is good, very good. If by some chance Reyes comes back to the Mets he may end up paying them to play here.

By the way check out this post from Coop on the Reyes free agent saga at Kiner’s Korner a well worthy read.

ITEM: OMAR MINAYA HIRED BY THE SAN DIEGO PADRES TO WORK IN THE FRONT OFFICE

Congrats to Omar as he was named the SR. VP of Baseball Ops for the San Diego Padres. As a GM and the front office face of a franchise, Minaya was miscast, his perfect role is that of scout and amateur talent evaluator. Safe to say Minaya will never be a big league GM again same as Willie Randolph will never be a big league manager again, the jobs were just too big for both of them.

ITEM: DODGERS SIGN CHRIS CAPUANO TO A 2YR/$10 MIL DEAL

And you want to know why the Dodgers are bankrupt? Thank the baseball gods that Nick Colletti is not the Mets GM.

ITEM: PEDRO MARTINEZ ANNOUCES HIS RETIREMENT FROM BASEBALL

No doubt about it, Pedro is a first ballot Hall Of Famer. I’ve never hide my man crush for Pedro and who could forget his first start with the Mets, Opening Day April 4, 2005 in Cincinnati where he gave up 3 runs in the first inning then settled down to K 12 Red Legs before giving way to the bullpen and suckitude closer Braden Looper losing the game. Then a week later at opening day at Shea Stadium, the fans cheering every time Pedro was shown on the Jumbotron or walked on the field, talk about electric. It’s sad his Mets career wasn’t very fruitful but still Pedro was the man.

 

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CHECK OUT GARY CARTER ON KULT OF METS PERSONALITIES ON BLOGTALK RADIO

The folks at Kiners Korner have a podcast on Blog Talk Radio titled Kult of Mets Personalities. There latest podcast features Brian Costa the Mets beat writer for The Wall Street Journal and Former Mets great and Baseball Hall of Famer, Gary Carter.

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JERRY KOOSMAN JOINS ME TONIGHT ON THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN ON BLOG TALK RADIO

Join me tonight at 10PM ET for THIS CALL TO THE BULLPEN Radio Show on Blog Talk Radio. My guest will be former Mets LHP and Mets Hall of Famer, Jerry Koosman.

If you can’t join us live tonight, you can listen to the podcast here at Kranepool Society (lower right side bar) or at our show page on Blog Talk Radio. You can also download the show on iTunes as well.

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ANYONE UP FOR A PHILIP HUMBER REUNION ?

The KC Royals have designated RHP Philip Humber for assignment in order to make room for future first ballot Hall of Famer, Jeff Francouer.

Looking at Humber’s numbers unless there is an outstanding FBI warrant or he’s been working with Julian Assange, why in the world would you DFA Humber for Frenchy? There has to be a number of cadaviers on the ROyals 40 man that listed for expulsion before Humber.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Humber make a return to the Mets organization at worst he’s a  capable starter for the Bisons at best a contestant on Sandy Alderson’s Pitching Star Search

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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.

Visit BangTheBook.Com for daily free MLB Mets Picks and gameday previews, also join the baseball handicapping discussion in the forum or track your plays in our sports monitor.