- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

Our Second Hall of Famer

Recognized validation of Mike Piazza’s baseball immortality came in our man’s fourth appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. If you put aside the fact that it didn’t take Mets fans four freaking election cycles to figure out Piazza was among the best of the best of all time, it sounds sort of appropriate.

Mike Piazza did some of his most dramatic work his fourth time up. Seventh, eighth, ninth inning, depending on how the game was going. If it was close and Mike was coming to bat, we didn’t think it was over. We had Mike Piazza. We had every chance in the world.

There was no reason to give up when Mike Piazza was a Met. There was no reason to give up when Mike Piazza was a Hall of Famer in waiting. If we learned anything between 1998 and 2005, it was you could never count out Mike Piazza.

Count him in now. Count him in among the Class of 2016 in Cooperstown. Count him in among those fourteen players who have been Mets and who have been certified Hall of Famers, even if their days in our duds were relatively brief and totally incidental to their case. Count him in (by every available indication) as the second Met to — per the lexicon of the realm — go in as a Met.

There’s Tom Seaver. And now there’s Mike Piazza [1]. I’ll take that battery any day.

I can’t stress enough that Mike should have received this honor in 2013, when he was first eligible. I can’t stress enough that it was borderline irresponsible for 75 percent of Baseball Writers Association of America members to not vote for the greatest-hitting catcher who ever played the game. I can’t stress enough how insulting the whisper campaigns [2] that kept him out were. I can’t stress enough that as long as we cherished Mike’s eight sublime seasons in our midst [3], it didn’t ultimately matter if more than 25 percent of voters in a given year found him something short of worthy.

I also must confess that those gripes carried an expiration date of January 6, 2016, the Wednesday it was announced Piazza, along with Ken Griffey, Jr., was finally getting his impeccable credentials validated. I’m probably a bit of a hypocrite for having gotten hung up winter after winter on Piazza’s omission — how glad I am that we have been successfully relieved of partisan Cooperstown sentry duty — and now deciding this is a moment to celebrate.

But it is. One of ours is heading to the Hall. Thirteen prior Mets have made it there, but really, it’s happened fully only once before. That was for Tom Terrific. When Seaver — still possessor of the highest percentage of Hall of Fame checkmarks ever made on behalf of any pitcher — got the call this week in 1992 [4], it was as if we’d won an additional championship. The victor was Tom, the emotional spoils were ours. That feeling visited me again Wednesday night. That’s the connection at work. That’s why we say “we”. That’s why we dwell on an insignia on a plaque whose path it’s quite possible we’ll never cross.

This is not an occasion to wonder why we invest ourselves in individuals we likely won’t meet and certainly won’t know in any substantive fashion. This is a time to simply bask in a veritable eternal glow.

The glow was warm that Friday afternoon in late May when the word went forth that the Mets had traded for Mike Piazza at the end of his Florida Marlins layover. My phone rang several times. I rang several phones. We, Mets fans, had to share the news with us, more Mets fans. Didja hear? We just got Mike Piazza! It didn’t matter for who or for how long. You get Mike Piazza, you revel first, you ask questions later.

Later, much later, on an early-October Sunday afternoon in Flushing, the glow was still warm. The years hadn’t dimmed our enthusiasm for the news and the knowledge that we had gotten Mike Piazza and we had held onto Mike Piazza and Mike Piazza had kept us looking forward to his every last at-bat, right up to his literal last at-bat as a Met.

In between the acquisition of May 22, 1998, and the au revoir of October 2, 2005? The glow…the warmth…the electricity of knowing we had Mike Piazza and he was going to be up a fourth or a fifth time in whatever game was going on, quite possibly the biggest game we could imagine finding ourselves in, desperately needing one more hit. Maybe we were down, but we were never out. Piazza was stepping to the plate. There was a pitch; there was a swing; there was another instance of a surefire future Hall of Famer coming through for us [5]. If we were on hand, there was some serious high-fiving and backslapping and hugging. If we were following alone from afar, we whooped and we clapped and we were as thrilled as could be.

The thrill continues unabated that Mike Piazza is Mike Piazza of the New York Mets, now Mike Piazza of the New York Mets in the Hall of Fame. I’m amazed every single day he’s one of ours.