This Date In Transactions History: Mike Piazza

8020049  Mike Piazza With the amateur draft coming up in just over three weeks, we've spent most of our time here at MLBTR covering the first round. Quality players come from every round though, and there's perhaps no more famous example of a late-round pick turning into gold than Mike Piazza. The Dodgers selected him in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, who was a friend of the Piazza family and godfather to Mike's brother Tommy.

Piazza moved from first base to catcher in the minor leagues at Lasorda's behest, and he hit his way to the big leagues less than four years later. After a brief cup of coffee in 1992, Piazza opened the 1993 season as the Dodgers' starting catcher, and hit a robust .318/.370/.561 with 35 homers as a 24-year-old. He won the Rookie of the Year award unanimously, and finished ninth in the MVP voting.

Over the next four seasons, Piazza hit .342/.409/.590 with an average of 33 homers per year, being named to the All-Star team and winning the Silver Slugger Award each year. He never finished lower than sixth in the MVP voting during that time, finishing as the runner up in 1996 (Ken Caminiti) and 1997 (Larry Walker). Piazza was a star of the first order, but contractual issues began to surface.

Scheduled to become a free agent after the 1998 season, talks about a contract extension between Piazza and the Dodgers went nowhere. Furthermore, Peter O'Malley and Terry Seidler were in the process of selling the team to FOX. Afraid that they were going to lose their star to free agency and not have anything to show for it, Los Angeles took a drastic step.

Thirteen years ago today, the Marlins and Dodgers pulled off a seven-player swap that sent Piazza and Todd Zeile to Florida in exchange for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, and Manuel Barrios. To say the trade wasn't well-received in Southern California would be an understatement.

Piazza's time with the Marlins as short lived, very short lived in fact. He had five hits in five games with them before being traded to the Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz. Piazza spent parts of eight years with the Mets before moving to the Padres and Athletics late in his career. He retired as a .308/.377/.545 career hitter with 427 home runs to his credit, unquestionably the best hitting catcher in baseball history (min. 1,000 games caught).

We see players traded right before reached free agency every season, but it's not often a player of Piazza's caliber is involved, and he was traded twice in one week.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


40 Responses to This Date In Transactions History: Mike Piazza Leave a Reply

  1. theharsh 4 years ago

    And soon the Mets will have TWO – that’s right, folks, count ’em – Hall of Famers! Amazin’!

    • iheartyourfart 4 years ago

      you mean he’s not going in as a marlin? 

  2. When Piazza was traded, I stopped being a Dodger fan for good. I’ve been an Angel fan ever since. 

    • vtadave 4 years ago

      I won’t go so far as to call you a traitor, but that doesn’t make sense, at least to this long-time fan. I grew up a Dodgers fan and have endured some brutal ownerships and GMs, but it’s really the history and the guys in the uniforms for me, not some boneheads in the front office.

    • Same here and i became a mets fan but i was also 10 at the time and it crushed my heart

    • JacksTigers 4 years ago

      Some may agree with me, some may not. But I have no respect for any fan who switches their favorite team because one guy got traded. 

      • stl_cards16 4 years ago

        Or because a player walks as a free agent.  (That’s for all you “cardinal fans” I hear saying, “I’m done with this team if they let Albert go to another team”) 

      • NomarGarciaparra 4 years ago

        Agreed…no matter who comes and goes to and from the Red Sox, I will never switch teams. Fan favorites will come and go…Nomar and Pedro gone, Pedroia and Youk steps in.

      • JohnPaulP 4 years ago

        Mostly, I’d agree, but there are circumstances where I wouldn’t call it horrible.  I remember the first Red Sox game I ever went too.  It was 1995 and I was eight years old.  Mo Vaughn crushed two home runs, and I became a Sox fan and a Mo Vaughn fan.  When he left the Red Sox after 1998 because of something like money, at the age of then 11, I was pretty upset and probably didn’t watch any baseball for about two years.

        Eventually I came around, and now something like that wouldn’t effect me, but perhaps Kenneth was at a similar, more impressionable age back in 1998.  Instead of just turning off from Baseball all-together, he watched games from another team in the same market.  The Angels enjoyed some success a few years later, culminating in a World Series win in 02, and perhaps that set him up as an Angels fan for life.

        Or maybe his story is nothing like that, all I’m saying is, while I agree as a fan you’ve got to be a little more level headed and realize that things won’t always work out the way they do in movies.  Saying something like you don’t respect another fan for a choice they made though, that’s kind of taking baseball a little too serious.

        • JacksTigers 4 years ago

          I started following the Tigers when I was 7. That was 2003. They lost 119 games that year. If I can get over that at an even more impressionable age then 11, then watching one player leave should not be as big of a deal. I fell in love with the worst team of all time. Both the Dodgers and Red Sox have almost always been good. One player shouldn’t change that. 

          • NOT KIDDING 4 years ago

            You’re a wise 15 year old.  

      •  Agreed, the one and only reason I can see for abandoning a team is if they move away. Then the team leaves the fans. abandoning a team is if they move away. Then the team leaves the fans. 

      • GaryLe 4 years ago

         I think everyone has their limit.  I stopped being a Mariners fan during the Bill Bavasi era.  I didn’t switch teams, but it was a lost decade for me.

      • fitz 4 years ago

         Not everybody can be as loyal a guy as YankeesDodgersLakers4Life

  3. bjsguess 4 years ago

     One of the greatest players of all time. Getting that type of production from catcher is just unheard of.

    Seemed to always get a bum rap. Sure his defense wasn’t great. The perception of being a pretty-boy, afraid to get dirty, also hurt. When you move past though you see just an amazing player.

  4. Ian_Smell 4 years ago

    That’s a really sick picture.

  5. Frank Tangorra 4 years ago

    I remember watching the Mets game when they announced the trade to the Mets. I almost had a heart attack. I knew that the Mets were headed in the right direction and Piazza was going to be the savior. He was my favorite Met of all time. That team before he came there was a dead team. He put them on his back and led them into contention. He was one of the most feared hitters I’m the game. He hit big homeruns. When he came to bat and you needed a big hit he came through. This is what the Mets have lacked since he’s been gone.

  6. stl_cards16 4 years ago

     I actually seen one of Piazza’s five games in a Marlins uniform in St. Louis.  Something I’ve always thought was kind of cool. 

  7. jaydubdub 4 years ago

     ?

    “Piazza’s time with the Marlins as short lived”

    “We see players traded right before reached free agency every season”

    This is the standard for writing/editing/proof-reading at MLBTR?

  8. j6takish 4 years ago

    Man, the Marlins traded Sheff in his prime for minor league fodder

  9. yazpik 4 years ago

    He´s my favorite player who never played for my team, Mariners!!

  10. diehardmets 4 years ago

    Best favor ever? I think so.

  11. icedrake523 4 years ago

    I just realized. Before today, I had never seen a picture of Piazza in a Marlins uniform.

  12. Lunchbox45 4 years ago

    w0w, so those are some stellar numbers

  13. Mdey 4 years ago

    I was there in Oakland for his last at bat as a major leaguer. He got a well deserved standing ovation after walking off the field for a pinch runner. First ballot hall of famer, definitely.

  14. I loved watching Mike hit. He took a lot of criticism over his defensive skills, which weren’t too bad, but the attention he received as a catcher that could hit like an outfielder magnified his average defensive skills. He’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 and should be in on the first ballot. Word is that he’ll enter as a Met, if selected. link to nytimes.com.

    So that brings us to the discussion of were he stands all time. Is he the best catcher in Mets history? Gary Carter was Amazin’ and is in the Hall of Fame alreay. Was he the best catcher in Dodgers history? Roy Campanella played only ten years, but was an 8x All Star and a 3x MVP.

    Where does Mike stack up against Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Ivan Rodriquez and Yogi Berra?

    I say he’s right behind Gary Carter and Roy Campanella as the #2 catcher for both teams.

    All time catchers:

    1) Yogi Berra
    2) Johnny Bench
    3) Roy Campabella
    4) Ivan Rodriquez
    5) Carlton Fisk
    6) Gary Carter
    7) Mike Piazza

  15. Marlins uniform…what a trip…great write up.

  16. Great article…

  17.  Great write up..

  18. eyedessert 4 years ago

    “To say the trade wasn’t well-received in Southern California would be an understatement.’

    Really? The Marlins fleeced themselves and DODGER FANS bitched?!

    Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see Piazza as a Marlin for more than five days but Dodger fans should have been overjoyed by that trade!

    • tomymogo 4 years ago

      Yeah I agree, how can Dodger fans not like this trade. Sheffield HOF,  + 4 guys with some talent. 

  19. BraveNewWorld 4 years ago

    Great pic of Piazza there

  20. $1961279 4 years ago

    Princess Piazza was the best ‘roid based catcher of the ‘roid era…this comes from a 45+ year Dodger fan.  Piazza was not a winner plain and simple.  that trade was not bad and the Dodgers did not lose offensively.  Sheff was as good at the plate as Piazza so that was a wash.  Johnson was a great catcher who went off the rails for some reason…I grant it was not a great long term deal, but the trade was not a bad one.  

  21. I’m surprised this was the 1st post to mention the steroid allegations. allegations.

  22. caseyB 4 years ago

    I think there is a ton of doubt that we will ever hear something about Piazza, other than the baseless speculation that we already have now. After so many books about and by juiced up baseball players, after congressional hearings, after BALCO, after the Mitchell report, after so many leaks about the “list” .. Piazza has not been tarnished yet by any of it. No one has come forward saying they saw him do it, or even heard that he did it.

    As for “how his body transformed,” I think your memory is tainted by your eagerness to see him nailed. Because, unlike McGwire and Bonds, he never transformed into the Michelin man. And I don’t recall ever seeing any pictures of him as a skinny young player like we’ve seen of Bonds. Any weight gain between his early and later years was modest and the type that is typical with many players as they grow out of their early 20s.

    Did Piazza do it? Maybe. Maybe not. But I bet there will never be any type of conclusive evidence that he did PEDs, such as the type of evidence we have with Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, McGwire and Manny.

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