Friday, May 07, 2004

Game 28 - Mets
Well, I'm Mike P. and I Get Respect

Mets 2, Giants 1 (11)
Record: 13-15

I was thinking sometime last night that I hadn't said enough about Mike Piazza in yesterday's posting. What he accomplished -- topping Pudge Fisk's mark for all-time home runs by a catcher -- might get lumped in with a bunch of other modern era power records that people view as skewed, but it's actually damn impressive. Playing catcher is no picnic, as I learned at age 14. (I learned at age 16 that playing catcher at 6'4" is just plain stupid.) Piazza has continued to doggedly take his spot behind the plate for 13 years. And while he's no threat to win a Gold Glove back there, nobody persists as hard as he does, and he gets more bad press than he deserves for his foibles.

Meanwhile, Mike Piazza has also applied that persistence to his hitting for a long time. The late, great Evan Lloyd, fellow Phoenixville Phantom, used to recall fondly having gone out boozing with Mike's older brother in high school, only to come home late at night and hear the whack! of Mike hitting baseballs in his garage-turned-batting cage. This focus and determination is why Mike Piazza wasn't just the good high school player who maybe played a little in college, or not at all, and went on to sell insurance in the greater Philly area. This is why he was a 62nd round draft pick, which is about as low as you can go but is still a draft pick. And this is why he has a Rookie of the Year plaque, a .318 career average, over 1,000 RBI, a Top 25 career OPS, and 364 home runs, 352 of them as a catcher. If you had 25 Mike Piazzas, you'd be better off for it. Well, 25 Mike Piazza mentalities. 25 of the player would have astronomical ERA's, infield and outfield errors, and caught stealings. But you get my point.

So amid the feeling like I short-changed the man, I see him step up in the bottom of the 11th last night and smack the game-winner over the left-field fence . . . as a first baseman. This is the new era of Mike Piazza, one which over the course of this year and those to come will be rumored to be heading to another city, which may make sense on paper, but it's one which I hope remains in Shea throughout. You cannot help but love this guy.

Barry Bonds did come back from his sinus infection, but Al Leiter got him out three times, and the relief crew -- who pitched three more scoreless innings -- handed him a pair of free passes. No damage. The Mets arms held the Giants to just 5 runs in 29 innings. Not bad.

Four in a row for the Metropolitans. It's getting close to suck-Whitney-back-in time, but I'm not there yet. The Brew Crew comes to town tonight. Gotta continue to beat the teams you're supposed to beat. A Bonds-less San Fran team is a team you're supposed to beat, and the Mets were up to the task. Keep it rolling, and maybe, just maybe, you can dupe me again, boys. I'm not dangling the carrot out in front here; let's just say I've been burned before.

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