Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The King of Queens

Games . . . whichever through last night - Mets

[insert mediocre baseball results]

Record: 22-21

Hi there. I'm back from another hiatus at MLC, back in a typically underwhelming fashion. Yikes, I really am mimicking the performance of my team this year. Barely showing up, leaving hardly a mark on things, and slipping back into afterthought status. Good times.

I read the news today, oh boy. Take your pick of recent snippets to keep Mets fans reaching for the Prozac:
  • Pedro Martinez mulling retirement after this season to be with ailing father
  • Willie Randolph criticizes SNY booth, hints at racism in their critiques of him
  • Ryan Church (the best thing about this unimpressive start) suffers concussion
  • Mets lose two to Braves, including one to a masterful Tom Glavine
  • Mike Piazza announces his retirement
Okay, I'll choose to focus on Piazza retiring today. Because it's not actually bad news -- it's the right call now, and it presents an opportunity to tip a collective cap to a great ballplayer and, by all accounts, a great guy.
"But I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world. One of the hardest moments of my career was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful." -- Mike Piazza
I'm rather surprised, pleasantly so, at his singling out the Met years and the NY fans. After all it was LA who gave him his chance, and he had his best statistical years with the Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda made a pitch for Piazza to enter Cooperstown as a Dodger; I don't feel as strongly about Lasorda as Irwin M. Fletcher does, but Tommy, pipe down.

I've said lots about Mike Piazza over the years here; unfortunately, I had to waste way too much MLC space here saying less than complimentary things in '03-'05 as his skills eroded and management bungled where to play him. But I think my recap of his finale as a Met speaks well for my thoughts on the guy.
What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Mike Piazza? The guy has maintained an unparalleled level of humility, understanding, and appreciation for his place since Day 1. To hear him last night in the Yankees-Angels telecast was to understand why denizens of the Township have every right to deify the man. He says the right things with a sincerity foreign to all too many professional ballplayers of any era, let alone the present batch of perspective-deficient self-aggrandizers. The Mets are only 43 years old, but they’ve seen an array of superstars don the colors; with Piazza, though, it goes well beyond the record-setting numbers. With the parabolic arc of Piazza's numbers flattening over the past few years, Mets fans have needed to gravitate to Mike Piazza the guy over Mike Piazza the athlete, but he’s always brought more to the table than the majority of his peers. That “Thunder Road” came on my iTunes shuffle (1 out of 12,016 songs) as I was typing this paragraph is amusingly fitting. Here’s hoping that, like Springsteen, Piazza enjoys a surprising resurgence in the twilight of his career, one that begins next spring. May he continue to be exciting to watch perform, worth the price of admission, and capable of cranking out hits when the masses clamor most for them. (Unless the Yankees sign him; then I hope he’s lousy. Sorry, Mike.)

Anyway, the Mets fans gave Piazza a reception to remember as the season came to a close, and my beloved 2005 Extra Innings Package concluded with a montage of Piazza moments as “These Are Days” by the Empire State’s own 10,000 Maniacs provided the accompaniment. (What, you thought something Piazza-related wouldn’t be a touch cheesy? Come on now.) Like Mike alluded to last night in the booth, the Mets and Mike Piazza in 2006 are plainly two great tastes that don’t go great together, but you just never know what might work out. Though there isn’t a single logical argument to be made for his return to the Mets, I find myself kind of hoping he does. This is reason # 749 why I’m not a big-league GM.
With the state of Mets Township less than chipper (I am definitely not indifferent to Chipper, Nick; can't endure that putz), the news of Mike Piazza hangin' 'em up is a relatively positive thing; it's one more time to take pause and remember an all-timer in Mets lore. We'll do it again five years from now when he gives his HoF speech. And we'll dig it even more if the intertwined letters are an "N" and a "Y" instead of an "L" and an "A."

Yeah, it's sappy, sentimental, and off-topic. You really want me to talk about Willie Randolph insinuating Ron Darling's a racist?


Nick said...

Welcome back pal.

Sure missed you.

By the way, Mike Piazza's announcement permanently kills any dream I had that he would come home to don the red pinstripes in South Philly.

I know his skills diminished greatly so much so that Carlos Ruiz is preferrable but to have the Philly kid don the Phillies uni much like Old Man River Jamie Moyer would have been pretty cool.

Good luck Mike. We'll miss you.

rob said...

i just drove past the corner of broad and pattison. anything you want me to convey while i'm here, nick?

Nick said...

I hope you ducked.

Since the boys were down here, I paid them a visit at the most expensive unimpressive ballpark ever built.

Uncle Cholly musta put 'em on notice - especially big RyHo 'cause he put a beat down on Matt Chico and Jesus Colome - the Phils banged out 15 hits and 12 runs (stop it TJ.)