Legendary catcher Mike Piazza has not played a major league game since he played for the A's in 2007. He tried looking for a team to sign him in 2008, but no one made an offer. As a result, Piazza decided to retire and move on to the next phase of his life.
Piazza finished his career as arguably the greatest offensive catcher of all time, and by a good margin. Across 16 seasons, he had a .308 lifetime batting average, 1,048 runs scored, 2,127 hits, 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, 759 walks, 3,768 total bases and a career .922 OPS. All of those rankings are in the top 10, if not the top among all catchers.
Since retiring, Piazza has more or less stepped away from the baseball scene. He coached for the same Italy team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic that he played for in 2006. He has also made a good number of appearances at Mets games, including Shea Stadium's final game and the first game in Citi Field's history.
However, Piazza has spent most of his time after retirement being a full-time father of two daughters. He married his wife, Alicia Rickter in 2005. His first daughter was born in 2007 and his second daughter in 2009.
It's possible that in the future, Piazza could get involved in baseball once again, at least after his daughters grow up. If anything, Piazza would mostly likely become a minor league manager or major league hitting coach, and most likely within the Mets organization.
Despite his current status as a full-time father, Piazza will have a big year in 2013 to look forward to. Here are five reasons why 2013 will be a special year for him.
This upcoming March, the third World Baseball Classic will occur before the regular MLB season and Piazza will almost certainly be the hitting coach for Italy once again.
Current and former major league players that are likely to participate for Italy that played in 2009 include Francisco Cervelli, Alex Liddi, Nick Punto, Chris Denorfia, Valentino Pascucci, Lenny DiNardo, Jason Grilli and Dan Serafini.
The great thing about a team like Italy is that it gives certain American players with an Italian heritage a chance to participate, despite not being among the elite American baseball players.
Piazza has enjoyed working with Italy in international tournaments, such as the World Baseball Classic, so he should definitely be looking forward to this tournament.
Piazza will be eligible for the first time to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2013. He will be in a class that also includes other first-timers, such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling.
Piazza is certainly as deserving of being a Hall of Fame player as anyone in history. He has rewritten the standards for an offensive catcher and only time will tell whether another catcher will ever hit better than him.
The official announcement to see who got inducted will happen in January. Piazza will need to get over 75 percent of the votes approved in order to get inducted. It's not a guarantee though that he will make it for sure on the first ballot.
Piazza happened to play during the "Steroid Era," and even though he never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drug, the questions surrounding one of the best power hitters of the 1990s and 2000s have not become extinct. Piazza also struggled defensively, which could possibly delay his induction another year or two.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has rarely elected more than three Hall of Fame players in one year. Because Craig Biggio also has a great chance of getting inducted on the first ballot, plus some other holdovers having good shots at finally getting in as well, this all could work against Piazza and prevent him from being inducted on the first ballot.
Hopefully, the baseball writers with votes will make the right choice and induct Piazza next year. It would be a well-deserved honor for the greatest hitting catcher of all time.
With his former teammate John Franco having gotten enshrined into the Mets' Hall of Fame this past June, Piazza certainly looks to be the next player to get into the Mets' Hall of Fame as its 27th member.
The logical thought has been that the Mets would induct Piazza into their Hall of Fame once he got officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Assuming that happens in 2013, Piazza will almost certainly get inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame in the same year.
Sure, the plaques may not look exactly the same and the descriptions on each will certainly be different. However, Piazza is sure to be proud and honored to earn both awards, especially because he spent more time with the Mets than any other team and embraced the city like none other.
It's possible that some more of Piazza's former teammates could get inducted with him as well. Such players could include Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Leiter, former manager Bobby Valentine and even Todd Hundley, who was the Mets catcher that Piazza ended up replacing. But regardless of whether he gets inducted by himself or with former teammates, Piazza will become a part of the Mets' Hall of Fame for sure once he gets into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
When the Mets induct Piazza into the club's Hall of Fame, they are most likely going to retire his No. 31 as well, which is something that every Mets fan would enjoy seeing.
Piazza is arguably one of the Mets' greatest hitters ever. Whether or not he is above Darryl Strawberry as a Met could be debatable, but there's no debate that Piazza is the Mets' greatest catcher and right-handed hitter, as well as the best overall player from the late 1990s through the middle 2000s.
He has the best slugging percentage in team history, is 10th in runs scored, eighth in hits, seventh in doubles, second in home runs, third in RBI, fifth in total bases and fourth in both batting average and on-base percentage (with a minimum of 1,000 at-bats).
All of those numbers, plus the numerous defining moments in his career that he had with the Mets are reasons why Piazza deserves to have his number retired. Only one player in Mets history has had his number retired. That was Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver. Furthermore, Seaver threw both the last pitch in Shea Stadium history and the first in Citi Field history to Piazza, which shows that the team views them as the best hitter and pitcher, respectively, in franchise history.
Piazza changed the Mets from a good team in 1997 to a serious playoff contender a year later. The Mets ultimately fell short on the last day of the 1998 season, but won the NL Wild Card in 1999 and 2000, which culminated in a trip to the 2000 World Series against the Yankees. Piazza was the heart and soul of the team at the time and provided great leadership to a good group of teammates.
In 2001, the 9/11 attacks occurred, which was a huge blow to not just New York City, but the whole country as well. In the first game at Shea Stadium since the attacks, Piazza hit a go-ahead home run late in the game that not only gave the Mets a win, but it had a huge impact on both baseball fans and New York City residents that hope was on the way. It became the greatest moment in his career and only fitting that he was the one to lift everyone's spirits.
Piazza had two more great offensive seasons in 2001 and 2002, but the rest of his career with the Mets was not as good. The Mets played poorly from 2002 to 2004, and after Piazza missed most of the 2003 season with a groin injury, the team completely fell apart soon afterward. The fact that he was playing first base in 2004 ended up being a huge mistake by the Mets. Nonetheless, Piazza was able to mentor the Mets' younger stars at the time, such as Jose Reyes and David Wright.
The Mets over the years have been reluctant to retire the numbers of more players. Jerry Koosman, Keith Hernandez, the late Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson are just a few former Mets whose numbers could all have made a case for getting retired. However, Piazza defined a significant era in Mets history and no one has even thought about wearing his number ever since his contract expired after the 2005 season.
All in all, the Mets will do the right thing and retire Piazza's No. 31 on the day he gets inducted into the Mets' Hall of Fame. Hopefully, this will all occur next year.
Last but not least, 2013 will be the year the Mets finally host the annual MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field. The only other time the Mets ever hosted was in 1964, which happened to be Shea Stadium's first year.
Although he's retired and a full-time father, Piazza is almost guaranteed to be at the events next summer. He will probably not be the official Ambassador for the game, with that title most likely going to Tom Seaver. However, Piazza is sure to play a big role as a Mets legend and someone who has gotten to know the city quite well.
Piazza will probably attend the MLB Fanfest at the Javits Convention Center, which also hosted the 2008 Fanfest when the Yankees were host to the Midsummer Classic. In the past he has been a frequent participant in the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game, although he did not participate this year in favor of attending the ESPY Awards, which occurred the same day. Nonetheless, since the Mets are hosting the All-Star Game next year, Piazza will definitely be there over the ESPY Awards.
Piazza also managed the USA team in the 2011 MLB Futures Game. It's possible he could participate in one way or another for the USA team in the 2013 MLB Futures Game. On the eve of the All-Star Game itself is the Home Run Derby, and it would be logical to predict that Piazza will make a short appearance with the broadcasters, which was something he happened to do during his playing career.
During the All-Star Game itself, Piazza will likely be the recipient if Tom Seaver throws out the first pitch before the start of the game.
Beyond these events, Piazza will likely want to take in the experience in case he never sees Citi Field host the Midsummer Classic again during his lifetime. It is sure to be a great experience for him and everyone involved within the Mets.
Furthermore, if Piazza is inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame next year, July 2013 will be quite a month because it would include both the 2013 MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field, and then the Hall of Fame inductions a few weeks later.
Piazza may be a busy father right now, but he has a lot to look forward to in 2013.