It Is Time to Open Up the Baseball Hall of Fame to Mike Piazza

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It Is Time to Open Up the Baseball Hall of Fame to Mike Piazza
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

During his 16 years in the major leagues, Mike Piazza compiled a career batting average of .308 with 427 homes runs.

Piazza, who was the 1,390th overall draft pick for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 1988, batted .300 or better for nine consecutive years between 1993 and 2001. He also had nine seasons with 30 or more home runs, and his 1997 season, where he batted .362 with 40 home runs and 124 RBI, was arguably the greatest single offensive season by any catcher in history.

Piazza's best years came with the Dodgers between 1992 and 1997 although he did hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons with the Mets and also provided New York fans with arguably their most memorable post-September 11 baseball moment.

While Piazza was never known for his defense behind the plate, he is, statistically speaking, the best hitting catcher of all time and by no small margin.

But despite Piazza's otherworldly offensive production from the catcher position, he has not yet been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America during his first year of eligibility and improved to 62.2 percent this past year, both well short of the 75 percent needed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

So how is it even remotely possible that the doors of Cooperstown have not yet swung wide open for a player who put up the type of offensive numbers that Piazza did throughout his career?

Well, the answer to that question is quite simple: Rumors have taken over the BBWAA, and cold, hard factsand even logicevidently cease to exist when it comes to the Hall of Fame's induction process.

Piazza was never implicated in any formal steroid investigation, including the Mitchell Report, which was put together by former United States Senator George J. Mitchell at the direct request of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Aside from some shadowy whispers, which have circulated around the world of baseball for virtually every single player who managed to find success during the steroid era, the only real allegations of steroid use by Piazza came from columnist Murray Chass, formerly of The New York Times, who essentially accused Piazza of steroid use due to acne he had seen on Piazza's back.

While other worthy players, such as Jeff Bagwell, have been kept out of Cooperstown due to nothing more than rumors, Piazza's situation is slightly different in that we are talking about the greatest hitting catcher of all-time and a player who should have been a sure-thing, first-ballot selection to the Hall of Fame.

Elsa/Getty Images

Piazza's poor defense behind the plate during his career is nowhere near enough to overshadow his offensive production and keep him out of the Hall of Fame if the BBWAA was looking strictly at on-the-field performance.

What has happened with Piazza is that the BBWAA has taken it upon itself to play judge, jury and executioner when it comes to alleged steroid use and the Hall of Fame.

While baseball might be America's favorite pastime, the Hall of Fame selection process has become about as un-American as any formal judgment process in this great nation of ours.

Players are no longer innocent until proven guilty; they are simply guilty if a handful of writers believe the rumors that have spawned out of thin air without any real shred of evidence.

It makes no difference that there has never been a spec of true evidence pointing towards Piazza's use of steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug. All it takes is more than 25 percent of the BBWAA voters to believe these unfounded accusations, such as those made by Chass, to keep worthy individuals such as Piazza out of the Hall of Fame.

And that is simply not right.

If any member of the BBWAA has any hard evidence that Piazza used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug during his career, he or she should come forward now and present that evidence.

Heck, if any writer is sitting on this kind of evidence, he or she should write a book on the subject. It would almost certainly be a bestseller amongst baseball fans.

But if not, it is time for the BBWAA to get over its newly formed God complex as it relates to the Baseball Hall of Fame and open the doors of Cooperstown to a player who is more than deserving of the honor.

Mike Piazza belongs in the Hall of Fame, and it would be a true tragedy if he is excluded from this elite baseball club due to nothing more than unfounded rumors and accusations.

 

Unless otherwise specified, all statistics for this article came from Baseball-Reference.com.

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