Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
2008-05-22 06:45
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

Mike Piazza was arguably the best position player ever to play for the Mets and he certainly was one of my favorites. He retired a few days ago. Over at ESPN, Rob Neyer argues that Piazza was the best-hitting catcher of all-time:

I'm certainly open to suggestion, but I have a hard time figuring how you come with anyone but Piazza when searching for the best-hitting catcher ever. Perhaps there's a case to be made for Josh Gibson, especially someday when we actually are allowed to look at the Negro Leagues data the Hall of Fame has embargoed. But Gibson died when he was 35, and had for years been suffering the ill effects of drug abuse and a brain tumor. Gibson may have been as talented as any catcher who ever lived, but his performance did not match his talent. In my opinion.

Piazza certainly was the best-hitting major leaguer of them all. Here are some nice tributes to Piazza, from:

Jay Jaffe Jon Weisman Joe Posnanski Tim Marchman Pete Abraham and, who else, of course, but
Tommy Lasorda

I don't know if I've ever seen a right-handed batter with the ability to blister line drives to right field like Piazza. Heck, one time I saw him line a shot to left, and the left fielder dove two steps to his left for it like he was an infielder and the ball got by him. But his home runs to right were awesome. Yo, remember that moon shot he hit off Ramiro Mendoza, the one that went over the fuggin tent at Shea?

Here is a piece I wrote for Baseball Prospectus when Piazza returned to Shea as a Padre and hit two home runs (and almost hit three) back in August of 2006. So long, Yazzie, thanks for the memories.

2008-05-22 07:25:37
1.   RIYank
0 I dunno, Willie Mays was pretty good.
2008-05-22 07:33:19
2.   Cliff Corcoran
Once at Shea, on three consecutive pitches in a single at-bat, I saw Piazza pull a home run foul down the left field line, then shoot a home run foul down the right field line, then blast one that counted over the wall in dead center.
2008-05-22 07:44:08
3.   rbj
"especially someday when we actually are allowed to look at the Negro Leagues data the Hall of Fame has embargoed."

WTF? Why is that data embargoed?

Piazza was definitely the best hitting 62nd round draft pick.

2008-05-22 07:54:44
4.   Alex Belth
Cliff, that is AMAZING. I saw Delgado hit a homer foul a few weeks ago and then he hit one fair. I was thinking that should count as 1.5 home runs for the hitter. Then, on second thought, I thought, no, it should count as TWO home runs for the pitcher. LOL
2008-05-22 07:54:53
5.   dianagramr
ESPN's Paul Lukas doesn't share in the Piazza lovefest ...

2008-05-22 08:16:11
6.   williamnyy23
On Mets' opening day in 2000, I was sitting alone in the Green Mezz. section at Shea during BP, which for those who don't know the ballpark is a mile away from home plate. Piazza got up and hit a bomb right toward me. As the ball got bigger and bigger I instinctively put my hands up to catch it, but smartly pulled them back at the last second. The ball plowed into the back of a seat and knocked it completely off the frame. I picked up the ball and have it to this day.

Interestingly, it was an American League ball signed by Gene Budig and stamped "Practice".

2008-05-22 08:22:14
7.   williamnyy23
5 That's the definition of putrid writing. Who is Paul Lukas anyway?
2008-05-22 08:26:53
8.   Alex Belth
Yikes, what a hateful piece of writing. What's the point of that? Bad karma, man and not even funny or interesting writing.
2008-05-22 08:30:35
9.   Shaun P
5 I'm thinking Paul Lukas should stick to uniforms, and leave the "I was the only Mets fan alive who hated Piazza" stuff to someone else.

7 Lukas writes a "Uni-Watch" column for and a blog on the same stuff. Usually he's an excellent writer.

I still remember Piazza's last AB of the Subway Serious in 2000 - and when he connected with that ball, I was certain it was going out. I'm still not sure how it ended up in Bernie's glove instead.

2008-05-22 08:38:46
10.   dianagramr

I concur .... his "Uni-Watch" pieces are fun and well-written.

2008-05-22 09:17:58
11.   rbj
5 jeebus. "The guy's a horrible athlete. Great hitter, yes, but not a good athlete. No coordination, no footwork."

And here I thought hitting was all about coordination (eye - hand, + balance & footwork).

Piazza was not a good defensive catcher, but no one claimed he was.

2008-05-22 09:45:50
12.   standuptriple
11 I love to chime in when those who have not donned the Tools of Ignorance start chatting about the position. Balance and footwork are absolutely vital to being a solid defensive backstop, and footwork was Piazza's Achillies Heel (if you will). I despised his "techniques" on the field, but there is no way I can discount his abilities in the box. What perplexed me the most was his refusal to move over to the AL when it became painful obvious teams could basically steal on him at will.
I will never truly admire a catcher who is/was a defensive liability, but I respect Piazza.
On a more Yankee-related vein, Posada's footwork looked great last year and this one. I think the lowered weight really will extend his career, showed me a refreshing commitment to defense (it's a dying art) and made the new contract bearable.

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