Should Mike Piazza go into the Hall of Fame as a Dodger or a Met?

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Mike Piazza Dodgers.jpgThis question was inspired by Mr. Piazza’s own comments in the New York Times over the weekend, in which he says he’d prefer to go in with a Mets cap:

The bulk of my career was with the Mets,” he said, “and after going
through the trade, then the drama of 9/11. I’ll never forget my Dodger
days. But my time with the Mets is what I’ll remember most about my
career.”

The idea, of course, is that the cap is supposed to to best reflect the player’s history and place in the game, not personal preferences or remembrances, so Piazza’s sentiments only take us so far.  But he’s certainly right about one thing, and that’s that raw stats and service time aren’t determinative either. And they probably should not be.

My favorite example here is Reggie Jackson.  His best years, statistically speaking, came with the Athletics, where not only did he put up better individual numbers, but where — in a development that would probably surprise Yankees’ fans of a more recent vintage — he also won more World Series rings than anyplace else. What’s more — and this one stumped even me until I looked it up the other day — he had more plate appearances as a California Angel than he did as a Yankee.

But Jackson wears a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, and really, I don’t think there’s any room to complain. His overall career got him into Cooperstown, but his exploits in a Yankees uniform — especially during the 1977 World Series — are what burned him into the nation’s memory.  It would be weird to see Jackson in anything other than a Yankees cap, and I bet even most A’s fans would admit it.

Which brings us to Piazza.  Statistically speaking he clearly had his best years with the Dodgers. He won the Rookie of the Year award in Dodger blue, and was way up there in the MVP voting during his time in L.A. as well. He won six Silver Slugger awards, and was a six time All-Star for the Dodgers, batted .326 while with the team and had his best season there too:  .362/.431/.638 with 40 homers and 124 RBI in 1997.

But how about the Mets? He played in New York one year longer, but was, individually speaking, less impressive in almost every season. He finished in the top ten in MVP voting twice, won five silver slugger awards, and was a seven time
All-Star. His best season for the Mets was 2000, when he hit .324/.398/614 with 38 homers and 113 RBI. Great career in orange and blue — the sort of which, were it his peak, would also make him an easy choice for the Hall of Fame — but those years were not quite as great as his Dodgers years.

But then there’s the equalizer: the postseason.  Piazza played in eight postseason series, five of which were for the Mets. He really only had two good postseason series, but both were for the Mets in 2000, which gets Reggie Jackson points for being the Subway Series with the Roger Clemens bat-throwing incident and all of that. And of course, there’s post 9/11/2001, which, as Piazza duly notes, added weight for everyone in a New York uniform.

Piazza might be the toughest Hall-of-Fame cap call there is. I’ve gone back and forth on this one many, many times and I’m dissatisfied with either answer.  Ultimately, though I’m going with this:  Unlike Jackson, Piazza’s calling card is not the postseason. His Hall of Fame case comes down to him being the best hitting
catcher of all time, and he did his best hitting with the Dodgers.  That’s enough for me, and that puts him in a Dodgers cap.

The comments are open for your objections.  Mets fans will almost certainly have a beef, and I’m not unsympathetic to them. Of course, if you want to go all-in on a Padres, Marlins or A’s-cap argument, we’ll leave the floor open for you as well.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.