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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.