Craig Calcaterra

I think of Piazza as a Dodger, but a Mets cap on his plaque is the right call


Yesterday’s announcement that Mike Piazza will be wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque made sense to me. I, personally, am one of the few people who tend to think of him as a Dodger first, but from a historical and cultural perspective Piazza as a Met is probably more satisfying. His better play happened in Los Angeles, but his more memorable moments and his overall image is as a Met. And, of course, it was his preference, so there is no controversy to be had with this.

Not everyone is 100% happy about it, of course. Apparently Tommy Lasorda is a bit disappointed. That makes sense too given that Lasorda and his friendship with Piazza’s father had a whole heck of a lot to do with Piazza being noticed and, ultimately, drafted. I’m sure that Lasorda isn’t truly angry about it — it’s a funny little idea and I’m sure he and Piazza will trade jokes over it — but I’m generally happy with anything that upsets Tommy Lasorda even a little bit, so this is good from that perspective too.

The logos on Hall of Fame caps have been discussed at length in recent years. It’s been a fairly lively topic at least since Wade Boggs caused a stir when it was suggested that he had an agreement with Tampa Bay to have a Devil Rays cap featured on his Hall of Fame plaque. Either because of that — or by virtue of a grand coincidence — the Hall took the choice away from the players after that and decided that it, with an eye toward properly representing the players’ history, would make the final decision.

The player has input still, and the Hall will go pretty far to accommodate those wishes as long as the choice is not blatantly ahistorical. This is why some guys have blank caps now. The most recent blanks: Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa, much to the chagrin of Cubs, Braves, A’s and Cardinals fans, I suppose. I certainly was miffed that Maddux didn’t have a Braves cap on. His best, most and most famous seasons all happened in Atlanta. But I get it. He has a fondness for his years in Chicago, still works with the Cubs in spring training sometimes and his personal opinions are due respect.

Ultimately, that’s what the caps on the plaques are all about, I suppose. As fans we spend decades making players our own. Judging them. Demanding things of them. Even if they’re more than accommodating in that regard, the fans have an inordinate claim on a player’s time and his image. With the caps on the plaques, the player is given the last word on how he will be remembered, at least within reason. And it’s hard to take issue with that.


Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell were not overnight PED creations


As I’ve said many, many times, I have no idea if Jeff Bagwell and/or Mike Piazza ever used performance enhancing drugs. Given the era in which they played and random hearsay which has floated around for years it would not surprise me if they did, but it’s also the case that it would not surprise me if any of their contemporaries did. We don’t know for sure and those who claim to know for sure don’t have enough evidence upon which to hang an actual report.

But one thing that we do know for sure is that the popular narrative which has surrounded Piazza and Bagwell since they became Hall of Fame candidates — that they were no-power jamokes when they were young and that their Hall of Fame-caliber careers came out of a syringe — is a big fat lie.

We know this based on Alex Speier’s story in today’s Boston Globe. There Speier interviewed Ray Fagnant, a Red Sox regional scout who worked with Bagwell when he was a minor league catcher back when Bagwell was in the low minors. He likewise got up close and personal with Piazza in the Florida State League. With both guys, Fagnant says that their power potential was huge and that, even then, they looked like major leaguers in the making.

Two years ago Dan Lewis of Amazin’ Avenue presented even more data on this score, in the form of early scouting reports for a 17-year-old Mike Piazza which, again, showed his clear power potential even at a young age. The bigger takeaway from Lewis’ story, though, is the reminder that the scouting which went into Piazza famously becoming a 62nd round pick was based on him being a poor, right-handed first baseman. A player who profiled like Piazza at the plate but who was a catcher was a 7th round pick. If Piazza had been a catcher then there’s a great chance he goes way earlier in the draft and the “he came out of NOWHERE” narrative that has surrounded his career does not exist.

All of this is information that has been circulating for years, of course. I recall a good bit of this kind of chatter when Bagwell and Piazza were stars and again when their careers wound down. It was forgotten, though, as the more influential columnists of the past decade have concluded that, no, there is NO WAY that Bagwell and Piazza would’ve amounted to anything without PEDs. It’s the ultimate irony, really. The old-line ballwriters were relying on stat lines and projections while ignoring what the scouts had to say.

Again, none of which is to say that Bagwell and Piazza didn’t, at some point in their careers, use PEDs. It simply means that they were not purely chemical creations as is so often claimed. It puts them in the same category as every player of the so-called Steroid Era: the bad ones who took PEDs didn’t suddenly become amazing. The good ones who took PEDs likely would’ve been good without them. A player’s drug use was and remains an ethical consideration on which to chew, but it does not render their on-the-field accomplishments utterly fraudulent.

It may be unfortunate that such a state of affairs robs us of a classic Frankenstein story and those always tasty “good guy/bad guy” narratives, but when the facts trump the narrative, go with the facts.

Dodgers make Kenta Maeda signing official, Maeda says there were irregularities in his physical

Kenta Maeda

The Dodgers officially introduced pitcher Kenta Maeda in a press conference today. And the seemingly insanely team-friendly contract Maeda received was made much more understandable.

Specifically, Maeda said, through an interpreter, that there were irregularities in his physical with the Dodgers that were factored into his contract. He did not say what those were. He said, however, that he is not worried about this season, saying “I’m confident I’ll be able to pitch.”

Certainly worth watching. And, from Maeda’s perspective, it’s certainly worth pitching. The deal is for eight years and a guaranteed total of only $24 million, but it includes an extra $10-12 million per year in incentives, almost certainly innings and games incentives, as specific statistical milestones beyond that are not allowable in major league deals.

As of now, he slots in the rotation mix along with Clayton Kershaw, Scott KazmirBrett Anderson, Alex Wood, and Hyun-Jin Ryu in some combination or another.