Mike Piazza was a Hall of Fame caliber baseball player. His offensive statistics as a catcher are unrivaled in the history of the game, there’s no debate about that, yet he somehow has the stigma of performance enhancing drugs looming over him despite never failing a test. It looms because of the time in which he produced his incredible numbers, not because of anything he has ever been proven to have done himself. All he proved during his career is that he was one of the most fearsome right handed bats in the Majors for a long time.
Piazza’s offensive production from the catching position is simply staggering. His 427 home runs are the most of all time by a catcher, but home runs were not the whole of his offensive ability. He finished his career with a .308 lifetime average, 1335 RBI, 779 extra base hits and an OPS of .922. Those are great numbers for a player at any position, but to do that playing the bulk of your career as a catcher in the National League, taking out the ability to stay in the lineup as a DH without having to catch, is truly remarkable and should have been recognized by the baseball writers as Hall of Fame worthy the past two years.
Consistency may have been Piazza’s most impressive attribute however. Piazza batted over .300 10 times in his career, hits 30 home runs 10 times and drove in 100 runs seven times. He did all three in the same season seven times. In doing so Piazza amassed 12 all-star appearances and 10 consecutive silver slugger awards as well as finishing in the top five in MVP voting four times.
There have been many great catchers throughout baseball history; Roy Campanella, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and so on, but Piazza’s offensive numbers trump anything those men have accomplished. Over time the game has changed, but the players he is compared to stay the same, and all of those men Piazza is compared to are enshrined in Cooperstown.
Piazza garnered 62.2% (up from 57.8% last year) of the Hall of Fame vote, short of the 75% required to gain entry into the sports most prestigious fraternity. Maybe the uptick in voter recognition this year means that next year Piazza will finally take his place amongst baseball’s immortals. It’s a shame he’s not there already.
(all stats via Baseball-reference.com)