21 May 2008

I still want him back

So Mike Piazza has retired. I read about it on Dodger Thoughts. I feel like it's 1998 again. The wound is back, reopened. How could this happen? How could the Dodgers let him go into the history books as a New York Met? How could those other Dodger fans boo him when he returned? He was the best we ever saw! It is so senseless, to take out the frustration on the one we loved. But it does make horrible human sense. I think people were angry at him for him existing and thriving after he left. If we can't have him no one can. BOOOOOOOOO! TRAITOR! Obviously he wanted to hurt us. And so let's hurt him back.

I think of Johan Santana. The Mets stole another great one this year from the team that raised him and fans that loved him. Everyone loses when things happens this way. The legend of the player is diminished. Memories become divided. The sweetness and joy is tainted with anger and regret. Piazza and Santana have come to Mets fans as legends already. Yes, I'm sure Mets fans appreciated and loved Piazza. The same will happen with Santana. Both players will go in the Hall as Mets. But it's not Mets fans who saw Piazza and Santana become Hall of Famers. Those Mets fans are getting less than half the experience, really. As much as they may appreciate Piazza and Santana it will never compare to how they feel about David Wright, I'm guessing.

I worry that the Dodgers will let Russell Martin or Matt Kemp get away. Have we learned from our mistakes? No, the truth is even worse. It's not seen as a mistake. The only things that matter are money and winning. No matter what an organization may talk about, almost every decision made is based on some combination of money and winning. If you're lucky, it's mostly about winning. But in the case of Piazza it was money. Piazza wanted to be paid like the player he was. You can argue that he asked for too much if you want. Just don't argue that he asked out. The Dodgers made no good faith effort to keep him. They turned on him, and at the same time turned on the fans.

I doubt that the Dodgers will get a chance to repeat the same magnitude of mistake they made with Piazza. We won't likely see a hitter as great as he was pass our way soon again. We have a lot of good young players now that I don't want to see get away. But they aren't as good, not yet, anyway. None of these guys can hit .360 with 40 home runs. None of them seem like sure Hall of Famers yet. Piazza did by his third year.

What I am left with is sadness. I wish I could get over it. Well, I have, mostly. But it all came back today. It's just that Piazza's retirement hit me in a way I didn't expect. I know why. It's because, secretly I always hoped he would come back. Even if it never really made any sense, even if he would never do it, even if he had moved on and was beloved by a new set of fans, I desperately wanted to see Piazza back in a Dodger uniform. Even after he was a shadow of his former self, when his defense behind the plate had become truly atrocious and his once elite hitting had declined to mortal 0.800 OPS levels, I wanted him back. Even now, my mind spins with crazy theories, that he could be lured out of retirement to be Martin's backup.

I remember the time Curt Schilling openly marveled at the high fastball Piazza had hit for a home run against him --- he couldn't believe Piazza had gotten around on the pitch --- it was the ultimate tip of the cap from an opposing pitcher. I remember the balls Pizza hit out of Dodger stadium, impossibly far and high, off the roof and into the parking lot. I remember the Fox Saturday game when he was pelting balls to every corner of the ballpark for doubles, and the announcers were beside themselves talking about how good Piazza was. I remember when as a rookie Piazza helped end the Giants season, and at the same time brought the Dodgers to a .500 record after they had sunk to 99 losses the year before. Those are memories --- what I want is a future with Piazza as a Dodger. Future memories.

I want to see Piazza in a Dodger uniform again. It's ten years and seven days since his last game in a Dodger uniform and I still want it. And I won't get it. Piazza will never wear a Dodger cap again. Not even on his Hall of Fame plague. And the truth is he shouldn't. The organization and the fans don't deserve it.

The sadness now is that hope is gone. Piazza is retired. The story is done. He never came back.

1 comment:

ernest said...

This was great. Thanks for writing it. I hope upon all hope that he wears a Dodger cap in Cooperstown, but I fear you are right. We don't deserve it.