It was 20 years ago today that the New York Mets acquired catcher Mike Piazza from the Florida Marlins. The trade would change the trajectory of the franchise in more ways than one.
One of the most feared sluggers in the game at the time, and a perennial MVP candidate, this would go down as one of the most lopsided deals the Mets ever made and this time it was in their favor.
In return for the future Hall of Famer, the Mets traded outfield prospect Preston Wilson and a couple of left-handed pitching prospects Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnall, neither of whom would ever play at the major league level.
An interesting backstory to the deal was that it took majority owner Nelson Doubleday to overrule general manager Steve Phillips and minority owner Fred Wilpon to make the trade happen. Both Wilpon and Phillips believed they were giving up too much for Piazza and additionally they already had a power-hitting catcher in Todd Hundley.
But Nelson Doubleday insisted that a player like Piazza only comes around once in a generation, and he had the final word. When the deal was officially announced, it caught everyone by surprise as there had been no rumors or buzz leading up to the deal. The Marlins had just acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers and it was believed he was there to stay until the end of the season. Mets fans were delirious with delight and in complete euphoria.
The rest, as they say, is a matter of history. One of the greatest offensive catchers of all time, Piazza set the MLB record of 396 home runs as a catcher while with the Mets. Over 16 seasons with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and A’s he finished with 427 homers, 1,335 RBI, and a .308 batting average.
A 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Piazza spent eight years with the Mets and helped take them to the postseason in 1999 and then all the way to the World Series the following season.
Piazza was a seven-time All-Star with Mets and set a team-record with 124 RBI and hit 40 home runs in 1999 and then finished with 38 home runs and drove in 113 runs in 2000.
In 2016, Mike Piazza was inducted into the Hall of Fame and the Mets would go onto retire his uniform No. 31 in a memorable heart-warming ceremony at Citi Field.
“How can I put into words my love, thanks and appreciation for New York Mets’ fans?” Piazza said. “You have given me the greatest gift and graciously taken me into your family. This brings me back to the best time of my life.”
“You guys are serious,” Piazza said to the thousands of Mets fans who showed up to honor him. “The eight years we spent together went by way too fast. Looking back into this crowd of blue and orange brings me back to the greatest time of my life. The thing I miss most is making you cheer.”
“No fans rock the house like Mets fans. To be only the second Met to enter the Hall of Fame brings me great pride.”