Chuck 'n' Duck

"I'm a very optimistic person. When you're optimistic, the good opportunities, good fortune, good everything will come with it." - Jae Seo Chuck 'n' Duck: the New York Mets from an Eternal Optimist's P.O.V.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Farewell Mikey

Talk to your Dad sometime about Mickey Mantle's retirement some time. Or your Grandpa about Lou Gehrig. They’ll all say the same thing, it was the end of an era. The history of the Yankees is littered with grand goodbyes. From DiMaggio to Mattingly, the Yankees treated their stars right when it came time to say goodbye.

And the Mets finally had their Franchise First sendoff yesterday, and did it right.

There hasn't been a sendoff for a Great Met during my fandom, and if memory serves correct there had never been one before it. Tom Seaver, the other unquestionable Great Met, left the Mets twice under head-scratching circumstances (a baffling trade and then lost him again by compensation pick due to leaving him unprotected). The closest the Mets have ever come to experiencing this is the goodbye sendoff for Todd Zeile, but to say Toddy never approached Piazza’s level would be an understatement.

I was there to witness Piazza Day, one of the more emotional moments I’ve witnessed on a ball field. We all bitch about Mike Piazza’s lack of an arm, or an increasing inability to get around on pitches he used to crush. We’re all guilty for yelling for his demotion from the three spot to the four spot, then fourth to fifth, and then fifth to sixth. And most of us have, at one point or another, wrote up trade proposals to the Angels or the Rangers or the Orioles for minor leaguers and relief pitching. Piazza has gotten older, like every baseball player that came before him has, and this being New York we weren’t particularly apt to accept it.

But the fact remains that Mike Piazza is the best the Mets have ever had. He was the key that transitioned a solid team in 1997 to a viable playoff contender in 1998, 1999 and 2000 -- and no, Todd Hundley could not have done the same. He took the team on his shoulders and carried them through rough stretches more times than I can count. He came up big when it mattered. He carried himself with a professionalism and a respectfulness that wasn’t associated with the star players of the New York Mets at that point. He became The Franchise. He became The Mets.

And now he’s gone. Mike won’t be back next season. He’ll be replaced by Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina or possibly Ramon Castro or Mike Jacobs. But come April 3rd, 2006, for the first time in seven years, you will look at the scoreboard on Opening Day and not see 31 next to C. It’s surreal to imagine.

But now is a time to think of the positives. To look back on the career of a true Met, and appreciate exactly what he did. Top Five in almost every offensive category the Mets have. The most homeruns by a catcher in the history of baseball. His mere acquisition was voted the Eighth Greatest Moment in Met History. I was lucky enough to be there for Mike Piazza’s first at-bat as a New York Met. I was lucky enough to be there for his last.

And when he goes in Cooperstown, with a Mets cap on his head, I'll be lucky enough to be there as well.

Thank you, Mike, for all you've done. And I'll be seeing you on down the line.