Piazza avoids talk of Mets ownership

Mike Piazza former Mets catcher at the 31st Mike Piazza former Mets catcher at the 31st annual Thurman Munson Award Dinner held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. (Feb. 2, 2011) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Dude, how much for the Mets?

Mike Piazza said Saturday that he's ready to explore opportunities for potential ownership of a major-league team, but he didn't specify any clubs in particular. Obviously, the biggest name on the block right now is the Mets, but when asked directly about buying a piece of his former team, Piazza danced around the topic.

"To stop your point halfway, would I be interested in possibly getting involved in a group to buy a team someday? Probably," said Piazza, who visited the Mets' minor-league complex Saturday as the hitting instructor for Team Italy. "I've been thinking about it, and I think that would be something for me that would probably suit my desire at least to get into the game, because I don't really see myself on the field all the time or in the boardroom all the time.

"But I feel like maybe I could bring certain intangibles to both, and have the credibility of being on the field and also getting to know some of the administrative aspects of the sport. I think you see with Nolan Ryan getting involved [with the Texas Rangers] and I've heard of other players in the future wanting to get involved in ownership, so again, you never know."

Sporting designer gold-rimmed sunglasses and wearing the royal blue of baseball's Azzuri, Piazza held court just outside the minor-league clubhouse before a morning exhibition game against the Mets' top prospects. When told that his former manager, Bobby Valentine, had been linked to a group interested in purchasing a piece of the Mets, Piazza laughed at first, unsure if it was serious.

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"He's actually putting a group together?" Piazza asked. "That's funny. I didn't know that."

Piazza earned $120,176,002 during his 16-year career, according to baseball-reference.com, including the seven-year, $91-million contract he signed with the Mets. The Wilpons have announced they are willing to sell a minority stake in the franchise, up to 25 percent, which could be worth more than $200 million.

After Piazza talked about ownership, he was asked if anyone had approached him about joining forces with a potential bidder. The 14-time All-Star thought for a second, then smiled.

"I can't confirm or deny any of that," Piazza said. "Let's just say I've talked to some people who have interest in getting into the game. It doesn't cost anything to talk, thank God. At least not yet.

"Things start with ideas. And you have to dream a little bit, and you just never know. So we'll see. But as far as anything right now - any talks or putting together any groups - no, I'm not involved in anything specifically."

It's not as though Piazza has designs on pushing the Wilpons out the door. Another of his former clubs, the Dodgers, also could be ripe for a takeover, with owner Frank McCourt drowning in debt and dealing with an ugly divorce.

Plus Piazza spoke fondly of the Wilpons, especially how the team celebrated his record-breaking performance as the all-time home run leader among catchers. Piazza hit 220 of his 427 homers with the Mets, and it's likely that he would enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap, so he showed sympathy for their plight.

"All I can say personally is when I was there, the Wilpons treated me great," Piazza said. "I feel bad for what's going on. I'm definitely in their corner hoping that this thing gets ironed out. At the end of the day, I just hope that the fans are able to concentrate on baseball.

"I know there's a lot of turmoil going on off the field, but I've always believed those things have a way of working out. If they happen to introduce another party to buy into the team, I'm sure they'll be passionate about turning the team in the right direction."

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