PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Clearly, newly minted Hall of Famer Mike Piazza watched the World Series with a close eye. During his first day as a Mets guest instructor on Sunday, Piazza said he intended to offer some advice to slugger Yoenis Cespedes.
“I hope he’s able to discipline himself and refine his strike zone, and realize that when the pitchers aren’t pitching to him, he’s got to take his walks,” Piazza said during the first of his three days in camp. “I think you saw that in the World Series a little bit. He just got too anxious, trying to do too much. He was just swinging, trying to hit the ball out of the stadium.”
Cespedes hit .150 in the Mets’ five-game loss to the Royals in the Fall Classic.
Piazza said watching the World Series was “bittersweet.” He called the Royals a team that “I don’t think pound-for-pound had the talent, but played better as a team, didn’t make the mistakes and really was able to come together and find the synergy to put them over the top.”
Like Piazza during his time in Flushing, Cespedes will be looked upon to give the lineup a boost. But despite those expectations, Piazza said he wants the Mets’ current middle-of-the-order slugger to resist the urge to press.
“Sometimes you have to take your walks and let the guys around you do their job,” Piazza said. “I know he’s a smart hitter. He knows that he’s got to learn to realize when they’re not giving him something to hit, he’s got to take his walks.”
During his stay, Piazza hopes to impart advice on handling stardom in New York, a challenge that he said might be even more difficult now with the advent of social media. For instance, during the past week, Cespedes has triggered a sensation with his collection of exotic vehicles.
“I see he’s been working on his collection of cars,” Piazza said. “I said, ‘I don’t care what you drive as long as you drive in runs.’ That’s the key. But I think he’s going to be fine. I think he’s so talented.”
Piazza used a car analogy to describe the Mets’ brilliant young starting rotation, which features Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.
“It’s like driving a different sports car every day,” Piazza said. “One day it’s a Ferrari and the next day you have a Porsche.”
Piazza will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer as a Met, an honor that he said has yet to sink in.
During the last few months, he has heard from Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, whom he called his “boyhood idol.” Piazza also spoke with Mets great Tom Seaver, another Hall of Famer.
“It was just great to hear his voice,” said Piazza, whose No. 31 will be retired by the Mets this summer. “He’s been so supportive of me and my career. Obviously, being from this organization, to be alongside of him in the Hall as a Met is so special. What he represents is being the iconic face of the organization and all that he’s accomplished. To be there with him is very special. Obviously, being pitcher and catcher is great.”
Piazza’s time in camp will be brief, so Mets manager Terry Collins said he hopes the team’s young players take advantage of having a Hall of Fame player in their midst.
Said Collins: “If they do it right, they go pick his brain about things, about his thought process at the plate.”