One of the greatest players in Mets history is now a Hall of Famer.
Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall with 83 percent of the vote in his fourth year on the ballot, the Hall of Fame announced last night. He will be joined by Ken Griffey Jr., who set an all-time record with 99.3 percent of the vote, eclipsing Tom Seaver’s mark of 98.84 percent from 1992.
Griffey was named on 437 of 440 ballots. Piazza garnered 365 votes. He missed by 28 last year.
Piazza, one of the greatest hitting catchers in baseball history, always had the offensive numbers to make it to the Hall. But he had to wait until his fourth year of eligibility in part because of unproven rumors about performance-enhancing drug use during his 16-year career.
Piazza always has denied he used PEDs, but that hasn’t stopped the speculation. Even in the conference call after his election last night, Piazza was asked about “acne on the back,” which is supposed to be a tell-tale sign of steroid use.
“To be honest with you, today is really a day I want to celebrate my career and dwell on the positive parts of my career,” Piazza said. “Some of those things are out of my control. It’s just something I can’t worry about.”
Especially now that he’s a Hall of Famer. Piazza’s vote percentage has gone from 57.8 to 62.2 to 69.9 to this year’s total. A player needs to get 75 percent to make it to Cooperstown.
“It was nail-biting at times,” Piazza said. “You can’t describe this honor.”
Piazza played for the Mets from 1998 to 2005 and was known for his thunderous, clutch home runs and easy smile. He hit 220 of his 427 home runs in a Mets uniform. He is the all-time home run leader among catchers, with 396 while he was in the lineup at that position.
Piazza was a 12-time All-Star. Overall, he hit .308 with a .922 OPS after getting drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft. He was the 1,390th player selected.
“What an amazing life in baseball that I had,” Piazza said.
It is not 100 percent certain yet that Piazza will join Seaver as the only Hall of Famers to have a Mets cap on their Cooperstown plaques. But it is likely.
The Hall of Fame decides which cap goes on a plaque with input from the player. That decision will be announced today. Piazza spent parts of eight seasons with the Mets after breaking in with the Dodgers in 1992. He has said he would ask to wear a Mets cap, although he declined to say so last night.
“Officially, I’m under strict orders to defer that question until tomorrow,” Piazza joked.
The Mets can also be expected to retire Piazza’s No. 31, perhaps as early as this summer.
Piazza called that possibility “icing on top of the icing.”
Piazza also played briefly with the Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s. He was traded from Florida to the Mets on May 22, 1998, for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz.
Piazza becomes the 16th former Mets player or manager to enter the Hall. The others are Seaver, Roberto Alomar, Richie Ashburn, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Tom Glavine, Rickey Henderson, Pedro Martinez, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Nolan Ryan, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Casey Stengel and Joe Torre.
“We are really thrilled that Mike Piazza has taken his rightful place among the other greats in Cooperstown,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement last night. “Mike’s offensive prowess, ability to deliver in the clutch, and tireless work ethic helped him become one of the great catchers of all-time.”
Seaver, in a statement released by the Mets, said: “Without a doubt Mike Piazza was one of the top hitting catchers in the history of the game. For Mike to compile the stats he did while catching is amazing. His election to Cooperstown is most deserving.”
Griffey hit 630 home runs in a 22-year career with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox. He is the 51st player to be elected in his first year of eligibility.
Four other players earned more than 50 percent of the vote: Jeff Bagwell (71.6), Tim Raines (69.8), Trevor Hoffman (67.3) and Curt Schilling (52.3).
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on July 24.
Mike Piazza is at or near the top of most career hitting stats for catchers:
Batting avg. (2nd)
Slugging pct. (1st)
On-base pct. (4th)
Total bases (3rd)