While a New York Post front page story announces a $475 price tag for box seats at Citi Field next season, Newsday’s Jim Baumbach reports the New York Mets have made arrangements for one of the club’s most beloved figures to be on hand for Shea’s final game this September. But enough about Jeff Innis, it seems Mike Piazza will be there, too.
Tom Seaver was the franchise’s first superstar. He’s the only Hall of Famer with a Mets cap. And he was the face of the ’69 Miracle Mets. But you could easily make the case Piazza is a bigger name and a better draw with today’s generation of Mets fans. Perhaps he is even more synonymous with Shea right now.
Part of the problem with today’s Mets fans is that the down years of the late ’70s combined with the downfall of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry from the ’80s left a generation of Mets fans without their own superstar. Even when the Yankees were bad in the ’80s, they still had Don Mattingly.
With the Mets, it’s almost as if fans went from Seaver to Piazza without a superstar in between that they could call their own. Of course Gooden and Strawberry were as good as they get in their heydey, and they sure had a chance to be considered lifetime Mets. But both of their careers took wicked turns, thanks largely to drugs and alcohol, and their playing days with the Mets ended on bad notes.
Strawberry has reunited with the organization in recent years, but his relationship with Mets fans will never come close to what it could have – or should have – been. Gooden, meanwhile, for some reason still has a bad taste about the way his Mets days ended. He told me last month he has no desire to return to Shea. When I asked about returning one last time, he winced as if the mere thought pained him.
Considering the Mets’ own team shop(s) aren’t at all shy about flogging Strawberry, Gooden and Lenny Dykstra tees and throwbacks, it’s a pretty massive stretch to claim there’s a paucity of Amazin’ heroes between Seaver and Piazza. Before a combination of diminished skills and obsequiousness caused Gary Carter to fall from near-universal favor, you could’ve made a case for The Kid being one of the most revered NYC sports figures of all time. And what of SNY’s own Keith Hernandez, whose iconic status has been immortalized in a fashion at the very least, right up there with a Stuart Murdoch original?
I mean no disrespect to Piazza or Baumbach, but the columnist’s sense of history is awfully selective. I’m not a fan of polls, but I suspect a scientific attempt to determine the most popular post-Tom Terrific Met would see a very strong showing for several of the ’86 champs, perhaps more so than the former Dodgers backstop who never won anything greater than a NL pennant during his stay in Flushing.