New York Daily News beat reporter Andy Martino recently came under scrutiny when his on-camera role for the Mets-owned SNY became all but impossible to ignore. That said, perhaps it’s Martino’s special bond with Mets ownership that allowed him to compose the following without thinking how dopey it looks for all concerned. To wit, the Mets inducted Mike Piazza (above, right) into the team’s Hall Of Fame earlier today, an honor that’s right up with the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame. Said honor occurred despite Metal Mike taking shots at Mets P.R. director Jay Horowitz and oft-ridiculed genetic lottery winner, Jeff Wilpon in his less-than-tell-all autobiography.
The Mets’ Hall of Fame committee consists of Horwitz, former pitcher and longtime instructor Al Jackson, broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, and MLB.com writer Marty Noble. According to people briefed on the discussions, the committee was mindful of Piazza’s failure to gain election into the Baseball Hall of Fame last January.
The most productive offensive catcher in baseball history, Piazza collected just 57.8% of the vote during his first year of eligibility (75% is required for induction). That showing was likely the result of unproven suspicion that Piazza used steroids, charges he denied in his memoir.
Beginning in January and continuing after Piazza’s book emerged in the spring, the Mets stood behind Piazza with a series of public gestures. After the Cooperstown vote, Wilpon issued a statement that read, in part, “The statistics he compiled during his career as a catcher were unmatched by anyone in the history of the game. We are optimistic one day soon Mike’s plaque, with a Mets cap, will be hanging in Cooperstown where it truly belongs.”
Later, some on the Mets’ Hall of Fame committee felt that it would be a strong show of support to elect Piazza before he landed in Cooperstown. The team wanted to make clear to Piazza that it considered him a Hall of Famer, regardless of how members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted.
“The (Mets) Hall of Fame committee recommended it,” Wilpon says now. “I agreed with it. Some of our fans asked for it and wanted it. It seemed like the right time for Mike and for us.”
Before this year, the timing did not feel right. Mets people and friends of Piazza generally describe the distance as a matter of a longtime star easing into private life, rather than acrimony between the sides.