Describing himself as “a lifelong Mets fan who never warmed up to Mike Piazza”, UniWatch‘s Paul Lukas — presumably resistant to the charms of Dream Theatre and King’s X, too — doesn’t want Metal Mike to enter the Baseball Hall Of Fame in a Mets lid. Here’s a few of Lukas’ reasons, taken from ESPN’s Page 2 :

1) When it became apparent that he’d have to move from catcher to first base, Piazza’s behavior ranged from disingenuous to manipulative. A classy player would’ve stepped up and said, “I’ll do anything to help the team — where do you want me to play?” But Piazza kept playing dumb, tossing out quotes like, “Well, management hasn’t said anything to me about it, so I really don’t know.” Right, the whole city of New York is talking about it but you have no clue. Sure. When skipper Art Howe eventually mentioned to some reporters that Piazza would be taking some infield practice at first base and the reporters then told Piazza, he acted all offended because Howe didn’t tell him beforehand. Look, dude, just play where the manager tells you to play and shut up.

2. One reason he didn’t want to play first base was that he was obsessed with that stupid record for most home runs hit by a catcher — a record that exactly one person in town cared about. Can you guess who that one person was? (Hint: Rhymes with “Mike Piazza.”)

3. Of course, once Piazza finally played first base, we found out the real reason why he’d been avoiding the issue: The guy’s a horrible athlete. Great hitter, yes, but not a good athlete. No coordination, no footwork. And it went way beyond his inability to play first base. I defy anyone to find one instance — one single instance — of Mike Piazza properly executing a slide into second or third base. Never happened. Why? Get this: MIKE PIAZZA CAN’T SLIDE. It’s true. When he tried to slide, he’d spaz out and trip. Really!

4. When the New York Post implied that Piazza was gay, he held that little press conference where he declared his heterosexuality. OK, fine. But he missed a huge opportunity to say, “But what if it was true? What if I was gay? So what? What if one of my teammates is gay? What if one of YOU is gay? It’s no big deal. Listen, I’m straight, but this whole thing is really a nonissue.” In a city with a huge gay population, that was an opportunity to show some real community leadership, and he totally spit the bit.

Though I don’t think Lukas is totally out to lunch in suggesting Piazza squandered a chance to be a social pioneer of sorts, the following passage from CNN, dated May 21, 2002, paints a slightly different portrait of the catcher.

Responding to questions and rumors about his sexual orientation, Mike Piazza said Tuesday night that the major leagues are ready for gay players but he’s not one of them.

“I’m not gay. I’m heterosexual,” the New York Mets All-Star catcher said before playing the Philadelphia Phillies.

Piazza, who wanted to set the record straight about his sexual orientation, said he’s aware of the rumors but doesn’t know why they started.

“I can’t control what people think. I date women,” Piazza said.

He also agrees with Mets manager Bobby Valentine that players can accept an openly gay teammate.

“In this day and age, it’s irrelevant,” he said. “I don’t think it would be a problem at all.”

A New York Times item from the same day describes Piazza’s statement as part of an “impromptu news conference”, cites the All-Star backstop as having spoken for all of 3 minutes, and characterizes him as “unfazed” by the Post’s gossip item.

While we’re on the subject of baseball icons who’ve been subjected to cruel innuendo, Atlanta’s Tim Hudson has allowed solo home runs to Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, as the Mets trail the Braves, 4-2 in the top of the 7th.

Florida’s Andrew Miller and Arizona’s Dan Haren have combined for 17 K’s
thru 7 innings in Miami tonight. If the stands aren’t full of paying customers, Gonzo shouldn’t blame the NBA’s countprogramming. Perhaps the locals are simply tired of footing the bill for David Samson’s penis pumps?