— Days Without Shea —

It's August 14th. The Mets are in first after the Phillies loss and the Mets crushing 12-0 victory over the Nationals last night. Most of the bullpen got a night off.  All in all, a good day.

I almost felt bad for the Nats during our 8-run third inning. Bergmann was left out there to die by Acta, who didn't even bother warming anyone up. And is Murphy really this good? Three for six, with 3 RBI's?

But the Mets could still use a little catching help. And that's where Piazza comes in.

A few weeks ago, Greg at Faith and Fear wrote about bringing back former Mets for the end of Shea, even to play in the last game. He also floated one compelling and realistic option.

The rumor is that at least one former Met will be at Shea Stadium (although probably not in uniform). Newsday reported that Mike Piazza will be at Shea Stadium's final weekend. Newsday also had some insights into why others (ex: Doc Gooden) won't be there:

Before the Mets tear down Shea Stadium later this year, their plan is to honor their home of the past 44 years with a special ceremony during the final weekend of the regular season. The organization has stayed tight-lipped about the details, but Newsday has learned perhaps the most important detail of the ceremony.

Mike Piazza will be present.

As recently as last week a spokesman for Piazza's agent, Dan Lozano, said his plans were not firmed up yet. Though the Mets will not divulge which former players will be at Shea until sometime next month, team officials behind the scenes are completely confident Piazza will be there to close Shea Stadium.

"The invitation went out and he accepted," one person familiar with the situation said. "He'll be there."

Piazza's presence is of the utmost importance because with the Mets it's not about celebrating the building, which seemingly was outdated before it even opened in 1964. Honoring Shea Stadium, rather, is a chance for Mets fans to remember their championship years -- 1969 and 1986 -- and their great players.

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.

When Piazza arrived in May 1998, he was already a superstar - and he lived up to the billing. He helped bring consistent excitement and winning baseball teams back to Flushing, taking the Mets to the playoffs in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. Simply put, he was the best offensive player the Mets ever had.

And then who could forget his role in the first baseball game in New York after 9/11. The home run he hit to lift the Mets over the Braves that night seemed almost too good to even be scripted, and the image of him taking a curtain call with a somewhat solemn look on his face remains a moving moment.

Piazza's time with the Mets included its share of bozo moments, most notably the way bumbling Art Howe handled the whole switch-to-first-base disaster. And, no, Piazza didn't bring a championship here.

But ask anybody who goes to Shea Stadium these days which former Met they would like to see most walk onto the field last before the final regular-season game at Shea, and I bet you it wouldn't even be close.

Good thing the Mets expect Piazza to be there.

[August 14, 2008 9:34 AM]  |  link  |  reply
bobster said

"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."

Huh? Didn't this guy ever hear about Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter? Hello?

[August 14, 2008 12:39 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Jon said

How douchy was that "no, Piazza didn't bring a championship here" line?

[August 14, 2008 2:00 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Kingman said

True. Given that criteria, Kevin Mitchell should be throwing out the last first pitch in September.

[August 15, 2008 6:38 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Mike said

Piazza means nothing to me.
had a couple good years and like most met players was brought onto the team after his prime. Give me the '69 and '73 guys anytime all the time.
how about kranepool?
george the 'stork' theodore!

[August 15, 2008 8:09 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Mark said

What do you mean Seaver to Piazza without a superstar in between? What about Keith Harnandez and Gary Carter. Carter is in the hall (with the Expos) and when the Mets traded away Neal Allen and Rick Owenby in 1983 for Hernandez, I remember hearing the late great Bob Murphy saying Keith Hernandez is probably the best everyday player the Mets have had in their 22 year history

[August 15, 2008 12:13 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Ron Hunt said

I agree that I'd like to see more old-timers, starting from 1962. I'd be interested in seeing not just the stars but the little players to me are more interesting. Johnny Lewis, Chris Cannizaro, Al Weis, Dr. Ron Taylor, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Doug Sisk (for one last booing), Ron Hodges, Joel Youngblood, Dennis Ribant, Mackey Sasser, Wally Whitehurst, Benny Agbayani, Rick Reed, etc.

I also read today that Nolan Ryan turned the Mets down to appear, who needs that bum!

[August 15, 2008 2:00 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Kingman said

I wish they had brought back more of these guys throughout the year, rather than just saving it for one last day/weekend. Wally Whitehurst?

I hope Davey Johnson and Bobby V get their invites too.

[August 16, 2008 12:44 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Bobster said

You gotta put Hernandez in there with the greatest Mets. What a sweet swing, and what a great fielder. A clutch hitter and a team leader, too. No way the Mets would have won in '86 without him. If Clemens had beaned Hernandez the way he did Piazza, Keith would have found some way to pay him back, you can believe that! Hernandez was a tough dude.

[August 18, 2008 8:16 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Rickey Henderson said

Indeed, bring back the original Mikey P! Queue up the Belle & Sebastian song!

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