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Mike Piazza, Dodger, and the Hall of Fame vote

January 09, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Mike Piazza, shown with the Dodgers in 1997, was not elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his first year of eligibility.
Mike Piazza, shown with the Dodgers in 1997, was not elected to the Hall of… (Los Angeles Times )

Wonder what our Mike Piazza is really thinking right now?

Not all that surprised, I’d imagine. Not exactly thrilled, either.

The 2013 Hall of Fame vote was announced Wednesday without a single player garnering the required 75%  of the vote to earn baseball’s highest honor.

It was the first real “steroid class” and voters punished Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, leaving them at least 38 percentage points shy of the required vote total. I’m thinking they never get in.

And then there was Piazza, the Dodgers’ former National League Rookie of the Year, who in his first time on the ballot came in with 57.8% of the vote.

Which is actually higher than I anticipated and certainly leaves him within striking distance of eventually making it into the Hall. I’m thinking ultimately he does get in.

Of course, rumors about alleged steroid use by Piazza were mere whispers compared with the uproar that surrounded Bonds and Clemens. He has not been dragged into court, was not accused in the Mitchell Report.

Still, the suspicion remains among many that he did not go from last-round, token draft pick for Manager Tommy Lasorda to Herculean slugger simply through protein shakes. Yet if a player earns at least 5% of the vote, he can remain on the ballot for 15 years.

And it is hard to imagine Piazza -- the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history -- will not climb through the years in the voting until he has enough to reach the 75% mark.

After Craig Biggio (68.2%), Piazza received the second-highest total of any first-year player. He came in fourth overall, one spot back of third-year candidate Jeff Bagwell, who is in a similar position as Piazza, in the steroid suspicion category.

Piazza probably won’t climb enough next year, when the ballot becomes more crowded with the additions of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas. But 57.8% of the vote is not a bad starting point for a guy, fairly or unfairly, some suspected of cheating. Not that many, it seems.

If Piazza eventually is voted into the Hall, he’s already stated that he would prefer to be inducted as a New York Met. Players don’t get to decide which cap they wear in their bronze -- the Hall does -- but that seems just wrong for anyone who watched him emerge as a hitting sensation as a Dodger. During his six-plus seasons here he was the Dodgers’ most popular player.

Piazza apparently hasn’t forgiven the fans at Dodger Stadium who chose to boo him when he returned as a Met, and probably still isn’t too happy that the Fox ownership at that time rejected his contract bid and traded him to the Marlins.

But bitterness toward the Dodgers’ first clueless owners and a segment of fans who booed seems misplaced in the larger picture. Piazza made his name as a Dodger. He should go into the Hall as a Dodger. And after Wednesday, I’m thinking he eventually does go in the Hall.

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