Does Piazza Still Have The Desire?
Is Piazza simply sick of and not interested in playing baseball? Buster Olney seems to think he is.
Went to Shea Stadium on Tuesday night and spent the first few innings astonished by the play of Mike Piazza.
Some day, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, probably on the first ballot; he's got my vote. Sometime later this year, or maybe early next year, he'll hammer his 400th home run. The Mets probably wouldn't have made the playoffs in 1999 without him, or reached The Subway Series in 2000, for that matter. His legacy is secure.
And, in 2005, there may not be a player who has less life in his actions – in how he moves, in the energy he projects – than the Mets' catcher.
He walks everywhere. After drawing a base on balls in his second at-bat, he walked to first base, and when Cliff Floyd hit an inning-ending chopper toward second baseman Craig Counsell, Piazza barely jogged to second – and then slowed to a walk and then stopped, as Counsell threw to first. Had Counsell juggled the ball and botched the play at first, he could have thrown to second for a force play.
Piazza walks out to his position; he walks back to the dugout. Not in a steady amble, either; it's a slow my-knees-are-killing-me or oh-man-do-I-have-to-catch-another-inning stroll. Some hitters stride purposefully toward the plate as they are announced, like they can't wait to hit. On Tuesday night, it was as if Piazza dragged his bat to the batter's box.
Watch Boston's Jason Varitek catch, and you will see how much he works at deceiving the hitters on pitch location, shifting at the last second, moving his glove, as the target, from the inside corner to the outside corner just as the pitcher starts his delivery. He bounces back and forth, and even if he weren't fully engaged – he is, by the way – the pitcher would think he is, simply by his actions and body language.