Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Filling the Shoes of Mike Piazza
By Jim Mancari
Sadly, time caught up with Piazza. His body could no longer take the beating of a catcher, so the Mets experimented with him at first base. It didn't go so well, and after one more year behind the dish, the Mets let him walk. He actually put up decent numbers at age 37 in his one season for the Padres. He retired as the all-time home run leader among catchers, a feat he accomplished with the Mets. His legacy will never be forgotten. So that leads us to the question: How have the Mets went about filling Piazza's enormous shoes? They acquired Paul LoDuca from the Marlins before the 2006 season, and he turned in an All-Star caliber season, hitting .318. He never had the power of Piazza, but he held his own at the plate and brought much needed fire to the team. But even LoDuca began his decline in 2007, signaling the end of his Mets tenure. The Mets saw Brian Schneider as the answer at catcher and traded Lastings Milledge to acquire him and Ryan Church. Schneider was a good defensive catcher but was a very weak hitter. Granted, the Mets constructed their offense so that they didn't need Schneider to produce, but after seeing Piazza for so many year, we fans grew accustomed to seeing production out of the catching position. Ramon Castro was a good backup to Piazza and a good backup to Schneider. Omir Santos chipped in nicely in 2009, but the Mets never saw him as more of an insurance plan. They brought in Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco for last season, and in the beginning, those deals looked great. Both guys got some big hits in big spots. But Blanco began wearing down and Barajas hit a cold spell, forcing the Mets to promote Josh Thole. Thole is a solid contact hitter and could develop some pop. He and Paulino would form a serviceable tandem for 2011, if they are both healthy. Paulino always seemed to get a big hit against the Mets when he played for the Marlins so hopefully he would continue that, just against the other teams. Piazza has been sorely missed for the past few years, but if the other position players can produce, the production of Thole/Paulino would fly under the radar. Originally featured at Mets Merized Online.