Carroll: Mike Makes It In

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)

Mike Piazza, as is his wont, showed a lot of class at the Baseball Hall of Fame press conference held at the New York Athletic Club last Thursday. He joked about how when he was playing in the Hall of Fame baseball game in Cooperstown in 1993 he bought an admission ticket to the museum because he figured that would be the only way he would ever get in.

Piazza took a Shakespearean “all’s well that ends well” attitude to his election but the truth is that it was an absolute disgrace that it took four years for the poobahs of the Baseball Writers Association of American to give him the requisite percentage of ballots to gain entry to Cooperstown. His statistics made him arguably the best-hitting catcher of all-time and he should have been elected in his first year of eligibility in 2013.

It’s no secret that some of the curmudgeons of the BBWAA took a “guilty until proven innocent” attitude when it came to the belief that Piazza took performance enhancing drugs even though there was no tangible evidence of that. Some BBWAA members took it upon themselves to become dermatologists as they decided that pimples on Piazza’s back constituted proof of PED use.

I have another theory about why some of the “old guard” of the BBWAA, including a number of local scribes, had it in for him. Mike did not create a caste system with the press. He would enjoy talking to those from smaller outlets just as much, if not more so, than with the guys from the dailies. I remember watching a certain dour New York Post baseball columnist steam while Mike was chatting with me before a game.

He was also one of the rare players who loved talking about politics, entertainment, and travel, as much as he did baseball. For all of his well-deserved celebrity, he is a very approachable down-to-earth person.

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon takes a lot of knocks from both fans and the media and I certainly have issued my share of criticism of him and his team over the years in this column. In fairness though he played a key part in helping Piazza get elected into the Hall of Fame.

Mike only received 57% of the writers’ vote in 2013 and there was concern that he would not get into the Hall of Fame because of the McCarthy-like whispering campaign against him. Jeff Wilpon took it upon himself to have a ceremony that summer welcoming Mike Piazza into the Mets Hall of Fame. That signaled to the baseball community that the Mets believed in Mike and that everyone else should as well. While it still took three more years for Piazza to break the magic 75% mark, he trended upwards every year.

A lot of folks got roiled over the fact that three BBWAA voters did not unanimously select Ken Griffey, Jr. in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. There could strategic reasons for that. Perhaps the three holdouts figured that Griffey was a shoo-in and they had no problem with that. They may have used their vote to keep a lesser but still a very good player on the ballot for at least another year, say Jim Edmonds. If a player doesn’t get at least 5% of the vote then he is dropped from the ballot forever. Edmonds did not get the 5% and has been eliminated for future consideration by the voters.

Of course getting BBWAA members to unanimously agree on anything is virtually impossible. If you had referendum on which country a member would rather live in: the USA or North Korea it wouldn’t come back unanimous.

The one thing that the Baseball Hall of Fame has over the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is transparency and credibility. Sure, both baseball and music fans can debate endlessly over who deserves to be enshrined and hasn’t yet, but at the Baseball Hall of Fame uses a major certified public accounting firm, Ernst & Young, that tabulates the votes and makes the results public. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame does not use a CPA firm and makes very little known about the final tabulations.

I brought this issue up to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president Joel Peresman at a media Q&A before an induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria a few years ago and he danced around the issue. I have not been invited to cover the ceremony ever since.

One criticism that I have always had with the Mets is that they don’t honor their past as well as other teams such as the Yankees and the Phillies do. The Mets will thankfully break custom and honor their 1986 World Series-winning team over Memorial Day weekend. They should revive the Old-Timers’ Day concept for every season.

The Yankees generated some controversy when they acquired relief fireballer Aroldis Chapman from the Reds in exchange for four marginal prospects. Chapman may face a suspension because of a domestic violence charge. Aside from that, the Yankees have a solid bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. As the Washington Nationals found out after they acquired Jonathan Papelbon, bullpen chemistry is a very fragile thing.

Donald Trump did get off a good one-liner at the expense of Jets owner Woody Johnson who is the finance chairman of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. “If Woody had been with me, the Jets would have at least made the playoffs!” Trump tweeted.

Giants owner John Mara could have done a better job selling the notion that it was Tom Coughlin’s decision to step down as team head coach rather than the actuality that he was fired at the press conference held a the Giants headquarters in East Rutherford two days after the season ended.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s dismissal of both the team’s head coach, Lionel Hollins, and the demotion of its longtime general manager Billy King, is a classic case of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Nearly every other team has considerably more talented players than the Nets do and that’s why they don’t win a lot of games. Unfortunately one of the few NBA-caliber players on their roster, point guard Jarrett Jack, is lost for the season with a knee injury.

I caught my first regular season Devils game at the Prudential Center just after the start of the new year and it was a very pleasant experience. Getting there is not difficult as it’s only a 20-minute ride on NJ Transit from Penn Station and there is frequent service. When you get off in Newark you can walk through the Gateway which is a shopping and business complex that leaves you one block from “The Rock.”

There are plenty of tickets available and the prices are less than what you would pay at either Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center. Unlike the Barclays Center which has obstructions and is rather dark, the Prudential Center has excellent sight lines and is very well-lit.

There is a Queens tie-in to the Devils as their TV voice, MSG Network’s Steve Cangialosi is a South Ozone Park native.

If you are looking for something different to do over Martin Luther King weekend here are some ideas.

The rodeo comes to Madison Square Garden this weekend as the Professional Bull Riders makes their annual stop. This isn’t the circus as this a competitive event with big prize money on the line.

If the weather is good and you feel like taking a drive, the Rangers have a Saturday1 PM matinee with the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s now 20 years old but the building looks a fraction of its age. The Flyers have been struggling this year (and frankly they haven’t been very good in recent years) and therefore tickets should be easy to obtain and price-friendly to boot.

The Harlem Globetrotters are celebrating their 90th anniversary. They recently partnered with the cast of the unorthodox off-Broadway musical “Stomp,” that showed that the Trotters’ dribbling and passing moves are akin to the dance moves of the “Stomp” cast.

The annual New York Times Travel Show which took place at the Javits Center this past weekend had fewer American exhibitors than in past years. Atlantic City, which always had a big booth at the show was missing, while Miami, which always had a humongous presence had a booth the size of an old phone booth.

There were some Queens-related aspects to the show. The Parking Spot promoted its discount parking lots at both JFK and LaGuardia while the Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau trumpeted the fact that Long Island City-based JetBlue would begin flights from JFK to that beautiful California desert city this week.

The Cruise Line International Association held a media briefing the day before the start of the Times Travel Show. The biggest takeaway is that nearly every boat operator out of South Florida is arranging cruises to Cuba in 2016.

Comedy Central is getting some competition. NBC Universal has started, a new streaming service devoted to humorous programming. Among their offerings is “Dave & Ethan: Lovemakers” that stars Great Neck natives Dave Ahdoot and Ethan Fixell. The show is a combination of the old Chuck Barris ‘60s reality game show, “The Dating Game,” and New York City outdoor guerilla comedy popularized by Forest Hills native Billy Eichner who currently has shows on both TruTV (“Billy On The Streets”) and Hulu (“Difficult People”).

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