Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 19 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 19: Mike Piazza (No first-place votes, 5,769 points)
The Dodgers chose Mike Piazza in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft, the 1,390th player picked overall. No one picked that low has had a career like Piazza’s, but it’s a bittersweet one for Dodgers fans.
Piazza made his major league debut near the end of the 1992 season and won Rookie of the Year in 1993 after hitting .318 with 35 home runs and 112 RBIs.
Amazingly enough, Piazza played only five full seasons with the Dodgers, but what seasons they were. After his 1993 season, he hit .319, .346, .336 and .362 and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in each of those seasons. His best season was his final full season, 1997, when he hit .362 with 40 homers and 124 RBIs.
Piazza's contract was scheduled to run out after the 1998 season, and he was due a large increase in salary. Negotiations turned ugly, and the Dodgers, then owned by Fox, wanted to make a statement. So, on May 15, 1998, they traded the best-hitting catcher in history to the Florida Marlins, along with Todd Zeile, for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and Manuel Barrios.
Piazza's final Dodgers numbers: a .331 average, 177 home runs and a .572 slugging percentage.
The Dodgers and Piazza had a strained relationship for years, but that melted when Piazza thanked the Dodgers during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2016, when he said, “It truly was an honor and privilege to be drafted, signed and developed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Peter O'Malley was a wonderful owner, was a tremendous family man who prided himself in the best possible atmosphere to play baseball in an otherwise quiet town of Vero Beach. I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity."
Of course, Piazza did go into the Hall as a Met, which proves that nobody is perfect.
Note: A reminder, I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils on March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
Only 18 spots left in the countdown. One player in the Hall of Fame as a Dodger did not make the top 25 (he finished 26th). Which one? We’ll have to wait and see.